October 13, 2011
Retirement Concerns: New Study Takes a Look
Having a Satisfying Retirement has never been easy. But, there is no argument that the last several years have made it even more of a challenge. It is hard to read anything about this stage of life that doesn't spell out all the difficulties are face.
A week or so ago I was given the results of a bipartisan, national survey. Conducted by Lake Research Partners and Public Opinion Strategies, it shows widespread anxiety over having the means to maintain a comfortable standard of living throughout retirement. It shows that anxiety continues to grow, with near universal concern about having enough to make ends meet throughout retirement. The poll was commissioned by Americans for Secure Retirement (ASR), a broad-based coalition of more than 70 organizations committed to raising awareness of policy issues related to retirement security.
“What we’re seeing is significant, and increasing, concern from Americans of all political stripes about falling short financially during retirement,” said Bill McInturff, founder and partner of Public Opinion Strategies. “Not only are Americans concerned about their own financial health, but they also express widespread concern over how the continued contentious debate in Washington could further undermine what they are planning for in retirement. Even those who feel we must make dramatic cuts to deal with the debt think Congress needs to identify concrete ways to help Americans deal with further retirement instability.”
The survey reveals pervasive anxiety over how efforts to reduce our national debt may impact retirement security. Regardless of party affiliation, the majority of voters are concerned that cuts to Medicare or Social Security would have too significant an impact on retirement or that, if cuts are made, Congress must look for other ways to help Americans better plan for retirement. A majority of respondents also expressed support for proposals such as tax incentives to help save for retirement.
Additionally, the poll findings include:
88 percent of voters expressed concern about “being able to maintain a comfortable standard of living throughout retirement,” with 52 percent of those individuals indicating they are “very concerned.” This is up 15 percent from just last year.Concerns about being able to maintain a standard of living in retirement are extremely high across very diverse demographic groups:
Those without any investments (93%)
Those with over $100,000 in investments (84%)
Financial elites (81%)
A full 50 percent of voters believe lawmakers should not cut Medicare or Social Security because it would have too significant an impact on retirement. A plurality of Republicans and Tea Party supporters (34 percent of self-identified Tea Party supporters, 39 percent of Republicans) and the majority of Democrats (62 percent) express this viewpoint.
88 percent of voters view tax incentives to help save for retirement as important. This includes 81 percent of Tea Party supporters, 83 percent of Republicans, 86 percent of Independents and 94 percent of Democrats.
“Continued economic uncertainty, high unemployment and instability in the stock market have placed a growing concern on retirement security, and it’s an issue that transcends party affiliation,” said Celinda Lake, President of Lake Research Partners. “As all eyes turn toward the 2012 election cycle, it’s clear that fears regarding retirement security will play out big not only for Democratic voters, but even the most conservative of Republicans as well.”
“We commissioned this poll to illustrate the overwhelming anxiety that exists about having the means to live comfortably in retirement,” said Shannon Hunt, Executive Director of Americans for Secure Retirement. “As policymakers look for ways to address our national debt, they must find ways to generate peace of mind among Americans as they look toward retirement. Promoting solutions that provide guaranteed lifetime income – for example, annuities –would go a long way toward balancing these concerns.”
The poll was conducted as part of a national omnibus survey of 800 registered voters. The survey took place from September 10-13, 2011. More information, including a detailed breakdown of the poll results, can be found by clicking on this link.
What I find important about this survey is the broad-based, non-partisan approach to data gathering. Frankly, I had never heard of the Americans for Secure Retirement before, but am impressed with the diversity of groups it represents. If you are interested, a list of the groups included is available here. The only obvious caveat: the life insurance industry is well represented in ASR. Therefore the recommendations for annuities is to be expected. But, to their credit, all sorts of folks were interviewed, including those with no history of investments or ownership of insurance industry products.
Over the past 17 months I have written thousands of words that the path to a satisfying retirement lifestyle is based on so much more than just solid financial planning. I continue to firmly believe that to be true. Strong relationships, focusing on your health, feeding your passions and creative side, travel, even working after retirement are part of the package.
But, for many the effect of the economic mess we are in is beginning to drown out some of that message. While I am not sure what the new reality of retirement should mean to this blog. be aware I understand we are seeing a shift in attitudes and it is important that I reflect it.
At the same time,I am encouraged when I read stories like this one. A lady suffered substantial losses, tried to be upset and bemoan her fate, but couldn't do it for more than 6 hours! She has done what she needed to do, has adjusted and moved on. It is an affirming story that I urge you to read.