Optimism and Pessimism Both Drive American Savers

Americans on the whole are pretty fickle when it comes to money issues and retirement planning, showing equal parts optimism and pessimism.

An informative infographic presented by www.masters-in-accounting.org shows just how conflicted American retirement savers are when it comes to thinking and talking about money issues.

On the one hand, more than half of individual investors (56%) in the U.S. say they have a favorable view of their current financial situation. At the same time, 57% of workers say they are unprepared for a financial emergency, and when considering retirement and the long term, confidence wanes further.

According to master-in-accounting.org, which connects individuals with financial training and education resources, fully one in three Americans has no savings, and six in 10 spend all the money they make in a given month. This is discouraging because a majority of households, about 60%, reported facing a major unexpected expense in the last year that damaged their short- and long-term financial outlook. Also troubling, 69% of people say they don’t expect to have enough money to retire on time or retire comfortably.

While Baby Boomers have a lot to worry about, Generation X actually appears to be the most pessimistic about the financial future. Nearly four in 10 Gen Xers (37%) “don’t feel at all financially secure,” the highest proportion of any of the generations in the work force. This compares with 71% of Millennials who say they are optimistic and expect to be able to meet their retirement savings goals and other important financial milestones on time.

Taking all the data together, master-in-accounting.org suggests Americans are not at all unified in their thinking and decisionmaking about the future. Large portions of the population are setting themselves up for serious financial hardship late in life. It’s a group ruled by pessimism and convinced they will not be able to surmount their previous failure to take savings seriously. Why start now, they ask. Yet others are fully in control, having taken charge of financial issues from an early age and leveraging the benefits of lifelong investing and saving.

The infographic doesn’t draw conclusions about what the numbers mean for retirement planning professionals, but defined contribution (DC) plan sponsors and advisers will clearly benefit from helping people understand and overcome financial pessimism. Generating $10,000 in savings seems to be one milestone that pushes people to get involved in the retirement planning effort, for example, and the use of automatic enrollment and deferral escalation features in DC plans takes some of the most critical decisionmaking out of the hands of timid participants.