Retirement reality for many Americans may not be as grim as forecasters predict. Could it be better? Yes. But many retirees in our new survey see a glass that’s more than half full.
As John Lennon noted, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” That’s why our latest survey of defined contribution (DC) trends and issues not only included current plan participants, but retirees as well. We wanted to show a composite portrait of retirement’s realities painted by the people who are doing it—not just planning for it.
Most of our retired respondents were in the 65–75 age bracket, although 17% were younger. We asked them to think back to 10 years before they retired and tell us at what age they assumed or hoped they would retire. The average expectation was that they’d retire at age 65, but their actual retirement age was closer to 62—three years earlier. One interesting finding was that 16% expected to retire before age 60, and yet a far larger percentage—39%—actually did retire before that milestone.
It’s possible that some respondents retired earlier due to the recession that followed the global financial crisis. But employment, including part-time jobs, has been steadily on the rise for the past five years, and much of the labor market has been quite tight for a few years at least. These conditions might have convinced many retirees to reenter the work force. But very few of our retirees are even working part time. In fact, 93% are fully retired.
Where’s the Income Coming From?
The median income for our retired respondents is roughly $60,000. More than 60% of them receive a pension, and it’s likely that most or all of them are currently receiving Social Security as well. In describing their current investment portfolio, more than half (53%) say it’s a balance between growth and preservation or a tilt toward moderate growth. Only 11% solidly favor preservation, and 20% aren’t sure how to describe their portfolio. When asked how much of their current spending comes from their workplace retirement savings plan, three-fourths of our retirees say it’s 25% or less—and many of them say they currently don’t access those savings at all.