Almost half of all Americans who have yet to retire are anxious that they won’t have enough savings to live comfortably in retirement, and that fear is most common among “uncertain strugglers,” one of five types of retirement savers identified in a new research paper.
Uncertain strugglers, with a median household income of $43,000 and median household assets of $13,000, by necessity are focused on making ends meet in the present, not the future, according to research from the Alliance for Lifetime Income, a group that promotes annuities as a tool for retirement income.
The alliance and research partner Artemis Strategy Group segmented Americans into five groups after conducting online interviews in August with 3,036 people ages 25 to 74. Participants answered questions about their expectations for retirement, the factors that shape their financial decisions, and their knowledge and interest in retirement planning, giving researchers a snapshot of their retirement readiness.
Uncertain strugglers make up about 29% of the U.S. population, according to the research, with the other types of retirement savers being ambitious risk-takers (28%), cautious preparers (17%), optimistic dreamers (13%), and purposeful planners (12%).
Here’s a breakdown of the five types of retirement savers they found:
Ambitious risk-takers: This group generally is educated, optimistic, and young, with 49% under the age of 45 and 28% under 35. Full-time workers account for 72% of this group, the highest percentage among the five types of savers, and 52% have at least a bachelor’s degree.
This group has a median household income of $125,000 and the same amount in median household assets. Men make up 54% of this group, and 43% have a financial advisor. They are more likely to be open to new and different opportunities, and 75% expect their sources of income to last throughout retirement. They trust their financial advisors but do their own research and are more likely to consider themselves experts in retirement planning.
Cautious preparers: Men make up 56% of this group, which is fairly well educated, with 40% holding at least a bachelor’s degree. They skew older, with 68% being 45 or above and 20% being between the ages of 65 and 75. Their median household income is $88,000, with median household assets of $125,000.
Many cautious preparers have prepared for the worst and stuck with tried-and-true investment strategies. Though they have knowledge about retirement planning, they still have questions, so they do their own research and rely upon experts. Some have calculated their income needs in retirement, and 27% are retired, the highest percentage among the five types of savers.
Optimistic dreamers: Women account for 57% of this group, which skews young, with 49% under the age of 45 and 26% under 35. They have a median household income of $62,000 and median household assets of $38,000. They tend to be less educated, with 46% having a high-school diploma or less.
For optimistic dreamers, retirement seems far away, but they expect to lead active, rewarding lives as seniors. They generally have a basic understanding of retirement planning and contribute to their employers’ 401(k) or similar plans but aren’t fully comfortable with retirement planning and don’t spend much time on it.
Few have calculated their income needs in retirement, and many make financial decisions based on instinct or through recommendations from family or friends.
Purposeful planners: It pays to be a member of this most exclusive group, which has a median household income of $125,000 and median household assets of $325,000. Men make up 58% of this group, which tends to be highly educated, with 52% having at least a bachelor’s degree. Many are nearing retirement or have already retired, with 42% ages 55 and older.
Purposeful planners are well positioned to enjoy retirement. Most have a financial plan, devote time to retirement planning, and have extensive knowledge about retirement planning. Purposeful planners are likely to enjoy managing their finances in retirement, with 78% expecting their sources of income to last throughout retirement, the highest percentage among the five saver profiles.
Uncertain strugglers: This group generally is pessimistic about living comfortably in retirement, with many expecting to rely on Social Security and help from family to get by.
Women make up 61% of this group, which is less educated than the others, with 56% having a high-school diploma or less. Uncertain strugglers rely on instinct and recommendations from family and friends to make financial decisions. Just 39% of this group works full time, the lowest figure among the five types of savers.
Though 57% of them are 45 or older, they don’t know much about retirement planning, don’t have a financial plan, and haven’t calculated their income needs in retirement. Only 24% expect their savings and sources of income to last throughout retirement, the lowest percentage among the five groups.
“For optimistic dreamers, our recommendation is to really engage in financial-planning education. … You’re really excited about retirement, but let’s think about how you’re going to get there,” says Anne Aldrich, a partner at Artemis Strategy Group and a co-author of the report. “Uncertain strugglers aspire to have some control over the direction of their financial lives, and many of them don’t have a financial plan, so our recommendation is to gain a sense of control, take hold of the resources that they do have, and start taking the next steps toward developing a plan.”
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