There are a lot of myths about retirement out there. Here are several retirement statistics that might just surprise you.
While we may know family members or friends who have retired, we don’t usually discuss what their finances look like and the things they wish they’d done differently. Understanding the bigger picture of what American retirement looks like now can help us understand what our own golden years could look like.
Here are 15 retirement stats to consider.
- Three in five Americans say that not having enough money in retirement is a top financial concern. However, 80% of current retirees say they live comfortably in retirement.
- 27% of Americans say they have decreased or stopped retirement contributions in the wake of COVID-19.
- 38% of Gen X and 35% of millennials have no idea how much they need to save for retirement.
- More than three-fourths of people say that COVID-19 has not negatively impacted their retirement savings, and 28% said that their retirement savings increased during the pandemic.
- 57% of current U.S. retirees say that they rely on Social Security as a significant income source, but only 38% of non-retirees say they expect it to be a substantial income source for their retirement.
1. 80% of current retirees say they have enough money to live comfortably in retirement
According to a 2021 Gallup poll, 80% of currently retired adults said that, as of today, they have enough to live comfortably in retirement. Comparatively, 53% of non-retirees expected to have enough money for a comfortable retirement.
Fifty-seven percent of retirees said Social Security payments are a significant source of retirement income, followed by work-sponsored pension plans at 36%.
Only 38% of non-retirees expected Social Security to be a significant source of income in their retirement, and only 19% expect a work-sponsored pension plan to be available.
49% of non-retired adults said that a defined contribution plan such as a 401(k), a traditional or Roth IRA, or other retirement savings account will fund their retirement income.
Non-retired adults are also more likely to say they will have several income streams in retirement, including:
- Other savings accounts (26% compared to 14% of retirees)
- Home equity (22% of non-retirees vs. 17% of retirees)
- Part-time work (21% vs. 2% of retirees)
Current retired workers are more likely to rely on annuities or insurance plans in retirement than non-retirees expect to be, but only by a small amount (10% vs. 9%).
Source: Gallup Poll
2. 27% of Americans have decreased or stopped contributing to retirement savings due to COVID-19.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have taken a toll on many people’s financial lives, including job losses, getting sick and not being able to work, and now, rising inflation taking a large chunk out of already strapped budgets. It’s no wonder that millions of Americans say they are behind on retirement savings.
Fifty-seven percent of respondents to a 2020 retirement survey said that their retirement contributions stayed the same in 2020, but 16% decreased their retirement contributions, and 11.16% stopped them altogether.
For many people, a job loss or furlough caused them to reduce or stop their retirement savings, and 14% of respondents said that their ability to save was affected by a job loss.
Source: FinanceBuzz Retirement Survey 2020
3. 21% of Americans dipped into retirement savings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The millions of Americans affected by the coronavirus pandemic will likely need years to recover their financial and retirement footing.
According to a 2021 survey, 27% of respondents said it would take them two or more years to recover their retirement savings, while around 8% felt they would never recover their lost savings.
While the implementation of vaccines has helped many return to a more normal life, up to 63% of people in the U.S. who responded to the survey felt that their lives would be forever changed due to the pandemic.
Regionally, there seems to be a big difference among those saving for retirement due to the pandemic. Among Americans who reported saving more during the pandemic, 44% lived in the Northeast, whereas just 14% lived in the South.
Thirty-one percent of those living in the South say they are saving less since the pandemic compared to 35% in the Northwest. Economic factors such as median wage, unemployment rates, and cost of living may have contributed to how much a person could save in each geographic location.
Source: Transamerica Institute Future Proofing Retirement, The Penny Hoarder Retirement Survey
4. Long-term costs of care saw the highest year-over-year increase in 2021
In 2021, the cost of homemaker services, which include assistance with everyday tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and general companionship, increased 10.64% over 2020 rates.
The cost for home health aides, who help with tasks such as dressing, bathing, and eating, increased by 12.50%. Over the last five years, the hourly cost for homemaker services increased by 5.39%, and home health aide costs increased by 5.92%.
