July 15, 2011

What Type of Retiree are You?

An important research study has been making the Internet rounds over the past several days. I found the information enlightening and insightful. In a rare break for this blog, instead of writing something myself, I am providing you with a direct copy of the study's key findings as today's post.

I encourage you to read the following and think about the possible implications to you and your satisfying retirement. I ask you to leave a comment at the end with your reaction and thoughts.

Americans have emerged from the economic recession with a new set of expectations around the purpose, timing and funding of their retirement. Not only is retirement being postponed, but it no longer means an end to working—retirement is now a new chapter in life. The SunAmerica Retirement Re-Set Study is a nationwide survey of Americans age 55 and older that takes an in-depth look at this new retirement mindset. Developed in collaboration with Age Wave and conducted by Harris Interactive, the study found a significant shift in attitudes and actions since 2001 when SunAmerica conducted its initial landmark retirement study, Re-Visioning Retirement.

The SunAmerica Retirement Re-Set Study is the first major study of its kind to specifically assess the impact of the recession on America’s mindset, family dynamics, lifestyle expectations and financial planning for retirement. The study reveals that while the recession had a financial and emotional impact, Americans are emerging from the tumult of the last few years empowered, and with a more pragmatic and disciplined approach to retirement and retirement preparation. Here is a summary of the key findings.

1: Retirement Mindset Re-Set

  • One-third of Americans age 55 and older say their financial assets have not yet recovered to pre-recession levels. Almost half (46%) say their home is worth less now than it was before the recession.
  • Americans are recovering from the “recession mind-bender.” The percentage of people who felt secure dropped dramatically during the recession but is now on the rebound. Similarly, people became more worried and angry during the recession but are now increasingly optimistic.
  • A new outlook: Today, 54% view retirement as a new chapter in life, rather than a winding down—a significant increase over the 38% that held a similar view a decade ago.

2: Re-Setting Timing and Purpose:

  • Retirement is being postponed: Pre-retirees say they now intend to delay retirement by five years—from age 64 to age 69—triggered in part by increasing longevity, as well as the recession and financial need.
  • Retirement no longer means the end of work: Almost two-thirds say they would ideally like to remain productive and include work in retirement.
  • The top reason people want to work during retirement is “the stimulation and satisfaction” rather than the money.
  • Americans 55 and older say that baby boomers are more likely to have less in entitlements, less money for retirement and less respect from younger generations compared to prior generations of retirees. However, they also expect boomers to be more active and youthful, have more opportunities to learn and grow, and experience more interesting lives.

3: Re-Setting Values and Obligations:

  • 85% say they now appreciate the importance of quality relationships with their friends and family even more after the recession.
  • Asked how the recession affected their financial situation and investment strategy, 96% say it’s important to protect themselves and their families against financial uncertainties.
  • Nearly half of Americans 55 and older expect to provide intergenerational support for family members and, in a new twist on childcare, 70% of those believe their adult children will need financial assistance.
  • Financial peace of mind is now 6x more important than accumulating wealth: 82% name it their key financial goal.
  • Protecting assets is now 5x more important to investors than higher-risk returns.

4: Re-Setting Long Life Expectations:

  • “Remaining productive” is now seen as the top benefit of living a very long life, followed by “deepening relationships with family” and “witnessing new discoveries as the world evolves.”
  • Nearly half of today’s retirees retired earlier than they planned. The top reason people give for early retirement is unexpected health problems.
  • Asked what their financial challenges are for retirement preparation, people say their top concern is higher taxes.

5: Re-Setting Financial Solutions:

  • Three-quarters say the last several years have provided a much-needed financial wake-up call, and 81% report they have learned important lessons regarding saving, investing and preparing for retirement.
  • Americans believe they can still “get there from here,” and 78% say they can still have a fulfilling retirement by being more financially disciplined.
  • Post-recession, people are seeking financial solutions that won’t lose value and can help their money go the distance.

