Current Thinking

Survey Says: Disconcerting Number of Americans Believe They’ll Run Out of Money and/or Time to Retire Comfortably

A recent survey from TIAA shows that nearly half of Americans are worried about running out of money in retirement – while the remainder say they are more concerned about running out of the time they deem necessary to do what they would like to do in their golden years.

Released on Oct. 27, TIAA’s 2021 Lifetime Income Survey found 45 percent of the 1,001 working American Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers who participated in the study saying that exhausting their financial resources is their chief concern – certainly a very real and understandable worry in today’s climate. To help alleviate that concern, 51 percent said that making savings last in retirement is their top priority – commendable, but hardly inspiring confidence.

The survey found that many of the tried-and-true obstacles to saving adequately for retirement remain in play: 44 percent cited debt that needs to be paid off; 42 percent estimated that they cannot afford to put more money away; 22 percent said they want to make sure they can access funds in case of an emergency, while another 22 percent said that they “have other savings priorities.” (Multiple answers were allowed.)

On the time side of the equation, 45 percent said that retiring earlier was their top priority – the survey did not define what “earlier” means in this circumstance. Drilling further down, 42 percent of this group said they were “highly confident” that their savings will last them 20 years in retirement; that figure drops to 32 percent when considering a 30+ year retirement.

The picture is different, however, for those with a lifetime income annuity or pension: 69 percent are highly confident about the 20-year period, and 64 percent are highly confident about 30+ years.

None of these findings are particularly surprising at a glance, though the actual numbers can be troubling. And the lack of detail can be further exasperating: How do the respondents expect to “make their savings last” in retirement? What is their plan when it comes to retiring “earlier” in order to travel or otherwise spend their retirement years?

Fortunately, the survey also found 45 percent of workers saying they believe they can save more if they have help creating and managing a budget, with 66 percent of Millennials thinking that budgeting would allow them to save more.

And that, of course, is almost always the main takeaway from such reports: Seeking professional advice to discuss how to go about creating a reasonably prudent retirement savings strategy – one customized to each person’s needs and desires – can be a tremendous aid.

And — as the Millennials would have it – the earlier the better.

With the Covid-19 pandemic hopefully (finally) receding, it is time to reconsider putting away (more) money for retirement. Consulting a trusted industry professional is, as it always has been, a highly effective method of doing so.

About the Author

Richard Rausser

Richard W. Rausser has more than 30 years of experience in the retirement benefits industry. He is Senior Vice President of Thought Leadership at Pentegra, a leading provider of retirement plan and fiduciary outsourcing to organizations nationwide. Rich is responsible for helping to shape and define Pentegra’s viewpoint on workplace retirement plans, plan design strategy, retirement success and employee savings trends. His work is used by employers, employees, advisors, policymakers and the media to produce successful outcomes for American workers.  In addition, Rich is responsible for Pentegra’s Defined Benefit line of business, which includes a team of Actuaries and other retirement plan professionals as well as Pentegra’s BOLI line of business.  He is a frequent speaker on retirement benefit topics; a Certified Pension Consultant (CPC); a Qualified Pension Administrator (QPA); a Qualified 401(k) Administrator (QKA); and a member of the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries (ASPPA). He holds an M.B.A. in Finance from Fairleigh Dickinson University and a B.A. in Economics and Business Administration from Ursinus College.