Americans are more worried about their retirement finances, survey finds

Americans today are more worried about their retirement finances than they were at the end of the Great Recession in 2009, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. In addition, the survey found that concerns about retirement financing are now more heavily concentrated among younger and middle-aged adults than among those closer to retirement age—a major shift in the pattern that had prevailed at the end of the recession. Findings from the survey are based on telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 2,508 adults conducted July 16 to 26, 2012.

Retirement worries now afflict the younger

In the prior Pew survey, it was respondents in their mid-50s who were the most worried that they would outlive their retirement nest eggs. This latest survey found that “retirement worries peak among adults in their late 30s—many of whom are the older sons and daughters of the Baby Boom generation.”

The survey found that, among adults between the ages of 36 and 40, 53% say they are either “not too” or “not at all” confident that their income and assets will last through retirement. In contrast, only about a third (34%) of those ages 60 to 64 express similar concerns, as do a somewhat smaller share (27%) of those 18 to 22 years old.

When the same question was asked in a 2009 Pew Research survey, it was Baby Boomers between the ages of 51 and 55 who were the most concerned that their money would not last through their retirement years. Only 18% of those 36 to 40 years old were similarly worried they would fall short financially after they retire—a third of the share who express a similar concern today.

Retirement concerns continue to grow

Overall, the survey found that a larger proportion of Americans are worried about their retirement finances now than in the final months of the recession. The share of adults saying they are “not too” or “not at all” confident that they will have enough income and assets to last through their retirement years has increased to 38% from 25% in 2009.

The survey found that the decline in confidence is greatest among Americans with less education, those with annual family incomes between $30,000 and $74,999, and adults in their late 30s and early 40s. Among those with a high school education or less schooling, the proportion confident about retirement finances declined by 14 percentage points to 53% between 2009 and 2012. In contrast, concern fell by 9 percentage points among college graduates and 10 points among those who attended college but did not graduate with a bachelor’s degree.

The pattern was less uniform among income groups. Confidence dropped the least among adults with the highest and lowest incomes, while the pattern is mixed among those in the middle-income ranges. Confidence about retirement finances declined by 9 percentage points among adults in families making at least $100,000 a year and by the same share among those earning less than $30,000.

Source: “More Americans Worry About Financing Retirement,” Pew Research Center, October 22, 2012.

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For more information on this and related topics, consult the CCH Pension Plan Guide, CCH Employee Benefits Management, and Spencer’s Benefits Reports.

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