Baby boomers report lack of confidence in retirement savings

Out of about 76 million baby boomers in the United States, approximately 35 million of them lack any retirement savings and that statistic appears to be getting worse, according to the Insured Retirement Institute’s latest research.

Boomer Expectations for Retirement 2016 found that retirement confidence among this generation is the lowest it has ever been, with only 24% of boomers confident their savings will last them through retirement.

“Time is running out for boomers. Younger boomers still have some time to build up but it is imperative for them to start now,” says Cathy Weatherford, president and CEO of the Insured Retirement Institute. “Boomers in our study indicated that economic conditions over the past few years are taking a toll on their retirement readiness.”

The sixth annual study showed that only 55% of boomers reported having savings for retirement and nearly half of those had saved less than $100,000, which is not enough to cover basic living expenses in retirement.

Baby Boomers
[Image credit: Bloomberg]

“A number of boomers are recognizing that Social Security will be their main source of income in retirement,” Weatherford says.

Like other industry studies, the IRI’s research shows that boomers working with a financial professional save more than those who don’t.

“The road to a confident financial future begins with developing a holistic retirement plan,” she says. “Unfortunately, most boomers are not taking important planning steps. Less than 40% have determined a savings goal, and just over a quarter are seeking help form a financial professional. Time is running out. Unless boomers begin to focus on their long-term needs now and commit to savings, they will need to work longer and make steep cutbacks to make ends meet in retirement.”

The study found that only 22% are doing a good job of preparing for their future expenses and only 27% are confident they can cover healthcare expenses in retirement. A mere 16% are confident they can cover long-term care costs.

Confidence has been dropping for years now but luckily, people’s preparedness has stayed the same, says Jamie Hopkins, chair in insurance and investments and associate professor of taxation, The American College. More than half of boomers will be able to meet their basic needs in retirement.

When confidence is down, Hopkins says he would like to see people saving more, planning more and calculating what they will need in retirement.

“It is concerning we are not seeing an offsetting of good behavior,” he says.

For two-thirds of Americans, Social Security will account for more than 50% of their retirement income, so it is imperative that individuals make good decisions when it comes to when and how they claim their Social Security. Home equity is another piece that most individuals don’t consider when doing their retirement income planning, he says.

Kevin McGarry, director of the Nationwide Retirement Institute at Nationwide, says that Social Security represents about 40% of a person’s income in retirement but nearly two-thirds of Americans file for benefits early, reducing their overall benefits.

“The impact of filing early vs. optimizing the benefit for individuals can be up to $400,000 in benefits from Social Security alone,” he says.

Sixty percent of respondents to the IRI survey said they plan to retire between age 65 and 70-plus.

“Perceptions are far from reality. The average age of retirement is age 62 to 63, that’s when people retire. When people want to retire later, they need a financial reason to keep working,” Hopkins says. They also need to enjoy their job.

“If they don’t have both of those things, the likelihood they will continue to work is nearly zero,” Hopkins says.

That’s why retirement planning is so important. People who use financial advisers to help calculate their income and savings will be better off in retirement.

Features that help “nudge” people in the right direction when it comes to saving for retirement include auto enrollment, auto investment selection, auto escalation and auto decumulation, says Brent Neiser, senior director, strategic programs and alliances, National Endowment for Financial Education.

“Some retirement decisions can’t be automated,” he says. That includes when a person should take Social Security and how they handle life events that can put pressure on their retirement savings.

Longevity is another problem. People are living longer and it is not unheard of for people to live to 100 or beyond, especially if they are socially engaged, adopt healthy living behaviors and are able to build financial security, says Rodney Branch, senior vice president, product and marketing, for Prudential Annuities.

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