The cost of health care, assisted living, and nursing homes will only continue to grow as baby boomers continue to reach age 65 and older.
Seven out of ten baby boomers will require long-term care during their retirement, and most care recipients say that they want to age in their homes, meaning that they will likely need one or more caregivers to help them manage safely.
In 2021, the national median monthly rate of assisted living in the U.S. was $4,500, which marked a change of 4.65% from 2020 and a 4.4% increase over the past five years. The annual cost for a one-bedroom arrangement in assisted living was $54,000 in 2021.
Nursing home care also increased in 2021, with rates rising 1.96% in 2021 for a semi-private room and up 2.41% for a private room. The median day rate for these facilities was $260 for a semi-private room or $297 for a private room, totaling $94,900 per year and $108,405, respectively.
Source: Genworth Cost of Care Survey
5. Americans are interested in retiring early despite being uncertain about how much to save for retirement
According to a 2021 FinanceBuzz survey, just 29.7% of respondents had a strong understanding of the dollar amount needed to retire at their targeted age. Thirty-six percent of Americans surveyed had a rough idea of the required amount, and another 34.6% said they had no idea what they should save for in retirement.
Despite not being sure about how much they need for their retirement years, retirement preparedness is still a top financial priority for Americans, and many people are interested in retiring early.
According to Annuity, the average retirement age in the United States is 62, and the expected retirement age for current workers is 64. For those born after 1959, the full retirement age is 67.
Twenty-six percent of survey respondents indicated they were willing to make substantial sacrifices and embrace extreme frugality to retire ten years earlier than anticipated.
Many people said they would give up buying anything new (except groceries and other essentials) for two years if it meant retiring early, while 24% said they’d give up alcohol and coffee.
Although 14% said they would give up their pets if they could retire earlier (up from 8% in 2020), only 23% said they’d be willing to take on a second or third job (compared with 27% in 2020 and 32% in 2019).
Source: FinanceBuzz 2021 Retirement Survey
6. Cryptocurrency is gaining popularity for retirement savings
Learning how to invest money for a retirement savings plan can feel complicated, especially as new investment options appear. Cryptocurrency has seen tremendous strides in adoption among U.S. adults. Forty-four percent of respondents who have started saving for retirement have cryptocurrency as part of their retirement portfolios.
The trend is likely to continue, as 21.46% said that cryptocurrency was a big part of their retirement savings, and 22.34% said a small amount of their retirement savings was invested in crypto. Fourteen percent of respondents said that it isn’t currently part of their retirement portfolio, but they would like to include it.
Of the 34.8% who said they did not plan to have crypto in their retirement portfolios, 29.14% said they didn’t know how to invest in crypto, and 35.46% said it was too risky.
Source: FinanceBuzz 2021 Retirement Survey
7. Americans may be getting a late start on retirement savings
According to a FinanceBuzz retirement survey, 21% of Americans hadn’t started saving for retirement, including 45% of Gen Z members surveyed and 20% of millennials. Furthermore, 38% of Gen Xers and 35% of millennials say they have “no idea” how much they need to save for retirement.
Of those who save for retirement, 27.21% save between 6-10% of their income, and 18.7% save 11-15%. This is good news since the longer your money is invested, the longer it can work for you.
Additionally, 42% of 18- to 29-year-olds reported no retirement savings, followed by 26% of 30 to 44-year-olds.
Of the 35- to 44-year-olds who had retirement savings, the median retirement savings account balance was only $37,000, and the median account balance of 45- to 55-year-olds was $82,600. While it’s better to have some retirement savings than none, the future could be problematic for those who aren’t prepared.
Source: FinanceBuzz Retirement Survey 2020 and 2021, PwC Market Research Center
8. Debt can be a significant stumbling block to retirement savings
Although many people had to dig into retirement savings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are other factors contributing to the delay in saving for many Americans. 28% of respondents said they just didn’t earn enough to start investing for retirement, while 24% said that health care expenses also prevented them from investing.
Surprisingly, student loans caused less of a burden than in previous years, with just 17% of respondents saying that was what prevented them from saving, compared to 25% in 2020. Americans are also saying that credit card debt is less of a problem. Thirty percent said it was a barrier to saving in 2020, but only 23% said it was a problem in 2021.
According to a Transamerica Center survey, debt is interfering with people’s ability to save for retirement along racial lines as well. Fifty percent of Black people, 56% of Hispanic people, and 47% of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) said that debt interfered with retirement savings, compared with 47% of white people.
One in four Hispanic people strongly agreed that debt interfered with retirement savings (28%) compared to 19% of white people, 19% of Black people, and 15% of AAPI people.
Source: FinanceBuzz Retirement Survey 2021, Transamerica Center
9. The estimated median household retirement savings is $93,000, but many over 55 are retiring sooner than expected
According to a Transamerica Center survey, workers have saved an estimated median amount in total household retirement of $93,000 as of late 2020. Full-time workers held more than twice as much as part-time workers ($104,000 vs. $48,000).
Eighteen percent of workers hold less than $10,000 in retirement accounts, and 7% report having $0 saved for retirement, including 6% of full-time workers and 12% of part-time workers.
Despite having less saved for retirement than they may prefer, adults over 55 are potentially retiring sooner than expected and leaving the labor market.
According to data from the Pew Research Center, 66.9% of 65- to 74-year-olds who participated in the survey retired in the third quarter of 2021, compared to 64% who retired in the third quarter of 2019.
Between 2008 and 2019, the retired population aged 55 and above grew by approximately 1 million each year. In the last two years, it has grown by 3.5 million retirees.
Source: Transamerica Center, Pew Research Center
10. The expected retirement age is rising
A recent Gallup poll revealed that the mean age of retirement for retirees was 62, while the mean expected retirement age for non-retirees is 64.
Age 62 is the highest retirement age that Gallup has ever reported in 20 years of tracking. In 2019 and 2020, the mean age of retirees was 61. For non-retirees, the expected retirement age was 66 in 2020 and 65 in 2019.
By comparison, life expectancy for the U.S. in 2020 was 77.0 years, and the life expectancy at age 65 for the total population was 18.5 years. People are living longer than ever before, which means more years in retirement and the need to stretch retirement funds further.
According to the Transamerica Center, 49% of workers expect to retire after age 65 or do not plan to retire. About 29% expect to retire before age 65.
Full-time workers are somewhat more likely to expect to retire at 65 compared to part-time workers (23% vs. 19%). Part-time workers are significantly more likely to say they do not plan to retire, at 19% than 12% of full-time workers.
Source: Gallup, Transamerica Center, CDC National Center for Health Statistics
11. Americans plan to work in retirement
More than half of Transamerica survey respondents, or 57%, plan to work in retirement. Twenty percent plan to work full-time, while 37% only plan to work part-time.
Twenty-seven percent of full-time workers say they need to keep working for health benefits, and 17% say it’s because they’re concerned their retirement benefits will be less than expected.
Among those who plan to work in retirement, an equal proportion of respondents (80%) said they planned to keep working for at least one healthy-aging reason or one financial reason. Of those surveyed, 54% cited that they wanted to stay active in retirement, while 53% said they wanted the additional income to supplement their savings or Social Security benefits.
The landscape may be challenging to navigate for those over 65 who want to find a job or continue working. Nearly 1 million workers aged 65 or older left the workforce between 2020 and 2021, and 165,000 older workers remained in the labor force, meaning they were willing and able to work, but were unemployed or furloughed.
In 2020, the average monthly unemployment rate for those over 65 reached 7.5%. Between February 2020 and February 2021, there was a drop of 12.9% of people aged 65 or older who held a job.
Source: Transamerica Center, Urban Institute
12. Retirement strategies are gaining popularity
Seventy-six percent of workers say they have some kind of retirement strategy, but only 33% have it written down. Forty-three percent have a plan, but it’s not written down, and 24%, or one in four workers, do not have a strategy at all. Full-time workers are more likely to have a written plan (35%) compared to 20% of part-time workers.
Additionally, about 39% of workers use a professional financial advisor to help them manage their retirement savings and investments. Full-time workers are more likely to use an advisor than part-time workers (41% compared to 29%).
Source: Transamerica Center
13. 42% are worried about outliving their savings in retirement
Many people have fears of the unknown in retirement. Chief among them are outliving their retirement savings and investments (42%), declining health that requires long-term care (39%), and the cost of long-term care (34%).
Thirty-two percent of workers say that they fear cognitive decline or dementia. Thirty-two percent also said they fear not being able to meet the basic financial needs of their families.
In addition to general fears about retirement, many Americans also said that they were worried about the future of Social Security. Almost three in four respondents (or 73%) agreed with the statement “I am concerned that Social Security will not be there for me when I am ready to retire.” 32% of those people strongly agreed with the statement, and 41% somewhat agreed.
Additionally, only 21% of workers expected to have Social Security as their primary source of income in retirement. Fifty-three percent said they expect to pull from their 401(k)s, IRAs, or other retirement accounts, and 13% said they would continue working as their primary source of retirement income.
Sixty-five million Americans receive Social Security benefits each month, totaling more than one trillion dollars paid during the year. Among the elderly, 37% of men and 42% of women receive 50% or more of their income from Social Security. The average monthly Social Security payment increased to $1,657 in 2022 from $1,565 in 2021.
Source: Transamerica Center, Social Security Administration
14. Bankruptcy is increasing
Retirees who haven’t planned properly for retirement may face another tough challenge: bankruptcy.
Since 1991, the rate at which people 65 and older file for bankruptcy has tripled, according to a 2018 study from the Consumer Bankruptcy Project.
Some factors that may be a part of this increase include declines in income and increasing medical expenses, according to the study.
Source: Consumer Bankruptcy Project
15. 35% of employees may not have access to company-sponsored retirement plans
Despite anxiety over not saving enough for retirement or delaying the start of saving for retirement, many people still either don’t have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan or choose not to participate.
A FinanceBuzz survey showed that 35.1% of respondents said they had never participated in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, and 40.9% of those people said that it was because they didn’t have access to a job that offered one.
As is probably expected, more full-time workers have access to a 401(k) or similar retirement plan than do part-time workers (80% compared to 51%). More than two in five part-time workers are not offered any retirement benefits, compared to 14% of full-time workers.
Of workers who had an employer-sponsored plan available, the Transamerica Center found that 81% of respondents did participate in the program. Full-time workers contributed up to 12% of their median annual salary, and part-time workers contributed up to 10% of their median annual wage.
Preparing for retirement
Getting ready for retirement doesn’t have to be stressful. Consider some of the following ways to help you prepare for retirement to ensure you’re in the best position possible.
- Participate in employer-sponsored retirement plans and capture any matching percentage offered.
- Make a plan and budget for your retirement needs, and account for rising health care costs, insurance, and any lifestyle changes you plan to implement in retirement.
- Pay off as much debt as possible before you retire.
- Understand your anticipated Social Security benefits by going to SSA.gov to estimate your monthly payment.
- Understand what employee benefits you’ll continue to have after retirement, if any.
- Learn what Medicare does and does not cover, and consider choosing a Medicare supplement or Medicare Advantage plan to help you bridge the coverage gap.
- Work with a financial advisor or retirement planner to help you cover all necessary details.
Retirement offers many benefits, but one of the drawbacks can be an uncertain financial picture.
Many people who delay retirement savings think that they’ll be able to catch up later when they make more money. Doing that, however, removes the potential for compound interest to work in your favor. The sooner you can begin saving for retirement, the better prepared you’ll be for the changing retirement landscape.