Retirement Readiness Requires Taking Personal Responsibility

Why It Matters:

  • Americans in each generation have concerns about their financial security and retirement
  • We should act now to prepare for retirement

Catherine Collinson tkc.profilePicture Written by: Catherine Collinson | Transamerica
April 04, 2017

4 Min readClock Icon

The United States retirement system has long been referred to as a three-legged stool which comprises Social Security, employer-sponsored retirement plans, and personal savings. In recent years, with questions looming about how to fully fund Social Security and the disappearance of traditional pension plans, the stool has become wobbly. 

Amid a widespread lack of retirement confidence, American workers are taking matters into their own hands to prop up the stool by adding a fourth leg: continued work in retirement. 

The 17th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey of Workers released by the nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® finds that 40% of Baby Boomers are expecting a decrease in their standard of living when they retire, 83% of Generation X workers believe that their generation will have a harder time achieving financial security than their parents’ generation, and just 18% of Millennials are very confident about their future retirement. Approximately half of workers across all three generations plan to work at least part-time during their retirement.

Retirement Readiness by Generation

Baby Boomers are rewriting retirement rules by identifying opportunities to work longer into retirement to enhance their retirement savings shortfalls. Sixty-six percent plan to or already are working past age 65 or do not plan to retire at all – and many expect to continue working in retirement, at least on a part-time basis. Plus, Boomers are paving the way for future generations by challenging employers to accommodate a flexible transition into retirement.

Seventy-seven percent of Generation X workers are saving for retirement and they started at age 28. Unfortunately, 30% have taken a loan or early withdrawal from their retirement plan to pay off debt or for unplanned major expenses. The total household retirement savings for this group is $69,000 and just 12% are very confident that they will be able to fully retire with a comfortable lifestyle. There is still time to catch up on their retirement savings if they begin focusing now on saving more.

Millennials have gotten the message loud and clear and are taking responsibility for their financial futures. Among Millennial workers who are offered a 401(k) or similar plan, 72% participate in the plan and contribute 7% of their annual pay. Of those, 30% contribute more than 10% of their pay. This has resulted in a total household retirement savings among Millennials of $31,000, a great start to achieving a comfortable retirement.

Millennials have also acknowledged their need to learn more about investing. Seventy-five percent say they would like more information and advice from their employers on how to achieve their financial goals. And one in four indicated they were “not sure” how their retirement savings are invested.

Actions to Achieve Retirement Readiness

Although each generation will likely face different challenges and opportunities, achieving retirement readiness will require actions common to us all:
  • Save early and save consistently. And avoid taking loans and early withdrawals from your retirement accounts.
  • Consider retirement benefits as part of your total compensation package.
  • Participate in employer-sponsored retirement plans, if available. Take full advantage of matching employer contributions and defer as much income as possible.
  • Create a written retirement plan. Research has shown that the act of creating a written plan significantly increases the likelihood of success over a plan that is not written.
  • Get educated about investing. Align your investing strategy with your savings strategy, time horizon, and risk tolerance. Failing to do so can have you coming up short when it’s too late to make it up.
  • Take advantage of the Saver’s Credit, if you qualify. This credit is available for contributions to a qualified retirement plan, IRA or myRA, if you fall under a certain income level.
  • Stay contemporary and relevant in your skills. By taking proactive steps to keep current in your job skills, employment trends and marketplace needs, you will increase your employment opportunities now and into the future.

There is no doubt that saving enough for retirement is a challenge for American workers. And it doesn’t appear that it will get easier anytime soon. There is simply no other way to achieve retirement readiness than to take action into your own hands.

Source: Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® (TCRS), “The 17th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey of Workers,” 2016. TCRS is a division of Transamerica Institute®, a nonprofit, private foundation that is funded by contributions from Transamerica Life Insurance Company and its affiliates and may receive funds from unaffiliated third parties. For more information, please visit www.transamericacenter.org

Transamerica and its agents and representatives do not provide tax or legal advice. This material is for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. For legal or tax advice concerning your situation, please consult your attorney or professional tax advisor.

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