Retirement Savers Share Outlook on Interest Rate Environment

Wells Fargo released its Retirement Optimism Index, which offers insight into what retirees and non-retirees think about the current interest rate environment and what’s to come.

The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates twice since last year and many analysts expect that trend to continue, but many retirement savers see no immediate impact on their finances. According to the Investor and Retirement Optimism Index by Wells Fargo and Gallup, most respondents (66%) say the recent hikes have had no impact on investments, loans or any other aspect of their finances.

Still, the index reveals some disparities on perceptions of the interest rate environment among retirees and non-retirees. For those that did see some impact, 16% of retirees said it was positive. Only 9% of retirees said it was negative. As for non-retirees, 12% said it was positive and 17% said it was negative.

More than half (60%) of retirees are satisfied with current interest rates, as are 60% of non-retirees. Twenty-nine percent of non-retirees are dissatisfied, and 37% of retirees feel the same way.

When asked whether they felt they had a good understanding of how higher interest rates would affect stock investments, most respondents had an optimistic response. More than half of retirees (77%) and non-retirees (76%) said they did. Only 16% of retirees and 23% of non-retirees indicated they were not aware of how these market forces affected their stock investments.

Answers varied when asked which situation would reflect positively on investments. Thirty-nine percent of retirees preferred a high interest rate environment, and 21% of non-retirees said the same thing. More than half (52%) of retirees said a low-interest environment would be better for their financial situations and 76% of retirees agreed.

“Whatever your age, low rates can hurt savers,” says Brian Rehling, co-head of Global Income Fixed Income Strategy, Wells Fargo Investment Institute. With rising rates, the inertia among investors to stick with their investments shows that they may be more comfortable with the risks in the stock market. However, the lack of meaningful rate and/or credit shocks in recent years may have given some investors a false sense of security.”

In response, most investors (67%) said they will make no changes to their investments if interest rates continue rising. However, 23% said they would take money out of stocks and into interest-bearing accounts or investments such as certificates of deposit (CDs). Twenty-four percent of non-retirees and 19% of retirees said they would do this.