Against the backdrop of public policy debates on the gap between rich and poor, a new survey of affluent Americans from Wells Fargo & Company shows that many of the affluent are feeling some of the same deep insecurity felt by middle-income Americans about their ability to retire in comfort.

"We find the rich versus poor narrative in the U.S. is more complex than we might expect, with fears and concerns about retirement felt along the income spectrum," says Karen Wimbish, director of retail retirement at Wells Fargo. "Even among those considered 'well off,’ many seem to fear a sharp drop in their post-retirement standard of living due to insufficient retirement savings."

About a quarter of affluent Americans (23%) say they are not confident they will have saved enough for retirement, and this is especially true for Americans with assets between $100,000 and $250,000 (33%) and people without a written retirement plan (32%) and women (31%). The telephone interviews of 801 affluent Americans between the ages of 25 and 75 also reveal that 21% between the ages of 60 and 75 say they don't know when they will be able to retire.

"We've thought that for the most part today's retirees felt 'ok' with the future, yet here is a whole group of them saying, 'maybe not,'" Wimbish says. More than one third (37%) say they need to significantly cut back their spending to save for retirement, 48% of those with $100,000 to $250,000 in investable assets. Nearly one in five (19%) with assets of between $100,000 and $250,000 feel they will need to work until "at least age 80," a sentiment reported by 25% of middle-class Americans surveyed at the same time. Among all the affluent surveyed, 12% say they will work until 80.

Women much less confident

Affluent women surveyed are significantly less confident about retirement than men. The least confident of all are single women, and the most confident are married men. Twice as many affluent women as men agree they will need to work until age 80 to have enough savings to live comfortably in retirement (18% of women vs. 9% of men).

"Despite the fact that women hold half the high paying managerial positions in the U.S. workforce and they make a majority of household buying decisions, women continue to lag behind men in their confidence in preparing for retirement and this is particularly true for single women," Wimbish says. Single women are the least confident that they will save enough to retire comfortably: 44% say they aren’t confident, compared to 27% of married/partnered women and 17% of married/partnered men.

Women are more likely than men to cast aside the idea of a retirement age, with 80% of women vs. 67% of men saying it is more important to have a specific amount saved before retirement, regardless of age, than it is to retire at a specific age, regardless of savings.

Men were also saving more, which might be due to the pay gap that still exists with women making 80 cents to every dollar men make. The affluent men surveyed have saved a median of $400,000 for retirement vs. $250,000 saved by affluent women. Affluent men also say they need more: a median of $750,000 to support themselves in retirement, compared to $500,000 estimated by affluent women. Men were also more likely to expect to receive or already receive a pension — 57% of men compared to 47% of women.

While the affluent might be just as scared about retirement, they more often have retirement plans, 54% have a detailed written retirement plan, vs. 30% of the middle class. On the same note, a slight majority of the affluent (58%) plan to work in their retirement years, vs. 74% of the middle class.

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