3 Out of 4 Investors Think We're Headed for a Major Retirement Crisis


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Pessimism regarding the retirement future for Americans is growing. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of investors believe "the U.S. is headed for a major retirement crisis in the next 20 to 30 years that will result in large populations living at a far reduced standard of living, or at the poverty line." And the Wells Fargo/Gallup survey says four in 10 non-retired investors (41%) say they are "extremely" or "very worried" about another global financial crisis in their retirement years, surpassing concerns about having a lower standard of living (28%), running out of money (26%) or having to work in retirement (25%).

More than two-thirds see a "slow" or "non-growing" U.S. economy to be the norm for the balance of their lifetime.

"Over the summer, investors watched rising mortgage rates, a volatile stock market and stubborn unemployment figures – all of which understandably impact optimism," says Joe Ready, director of Institutional Retirement and Trust at Wells Fargo. "What is so striking to me is the fact that five years after the market collapse, non-retired investors harbor significant concerns about a repeat financial crisis. The past continues to color their view of retirement, and whether the stock market is a place where they can invest and grow savings."

A majority (69%) of investors say this year's stock market increases do not make them any "less fearful about sustained losses" if the market were to fall similar to the 2008-2009 downturn. Fifty-nine percent of retired and 51% of non-retired investors say they haven't seen a "noticeable increase" in their retirement account values as a result of recent stock market advances.

Just 14% say the stock market increases have made them feel "a lot" or "somewhat" more confident about their retirement future. In fact, retired investors estimate that only 39% of all their assets, not including cash or savings accounts, are actually invested in stocks or bonds. For non-retired investors the figure is 34%.

"According to the poll, the average investor is not highly invested in the market in either equities or bonds, and it appears that a more stable economy with better employment prospects would encourage more participation," added Ready.

Amid all the pessimism, more investors (39%) are setting out specific plans to meet their retirement and investment goals and 60% say they have calculated a good financial estimate of how much they will need to save now to retire comfortably.

A majority of investors (84%) say when and how much you set aside are "extremely" or "very important" factors in determining whether you will save enough to live comfortably after retirement. Somewhat fewer consider selecting the right investment funds (75%), the amount of investment gains made each year (70%), or having low fees on investment funds (62%) as being important.

"The findings indicate investors understand they will need to save their way to a secure retirement, not merely invest their way there; and they are taking more responsibility for their savings through better planning," Ready says.

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet

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