Baby Care

Retirees’ biggest fear is outliving their assets, research finds

  • As saving for retirement has become more of an individual obligation, many workers and retirees wonder if they have enough money saved.
  • New research shows the biggest concern among those cohorts is outliving their assets.
  • While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to address those worries, there are ways to help extend how long your money may last.

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Retirement confidence may be dropping due to the economy.

But for retirement savers and retirees alike, there’s one worry that stands out above the rest — the possibility they may outlive their assets, according to new research from research and consulting firm Cerulli Associates.

That worry looms large for more than half — 58% — of those individuals, the research found, and is an even bigger concern for Generation X and baby boomer respondents who are closer to or already in retirement.

More than half of retirees — 54% — rely on Social Security as their primary source of income. Of those respondents, 20% have no other source of income, Cerulli’s first-quarter survey of 1,500 401(k) plan participants found.

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The worries felt by both workers and retirees reflect the fact that retirement savings has become an individual obligation, rather than an employer or state obligation, said David Kennedy, senior analyst at Cerulli.

For workers and retirees, there is no silver bullet answer to fix their retirement worries.

Financial concerns have pushed some workers — 46% — to retire later than expected to meet income or savings needs to pay for basic expenses, according to Cerulli’s research.

Yet many older workers ages 50 through 70 face difficult working conditions, recent research from the Economic Policy Institute found.

Aside from working longer, their menu of choices include limiting spending, maximizing retirement contributions, delaying Social Security, buying annuities, purchasing long-term care insurance, increasing exposure to stocks or relocating to a place where costs are lower, Cerulli’s report notes.

“There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for every retiree,” said Elizabeth Chiffer, associate analyst at Cerulli.

Carolyn McClanahan, a certified financial planner and founder of Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, Florida, said she typically brings up retirement before her clients have a chance to.

But many people fail to adequately plan for their retirement needs, said McClanahan, who is a member of CNBC’s Financial Advisor Council.

There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for every retiree.

Elizabeth Chiffer

associate analyst at Cerulli

“A lot of people fly blindly,” McClanahan said. “They don’t really know.”

To shore up their confidence — and ultimately their retirement security — taking several steps may help.

It is difficult to know where you need to be financially until you know where you currently stand.

“Everybody should at least do a basic financial plan,” McClanahan said, to look at their current spending and savings levels, and whether that will support them in retirement.

Another helpful first step is to educate yourself, said Kennedy. Assess the options you have, the choices you may have to make in the future, and your current and future risks.

When retirement planning with clients, McClanahan said, she typically sees three types of situations: those who can definitely afford retirement, those who can probably afford retirement but need to watch their spending, and those who cannot afford it.

Especially for those in the latter camp, it helps to reassess spending and where they can trim back.

Cutting useless spending can help improve the retirement projections, McClanahan said.

It is important to reassess that analysis every year to make sure the spending is still in check, she said.

For retirees who anticipate living longer, McClanahan said she often recommends they use a portion of their nest egg to purchase a plain immediate fixed annuity, which can provide a steady stream of income.

“The way we position it when we think somebody needs to put money towards an annuity is that, ‘This is creating your own pension, just like the companies used to,'” McClanahan said.

For some clients, McClanahan likes to ladder more than one policy as they age, which can provide different payouts based on interest rates and their ages.

To be sure, there are some disadvantages to annuities. You have to be comfortable parting with a lump sum. And while an annuity will create a reliable income stream for the rest of your life, it typically does not allow you to pass those funds on to your heirs, McClanahan noted.

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