6: Re-Setting the Path to a Satisfying Retirement:

  • There are four distinct segments of Americans age 55 and older based on their retirement attitudes, expectations and behaviors: Ageless Explorers (20% of respondents), Cautiously Contents (18%), Live for Todays (27%) and Worried Strugglers (35%).
  • The first two groups are enjoying their retirement and have a high level of happiness and financial security.
  • The second two retiree groups are struggling due to misfortune and/or bad planning. Over the past decade, the percentage of those age 55 and older who are “Ageless Explorers” and “Cautiously Contents” fell from 46% to 38%. Meanwhile the percentage of people who fall in the two segments who are having a difficult time—the “Live for Todays” and “Worried Strugglers”—rose from 54% to 62%.
For more information regarding the SunAmerica Retirement Re-Set Study and its findings and to download a full report, please visit http://www.retirementreset.com/
SunAmerica Financial Group (SAFG) is the enterprise name for a group of companies offering insurance, retirement and investment services through a diverse family of financial services companies. Copyright ©
2011, SunAmerica Financial Group. All rights reserved.

 This is important information. What group are you in? Do you identify yourself in these results? Please leave a comment and let's talk about it.

Note: just after this post was added to the blog I received the following news release from ABC:

            Next week “World News” cracks the code for a happy retirement. During a special week-long series, ABC’s Claire Shipman goes in search of boomers rewriting the rules of retirement with an in-depth look at the “Retirement Revolution” taking place across the country. We show you the amazing new ways boomers are pursuing their dreams, surprising new strategies to help them afford their big new goals, and breakthroughs that promise to give boomers the energy and health to do it all. Reports will begin airing on “World News with Diane Sawyer” on Monday, July 18.


  1. Well, I guess I have a little of all four of those categories, but I related most to the cautiously content. I am very content and satisfied in my life, but I'm staying alert!

  2. Hi Galen,

    In reading your blog I'd agree: you are firmly in the CC camp. I would place myself there, too. After all the turmoil of the past few years, to be "Cautiously Content" says as much for my increased spirituality as any financial planning.

  3. Just read the full article. I am definitely in the CC group. Have a traditional pension and am living my parents' retirement. Maybe as the years go by,I'll want to do some kind of work-just can't imagine it yet.

  4. Donna,

    I have had a seasonal, part time job for the last 5 years that has now ended. While I will miss the extra money, it was becoming a bore and a chore-two words I try to avoid in retirement.

  5. Bob,
    I'm in the 'contented worrier' category. LOL :)

    Great read. Thanks for the article.

  6. I think I fall into the CC group. If you read my comment on Gutsy's blog, you already know I am a "happy retiree." We, or I should say I retired 13 years ago. My husband semi-retired, he would go bananas if he didn't to a little work, be it for pay, or just helping others with little odd jobs. It keeps him happy, and content.

    We sold the farm 13 years ago, left Maryland and moved 850 miles away to Iowa. Why Iowa? We have a son and his family who moved here and when we came to visit them we decided to move also. Of course my three other children and their families who live in Maryland weren't to happy with us, but they have adjusted. It was a whole new lifestyle, but I'm lovin' it.

  7. Hi Gigi Ann,

    I lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa for almost three years and loved it (except for 50 below zero wind chills). The people was great and the town was the perfect size. Now wonder you like the state.

    I'm glad to hear you are in the happy retiree camp. We need all of us we can get! And, I'm happy I found your blog!

  8. Morrison,

    A new category: Contented Worrier...I like it. Does that mean you are OK with worrying about the future, or you worry you are too content?

    LOL....good interview link from your blog, BTW.

  9. I try very hard not to think about those things that are out of my control. We just live on what we have...period.

    I truly believe what you said about being productive. "Remaining productive” is now seen as the top benefit of living a very long life, followed by “deepening relationships with family” and “witnessing new discoveries as the world evolves.” This is the KEY to a happy life no matter what your age.

    Thank you.


  10. Hi Barb,

    So much is out of our control that to worry about it just stresses us out.

    I found the study very encouraging and very much in tune with what folks are saying on this blog. And, yes, the three highlights you mention are not age-dependant.

  11. I'm a cc mainly because I try and have apositive attitude, and the fact that although I have nos aving to speak of I have a pension and social security and can manage although at a more downsized level

    Given my natural tendencies I would say up to now I have been living for today and have reaped those rewards, lol..

  12. Good Morning Barb,

    Interesting...living for today combined with a cautiously content mindset. Actually, that sounds like a very pleasant mix: optimistic but realistic, with a touch of being in the moment.

