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Retirement Planning > Spending in Retirement > Lifestyle Planning

Few Retirees Leave Workforce Gradually: EBRI

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What You Need to Know

  • The 32nd EBRI survey found 7 in 10 workers were at least somewhat confident they would live comfortably in retirement.
  • Half of workers plan to retire at 65 or later, while current retirees left the workforce at a median age of 62.
  • Large shares of workers say they don't understand managed accounts, ESG investments or target date funds.

A majority of both workers and retirees are confident about living a comfortable life in retirement, according to the 2022 Retirement Confidence Survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. That said, a third of workers and almost a quarter of retirees say the pandemic has made them feel less confident in their retirement prospects.

This is the 32nd year of the RCS, which is conducted with Greenwald Research. This year it surveyed 1,132 retirees and 1,545 workers, age 25 and older. Data was weighted by age, sex, household income, race/ethnicity and LGBTQ status.

Similar to last year’s findings, 7 in 10 workers were at least somewhat confident — including 3 in 10 who were very confident — that they will live comfortably in retirement. A large majority of retirees — 8 in 10 — also stated that they had enough money to live comfortably.

Plans vs. Realities

The survey also found that half of workers plan to retire at age 65 or later, while current retirees left the workforce at a median age of 62. Also, workers expect a gradual transition into retirement to help pay for it. But that doesn’t match the experience of most retirees, the report states.

While 44% of workers expect to gradually transition to retirement, only 17% of retirees state that happened for them. Instead, 73% said their retirement was a full-time stop.

While 70% of workers think they will continue to do some kind of work for pay in retirement, only 27% of retirees report doing so, the report states. Similarly, while 68% of workers expected work in retirement to be a source of retirement income, only 22% of retirees said that was the case.

Also, 47% of retirees stated they retired earlier than expected. Of these, 4 in 10 stated they did so because they could afford to; however, the majority said early retirement was due to reasons outside their control, such as health problems or company downsizing.

Other Findings

Similar to last year, 53% of retirees stated their lifestyle in retirement was about the same as they expected. Twenty-six percent, down from 28% last year, said it was better than expected, while 17% said it was worse than expected.

However, 36% of retirees say their overall spending and expenses were higher than expected, which is up from 26% in 2021. The main expense culprits were housing, which 29% of retirees (up from 24% in 2021) and travel and leisure, in which 23% of retirees (up from 17%) stated were higher than expected.

While 75% of retirees and 66% of workers are confident they will have enough money to take care of medical expenses, retirees state health and longer-term care is a top financial priority. Indeed, 2 in 5 retirees stated their health and dental expenses were higher than expected, similar to last year. When applicable, the report states, 1 in 5 retirees said long-term care expenses were higher than expected.

A majority, or 57%, of workers are very or somewhat confident Medicare will continue to offer benefits that are at least equal in value of those received today. However, only 71% of retirees feel the same, down from 75% last year.

This confidence level for both is double the percentage for workers since 1992, and 77% higher for retirees.

When it comes to Social Security, 52% of workers are very or somewhat confident the program will provide benefits of at least equal value it does today, while 69% of retirees (down from 72% in 2021) feel the same.

Both these levels are higher than in 1992, when only 31% or workers and 48% of retirees were confident the program would maintain benefit levels.

Where They Need Help

While workers’ three top long-term goals were 1) save and invest, 2) plan for future health care needs and 3) develop a strategy for income in retirement, there are challenges, the survey found. For example, 4 in 10 workers stated that having to save for or pay off a child’s college education reduces what can be saved for retirement, while the same number state debt hurts their ability to save for retirement.

Indeed, half of workers and a third of retirees stated that debt was a major or minor problem in their household. But only 2 in 10 workers and retirees stated that having a strategy to reduce debt was a top financial goal.

Today, 4 in 5 workers are offered workplace retirement plans, with 82% satisfied overall, the survey found. Also, 83% were satisfied with the plan’s investment options and 82% were satisfied with the online tools to determine how much to save.

However, many workers don’t understand some of the options available. For example, a third stated they don’t understand managed accounts, half don’t understand environmental, social and governance investments and 40% don’t understand target date funds, including how they adjust over time or how to select them.

Complicating this is 4 in 10 workers and 2 in 10 retirees stated they don’t know who to go to for financial and retirement planning advice. Thirty-five percent of workers and 21% of retirees go to family and friends, and 29% of workers and 23% of retirees do their own research.

While a third of workers and retirees stated they worked with financial professionals, half of those who don’t have an advisor plan to work with one in the future.