Two older adults and a young adult (Photo: Thinkstock)

Twenty-seven percent of Americans are concerned about their parents’ financial security in retirement, and they are twice as likely to lack confidence in their own retirement prospects as those who are unworried about their parents, TIAA reported this week.

This finding was based on an online survey conducted by KRC Research in February among 1,003 U.S. adults.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents also reported that their parents’ financial planning for retirement had influenced their own planning. Forty-four percent said they avoided taking on significant debt, and 38% said they had consciously limited their everyday spending on nonessential items.

“We’ve seen firsthand what the data shows: People who are concerned about their parents’ financial well-being in retirement may be sacrificing their quality of life today out of concern for their own financial future,” TIAA’s chief financial planning strategist Daniel Keady said in a statement.

“A good financial plan that includes education, advice and lifetime income options for retirement can help build confidence that allows people to enjoy life today, without forfeiting their future retirement security.”

The TIAA survey found that pessimism about retirement security increased with age.

According to the survey, 52% of millennials described their parents’ financial outlook as excellent or very good, while only 35% of Gen Xers and 26% of baby boomers did so.

Their responses were similar when asked about their confidence in their parents’ current or future financial security in retirement. Only 47% of Gen Xers and 34% of boomers expressed confidence, compared with 60% of millennials.

TIAA said these confidence levels mirrored how the different generations viewed their parents’ approach to saving and investing. Thirty-nine percent of Gen Xers and 35% of boomers disagreed that their parents’ approach to saving and investing was admirable and one to emulate, but only a quarter of millennials disagreed.

Even among the one-fifth of survey respondents who said they were confident in their retired parents’ long-term financial security, 21% reported that they had some or a lot of concern about their parents running out of money in retirement.

“As the realities of financial planning change through life, parents and their children need to discuss their financial plans and concerns together to ensure they are on the same page about the future they’re envisioning,” TIAA’s director of financial planning, Shelly-Ann Eweka, said in the statement.

Is Millennials’ Optimism Misguided?

The survey found that people’s perceptions about their parents’ financial plans may not always match reality.

Seventy-two percent of millennials rated their parents’ financial outlook as good to excellent, yet only 57% of Gen Xers and 58% of boomers — the folks likely to represent their parents — rated their own financial outlook that way.

“The confidence that millennials have about their parents’ finances may actually create a false sense of security, especially when individuals mistakenly believe they will receive an inheritance (and plan their finances around it) when their parents don’t have the same plans or intention,” Keady said.

TIAA said individuals could initiate a financial discussion with their families to better understand how each other’s financial needs compare. They can also turn to a financial advisor for help in creating a retirement plan that seeks to minimize uncertainty and boost financial confidence by building lifetime income.

“Open dialogues and a well-planned retirement can help alleviate family stress and may give you permission to live your life without the worry of outliving your savings or becoming a financial burden to others,” Keady said.