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Retirement survey: Plan to work two years longer than you thought

Blue skies, a beach, a nice book. For many, retirement presents an opportunity for relaxation.

But for the majority of Americans that retirement will likely be put off for longer than they expected, a new study finds.

Three of five Americans are “very likely” to work about two years longer than planned in order to meet their goals, according to a  recent study from the Indexed Annuity Leadership Council.

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What were the causes of this delay? A survey from the study indicated 40 percent of respondents said “not saving earlier” was their biggest regret, while 19 percent said “making bad financial decisions” and 17 percent pointed to “not saving enough” as their largest mistakes.          

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Americans are prone to procrastination when it comes to retirement savings, said Jim Poolman, IALC executive director. “It’s easier to put off until tomorrow what you probably could do today,” he said.

Additionally, while the future can be abstract, “we have constant needs and desires and temptations” today that make it more difficult to save, according to Kristen Berman, a collaborator on the study and co-founder of Common Cents Lab, a Duke University initiative that researches ways to improve the financial well-being of low-to middle-income Americans.

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Another finding from the study found a disparity between blue- and gray-collar workers (skilled technicians, administrative workers) versus white-collar workers in terms of retirement preparedness. While 44 percent of white-collar workers indicated that they are “not ready at all” or “not very ready” for retirement (they have less than 50 percent saved toward their goals), some 49 percent of blue- and gray-collar workers said they were ill-prepared.          

Poolman attributed the difference to white-collar employees being more likely to be enrolled in employer retirement plans.

White-collar jobs are also more likely to have higher incomes and those workers can afford financial advisers, Berman said.

Even after people retire, a significant portion do not choose to stay that way long. According to the IALC’s study, roughly four in 10 Americans will work part time in their retirement years, “either by choice or necessity.”          

Berman attributes this to running out of retirement savings.

“There really is no social norm to how much people should save,” she said. “People may think that they have their goal worked out, and the reality is that we don’t expect expenses.”          

Both Berman and Poolman had a similar solution to properly planning for retirement: Take action.

“It’s crucially important to educate yourself about all of the dimensions of retirement,” Poolman said.

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