Disturbing Percentage of Americans Fear Never Being Able to Retire

Find out the top reasons Americans have anxiety about retirement.

If you're nearing retirement, you might be counting the days until you can leave your 9-to-5 behind. But many Americans actually fear retirement, a new survey by GOBankingRates found.

Using a May 2017 Google Consumer Survey, GOBankingRates asked more than 1,000 adults across the U.S., "Of the following, what do you fear the most about retirement?" Respondents could select one of these six answers:

  • Never being able to retire
  • Not being able to afford healthcare costs
  • Suffering from boredom
  • Not being able to afford my lifestyle
  • Losing access to Social Security benefits
  • Not having anyone to enjoy retirement with

The results showed that most Americans are either worried about being financially prepared for retirement — in terms of either healthcare costs or maintaining their lifestyle — or they're afraid that they won't be able to retire at all.

1 in 4 Americans Fear Not Being Able to Retire

1 in 4 Americans Fear Not Being Able to Retire

One of the biggest fears Americans have about retirement is the possibility that it might not even be an option for them. The survey found that this is the top worry of 24 percent of adults.

However, it's not surprising that such a large percentage of people are afraid they might never retire — many of them have nothing saved for retirement at all. GOBankingRates' 2017 Retirement Savings survey found that 34 percent of Americans have $0 in retirement savings.

Frank O'Connor, vice president of research and outreach for the Insured Retirement Institute, agreed that the survey findings aren't surprising. IRI research found an even higher percentage of people who aren't saving. "Our research shows that 46 percent of baby boomers and almost 40 percent of Gen Xers have nothing saved for retirement," he said.

Despite their fears, it's clear that many Americans don't consider saving for retirement a priority.

They Also Worry About Being Able to Afford Their Lifestyle

Slightly more respondents — 25 percent — are more worried about whether they'll be able to afford their lifestyle in retirement rather than whether they'll be able to retire at all. This suggests that they might have retirement savings or other sources of retirement income, but not enough to live comfortably.

The GOBankingRates' 2017 Retirement Savings survey found that 55 percent of adults have less than $10,000 in savings, and another 11 percent only has between $10,000 and $49,000 saved. That's not enough to cover a year's worth of expenses in retirement — adults 65 and older spend nearly $45,000 per year on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Those who are counting on Social Security as a main source of retirement income also might not have enough to afford their lifestyle. Nearly half of non-retired workers plan to rely on Social Security as their primary source of income in retirement, according to a 2017 survey by the American Institute of CPAs. However, the average monthly Social Security benefit is currently just $1,360 — which adds up to just $16,320 per year.

According to those numbers, it's not possible to sustain yourself if you retire on Social Security alone.

Millennials Most Afraid of Not Being Able to Retire

Millennials Most Afraid of Not Being Able to Retire

Though the survey showed that all age groups fear they might never retire, millennials ages 25 to 34 are more likely than other generations to have this worry. Thirty percent of millennials chose "never being able to retire" as their top fear, compared to just 23 percent of older Gen Xers ages 45 to 54.

Worries about what Social Security will look like by the time they are eligible to receive it could be fueling millennials' fear of retirement. "Younger workers are likely more concerned about Social Security than older workers, given projections regarding the solvency of the program," O'Connor said.

In fact, the GOBankingRates' survey found that millennials ages 25 to 34 were the second most likely to choose "loosing access to Social Security benefits" as a top fear, following boomers. Nine percent of both age groups chose this option as their top fear of retirement.

Find Out: Ways the American Economy Could Change If Social Security Runs Out

Older Adults More Worried About Healthcare Costs

A significantly greater percentage of older adults chose "not being able to afford healthcare costs" as their top fear of retirement. Twenty-six percent of survey respondents ages 65 and older said healthcare is their No. 1 concern, followed by 24 percent of those ages 45 to 54. Only 15 percent of adults ages 25 to 34 and 13 percent of adults ages 18 to 24 reported fears about affording healthcare.

Those who are worried about being able to afford healthcare in retirement have good reason. According to Fidelity's Retiree Health Care Cost Estimate, a couple who retired at age 65 in 2016 would need an estimated $260,000 to cover health costs. This estimate includes Medicare premiums, co-payments and deductibles, as well as out-of-pocket prescription drug expenses.

One way to start preparing for healthcare costs in retirement is to set aside money in a health savings account while you're still working. If you have a high-deductible health insurance plan, you can contribute to an HSA and use the money tax-free for qualified medical costs. Any funds you don't use while working can remain in the account and be used to help cover out-of-pocket health costs in retirement. Some employers will even match your contributions the way they would a 401k.

You also should take care of your health while you're younger to avoid high costs in retirement. "Maintaining a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and avoiding harmful habits such as smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol — while not guarantees of good health — certainly reduce the probability of developing chronic conditions associated with long-term, expensive care, such as heart conditions and type 2 diabetes," O'Connor said.

Retirement Fears Vary by Region

Retirement Fears Vary by Region

The survey also found that most people's fears of retirement vary greatly depending on where they live. "Not being able to afford my lifestyle" is a bigger fear in the Northeast than in other regions, with 29 percent of respondents choosing this option. The fear could be due to the high cost of living in this region.

But other regions have different retirement concerns:

  • In the West, survey respondents are more likely to be worried about not being able to retire, with 29% choosing this answer.
  • Respondents in the South are more worried about not having anyone to enjoy retirement with than residents of other regions.
  • Respondents in the Midwest are much more likely to be worried about being bored in retirement than respondents in other regions.
Retirement Fears Similar Among Genders

Retirement Fears Similar Among Genders

Men and women are about equal when it comes to their retirement anxieties. Though women are more likely to fear never being able to retire — 27 percent versus 24 percent for men — they're about equal when it comes to worrying about being able to afford their lifestyle and losing access to Social Security in retirement.

Surprisingly, the biggest discrepancy between men and women is whether they fear being bored in retirement. Fifteen percent of male respondents feared they'd end up retired and bored, compared to just 9 percent of female respondents.

Though retirement is far in the future for many, starting to ask questions now about what sort of retirement you want can help you create a plan and alleviate some of your retirement anxiety. Don't wait until it's too late — retirement will be here before you know it.

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