Advisors who have admonished clients to spend wisely during their working years and adjust their expectations for retirement can take heart: Americans are coming around, according to a study Hartford Financial.
According to the study, 75.2% of Americans believe they are the most responsible for providing their income in retirement, as opposed to those who believe it is the government’s responsibility (5.3%). At the same time, 85.4% say Social Security alone will not be enough to maintain their standard of living in retirement, an increase from the 81.1% of respondents who believed the same thing in last year’s study.
The study, in its fifth year, gathered information from 750 Americans aged 45 years and older. The study was designed to understand the retirement needs, concerns and perceptions of American consumers.
Boomers realize their retirement will not resemble that of their parents, who could rely on company pensions and supplemental social security benefits to live comfortably. The parents of Boomers became accustomed to retiring at around age 62, because that was the age at which Social Security benefits could start for most people, or they could wait until they turned 65, when Medicare would kick in.
“People still have not rooted out idea of retiring by those ages, and replaced it with, ‘When can I afford to retire?’” said John D. Diehl, a senior vice president at Hartford Life Distributors.
Americans have not let go of those expectations entirely, but they are loosening their grip on them, as well as the ideal of leisurely lifestyles after working full-time.
“This is the first generation of retirees who are having to invent the terms of their longevity and retirement on their own,” Joseph Coughlin, director of the AgeLab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said in an interview at Financial Planning’s offices Monday.
Some 27.1% say they hope to work as long as their health or health of their significant other allows, 37.2% of respondents say they are unsure about when they will be able to retire.
But at least now Americans are open to more reasonable ideas of what they can expect from their retirement, a “new realism,” according to Coughlin.
Even so, the study uncovered some need for financial education and guidance from financial advisors. Respondents had some holdout ideas about Social Security, as 38.8% now identify the national program and other government pensions as their top source of retirement income, up from 26.7% in 2006. The attitudes seemed to vary by age, because those who are 65 and older are most likely to identify Social Security as their top source of income in retirement (57.5%), compared to younger and older baby boomers (26.3% for those aged 45-54 and 32% for those aged 55-64).
Also, Americans in the survey expressed some downright pessimism about the future. Enjoying life declined in importance, dropping to 13.4%, off of an all-time high of 43.2% in 2007. Also, 79.3% say they are less than confident that all of their sources of income combined will be sufficient in retirement. That is a tick up from the 69.2% in 2006 who said they were less than confident about having sufficient retirement assets.
“I know the numbers look bad, but to the extent that Americans are bringing their retirement expectations in line with reality, that might be good,” Diehl said.
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