Retirement Insecurity

Nearly 2/3rds of middle-income Americans age 55 to 75 are unsure if they’ve saved enough to live a comfortable life in retirement. That’s the main finding in a recent study by the Center for a Secure Retirement, a think-tank belonging to Bankers Life. The study defines middle-income as household income between $25,000 and $75,000.

Now what makes the 1/3rd of middle-income Americans confident about their retirement? What do they have or what do they know that the other 2/3rds don’t? For starters, the survey indicates confident middle-income households work with a financial advisor and have investments set aside for retirement. These folks also have (or plan to have) a diversified retirement income stream, meaning money not just from Social Security, but also from personal retirement accounts like IRAs and annuities, money from employer retirement plans, and very likely some type of income from work in retirement. These confident Americans have also carefully saved and planned for their retirement years, and they anticipate enjoying a simple lifestyle in retirement.

Notice that in nearly all those examples, these confident Americans can exert some degree of control or influence on these factors. They choose whether or not to work with an advisor; they choose whether or not to put aside savings for retirement; and they choose to plan for retirement. Uncertain middle-income Americans cite key factors that are outside their control. For instance, the top two factors for uncertainty are a weak economy and general uncertainty about the future.

Isn’t that a striking difference between the two groups: one group (positive) focuses on what they can control, while the other group (negative) is caught up in circumstances beyond their control. Do you see a simple application here, if you want to enjoy a more certain retirement? Put your emotional and financial efforts into areas that you can direct and influence. Don’t waste your energy worrying about vague general forces that are beyond your power to influence.

The study also notes that about half of all middle-income Americans agree that retirement planning is complex and overwhelming. While that may be true (and it is in my opinion, and retirement is becoming more complex every year as we live longer and have more and more retirement options to consider), we’re not helpless. There are retirement advisors out there; there are retirement coaches out there. There are retirement books and web sites out there. So again, if you want to be part of the confident crowd, take action over something you can control—find a retirement resource you can rely on. Be sure it’s a professional, expert source. The decisions you make/control regarding your retirement may affect you for 20 or 30 years or more in retirement, so don’t take this task lightly, especially if you want to enjoy a secure retirement.


About Mike Wilson

Michael L. Wilson, MBA, CFP®, CRC®, is the owner of Integrity Financial Planning. Prior to founding Integrity in 1998, he worked for two years as a faculty member at the College for Financial Planning in Denver, training other financial advisors. Mike has 10 years of experience in the mutual fund industry, having worked with Fidelity Investments and Invesco Mutual Funds. He holds an MBA in Finance from Baylor University. Learn more about his work at
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