    Based on what I know about you from your blog, I'd agree. You are making the most of what could have been a very tough situation but you have not let it defeat you (or even slow you down much!).

  13. I guess I am one of the cautiously content group, but too new to this what I call semi-retirement to be in any one camp yet. I want to give it another 6-12 months to make any sweeping statements. So far I am enjoying the freedoms and direction that my decision to leave behind the 9-5 (or in my case the 7-3) world have given me.

    I can see me working part-time somewhere, but not for a while longer, I am getting used to my new schedule and life.


  14. Harold,

    Give yourself plenty of time to adjust to the new rhythm of your life. My "honeymoon" phase lasted about a year when everything just felt great.

    What I find interesting is that virtually everyone who has commented is in the cautiously content group. I find that encouraging and tells me something about my readers.

  15. Er, I'm in the "kinda confused" category. SunAmerica finds that financial assets have not recovered, but people feeling secure is "on the rebound." Retirement is being postponed, but "nearly half of today's retirees retired earlier than they planned."

    Because of unexpected health problems? Maybe. But everyone I know retired earlier than they planned because they got fired, and at age 50+ could not find another even halfway suitable job.

    And the ABC World News thing sounds like a bunch of "happy talk." Look, people DO reinvent themselves in retirement, esp. if they're younger, but it's not easy, it's not guaranteed, and it almost always involves a smaller paycheck.

    Gee, I'm in a pissy mood this Monday! Maybe it's because somebody just asked me to do some writing for them ... for no pay, of course.

  16. Hi Sightings,

    Monday can bring out that mood thing...no problem. Like any study released by someone with a vested interest in the results, I always suggest reading such material with that in mind. Sunamerica sells financial products, so people feeling better about things helps them in their business.

    That being said, most of the comments and unpublished e-mails I receive do support the basic findings of their study. While no one is naive enough to think our problems are behind us, there seems to be a sense of "I weathered the storm and am still standing so I think I will be OK."

    I expect the ABC feature to be 90 seconds of familiar info, but wanted to alert folks to its availability. Personally, I don't expect earth-shaking conclusions.

    Getting a job right now is tough for any age, but virtually impossible for older workers. I don't think that is likely to improve for quite some time, if ever.

    Thanks for leaving a few comments this morning. I like your blog and have listed it on my blogroll. Keep kicking!

  17. Bob,
    Put me under 6. At least that's the one that came closest. I feel like when I was a senior in high school and thinking about what I wanted to do. Only now I'm smarter. It's a daunting task when you have been drifting around for most of your life expecting to arrive somewhere without actually charting a course.

  18. Ralph,

    If we only knew then what we know now....we would have been very irritating teenagers!

    If you still have the mindset of always searching for what is next, like you did in High School, then I'd say you are closer to the "Ageless Explorer," not being defined by age but by attitude. Good for you. Even if that search is frustrating it is a darn sight better than simply settling for whatever life dishes out.

  19. I am not sure of my category. I haven't worked in 6 years and I don't have many skills. My husband works and when he is working he makes great money. Last year he was out of a job and much, much to our surprise we were short each month on what we needed to take in to pay our bills for the entire year. I finally decided to go ahead and get my retirement started from my last job and it put us ahead along with a small computer business my husband does on the side. It was not fun just barely making it though for those few months till my husband was called back to work. Now we are doing everything we can to save and to liquidate what we can so we can pay off our house. That way when he is laid off again or wants to stop working for good we can make it. I would get a job too but I looked all last year and couldn't find a job. Even in a Department store.

  20. Hi Sue,

    I'd put you in the "making the best of a tough situation" category. You and your husband are to be congratulated for figuring out how to solve the problems caused by the economy and getting back on your feet.

    Saving everything you can is a major step to a more secure future.

  21. Financial planning for retirement is something practiced in present only by the wise. But many people fall short in this regard, until the middle-age blues start taking toll. To secure old age proper financial planning for retirement is very significant decision in present.

  22. Collier,

    I have no problem including a URL from someone who takes the time to leave a comment, as long as that comment adds something to the discussion.

    In your case, sentences like..."is very significant decision in present" and the lack of anything new led me to delete yours. Such an obvious attempt to get a back link won't work. Sorry.


Inappropriate comments will be deleted