The Rich Often Overestimate Their Retirement Readiness, Report Says


  • 28% of all U.S. households think they’re on track to maintain their standard of living in retirement but are actually at risk of falling short, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.
  • The affluent are more likely to hold this mistaken view, the Center said in a new report.
  • Booming stock and housing markets may have contributed to a “wealth illusion” among high-income households.
The Rich Often Overestimate Their Retirement Readiness
Courtneyk | E+ | Getty Images

Many Americans are mistaken about their financial preparedness for retirement. But overconfidence skews higher for the wealthy than for others, according to a new report.

Twenty-eight percent of all U.S. households have an overly rosy view: They think they’re on track to maintain their standard of living in retirement but are actually at risk of falling short, according to an analysis by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

The analysis examines these households by income group. Thirty-two percent of high-income households are “not worried enough” about their retirement risk, a larger share than the 26% of low and middle earners.

More from Personal Finance:

  1. What’s Your Retirement Number? How To Figure It Out.
  2. How Long Will $250000 Last Me in Retirement?

The divergence between perception and reality can be dangerous, experts said. Such households may be able to save more money during their working years but don’t know they should do so.

“If they’re not aware they should be saving more, they run the risk of having to cut back their consumption — perhaps substantially — in retirement,” said Anqi Chen, senior research economist and assistant director of savings research at the Center for Retirement Research.

They may also be unable to manage some risks in old age like higher health-care costs, added Chen, who co-authored the report.

There’s an important caveat here: The meaning of being “at risk” differs between income groups. Low earners who are at risk may not be able to afford basic living necessities in old age, while an affluent household is unlikely to fall into poverty, for example, the analysis said.

The affluent risk a “difficult adjustment that may require them to lower their expectations of their retirement lifestyle,” the report said.

The analysis leverages data from the U.S. Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, a triennial assessment of households. Its most recent iteration reflects 2019 data.

The Survey of Consumer Finances defines income groups by age and marital status. For example, the 2019 survey defines married couples ages 45 to 47 as low-, middle- and high-income if their median income is $50,000, $110,000 and $248,000, respectively.

The Center for Retirement Research uses the Survey data to construct a National Retirement Risk Index. The index models retirement preparedness according to a range of assets like Social Security, pensions, home equity and employer-sponsored retirement plans, such as a 401(k).

If they’re not aware they should be saving more, they run the risk of having to cut back their consumption — perhaps substantially — in retirement.

Anqi Chen – assistant director of savings research, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College

In 2019, 47% of American households were at risk of not being able to maintain their standard of living in retirement, according to the index. That’s down slightly from the years following the 2008 financial crisis, but up significantly from earlier in the 21st century.

Many factors have put pressure on Americans’ retirement preparedness.

For one, they’re living longer, meaning their savings must stretch over a greater number of years.

Employers have also steadily put more responsibility onto individuals to save by transitioning away from pensions and toward 401(k)-type plans. Millions of workers don’t have access to a retirement plan at work, where research shows they’re more likely to save due to the ease of payroll deduction.

There also are many competing financial priorities, such as saving for a child’s college education, the price of which has risen significantly, and for future health costs.

In addition, there’s been a gradual rise in Social Security’s “full retirement age” and paltry interest rates on safer assets like cash following the financial crisis, the Boston College center said. (The latter trend has reversed recently.)

Read More10 Steps to Retire as a Millionaire

Why the rich are more likely to underestimate risk

The rich often overestimate their retirement readiness, report finds
Westend61 | Westend61 | Getty Images

Nineteen percent of U.S. households correctly identify they’re at risk of falling short in retirement, according to the Center’s report. But the more concerning cohort is the aforementioned 28% of households who aren’t worried enough, experts said.

“The ones who worry me the most are the people who think they’re in good shape but they’re not,” said David Blanchett, head of retirement research at PGIM, the investment management arm of Prudential Financial.

The booming stock and housing markets may be giving a “wealth illusion” to affluent households, who disproportionately own these financial assets, Chen said.

The ones who worry me the most are the people who think they’re in good shape but they’re not.

David Blanchett – head of retirement research at PGIM

For example, the median price of a home sold in the U.S. had jumped to $327,000 by the end of 2019, up from $223,000 at the beginning of 2010, according to federal data tracked by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The S&P 500 stock index roughly tripled over that period.

Further, about 24% of affluent households who underestimated their retirement risk had a large amount of housing debt relative to their home equity, three times more than middle and lower earners, according to the Center for Retirement Research analysis.

Social Security also replaces a smaller portion of annual income for wealthy households relative to other income groups — meaning they must save more money to maintain their standard of living.

Saving money is the one thing that “dramatically improves” a household’s retirement readiness, Blanchett said.

Aside from the obvious benefit of having a larger pool of assets from which to draw in old age, saving more money today effectively reduces one’s standard of living, Blanchett said. More money saved means less money spent, and households grow accustomed to living on a lower monthly budget — a lifestyle change that would likely carry into retirement, he added.

The easiest way for households to get a rough sense of their retirement preparedness is by consulting two or three free online retirement calculators and inputting all relevant financial information, Blanchett said. Someone who wants to more detailed examination or personalized plan might consider consulting a financial planner, he said.

What is retirement readiness?

The status and degree of readiness for retirement are referred to as retirement readiness. Retirement readiness necessitates financial preparation for retirement. Individuals need discipline, well-defined goals, and a plan to prepare for retirement.

Am I oversaving for retirement?

Malani explained that Stash Wealth predicts a client’s current retirement savings amount as well as their savings rate to assess if they are oversaving for retirement. This tells them how much money they’re on schedule to retire with in comparison to how much money they need or wish to retire with.

When should I stop saving for retirement?

Here’s when you should take a break from investing for retirement.
1. You’re behind on your payments. Failure to pay your bills could have serious implications.
2. You don’t have an emergency fund.
3. You’re saddled with high-interest debt.

What is a good retirement readiness score?

The Retirement Readiness Score goes from 0 to 150 or above. A score of 78 places you in the “yellow” or “fair” range of 65 to 80. According to Fidelity, more than half (52%) of respondents polled for the evaluation may need to adjust their retirement savings plans to compensate for any shortfalls.

Source link

Share your love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: