Nearly half of U.S. workers reported that their greatest retirement fear is outliving their money and not having enough to meet basic family needs, according to a 2011 survey by Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.

The nonprofit organization conducted an online survey of 4,080 American workers to assess strategies, trends, and issues related to retirement. In addition to researching employment attitudes and behaviors, the center focuses on improving education and outreach efforts to promote and increase the public's financial security.

Retirement Funds Running Out Before Death

In this survey, twenty-three percent of respondents reported that 'outliving my money' was their single greatest retirement fear, with another 21 percent reporting 'not meeting basic financial needs of my family' as their biggest concern. Another 15 percent indicated reduction or elimination of Social Security as their greatest fear about retirement.

Secondary fears about retiring included concerns about the high cost of healthcare, needing long-term care, not having adequate healthcare, being laid-off before retirement, finding meaningful ways to spend time, and feeling less important in the world.

Ultimately, the survey results revealed low confidence in being able to attain a secure retirement. In fact, only 10 percent reported feeling very confident in their ability to retire comfortably, with even fewer believing they have built a large enough nest egg to sustain them post employment.

Results are considered to be a reflection of the damaging impact of the recession, with many workers still trying to stay out of debt as the economy struggles to recover.

The 25-minute survey was held on January 31-March 10, 2011, with a national sample comprised of American residents, age 18 or over, working full or part-time in a for-profit company with at least 10 employees.

Proper Retirement Strategies

Study results also revealed that the majority of workers do not have a retirement strategy and instead plan to work beyond the traditional retirement age of 65 to manage their finances. Because they did not save enough to retire or need the health benefits offered by their employers, respondents expressed a continued need to work indefinitely.

Many also reported limited understanding of federal retirement benefits, with only 40 percent expressing strong knowledge of Social Security, and only roughly a quarter indicating such understanding of Medicare and Medicaid.

The foundation noted that the results highlight the need to increase awareness and education about saving and planning for the future. As many workers are planning to delay retirement for several years, survey researchers urged workers to establish back-up plans in case they are forced into retirement prematurely from job loss or health and family issues.

Start a Retirement Plan ASAP

Several vital steps were also suggested to help employees prepare for retirement and develop a long-term strategy. Discussing retirement with family and friends, and creating a plan and writing it down were among the first recommendations given. Americans were strongly encouraged to educate themselves about retirement investments and to consider retirement benefits along with salary offers in employment packages. Learning about and participating in employer plans was also recommended.

Given that many employees are expected to work well past retirement age, policymakers were urged to establish tax incentives to employers hiring older workers and providing ongoing training programs; such moves would sustain aging employees in the workforce.

Date of original publication:

Comments