Short-Term Financial Goals Derail Retirement

Sixty percent of Americans are saving less than 7.5% of annual salary.

Long-term financial goals are losing out to short-term financial pressures, Natixis Global Asset Management found in its 2015 Retirement Plan Participant Study. Sixty percent of workers are saving less than 7.5% for retirement, and 40% are contributing less than 5%.

Thirty-seven percent have borrowed from their retirement accounts, 38% needed emergency funds for a financial hardship, and 19% used their retirement savings to buy a home. Of those who have changed jobs, 43% have taken a lump-sum distribution rather than keeping the assets in the company plan or rolling it over to another qualified plan. In addition, nearly one-third (30%) have taken an early withdrawal from their retirement plan.

Respondents said they will need an average of $805,000 to fund their retirement and expect to live another 23 years after retiring. However, they have saved an average of $83,000 in their retirement plan and $95,000 overall.

Boomers say they will need $946,000 to fund their retirement but have only saved an average of $189,200. Generation X thinks they will need $741,000 to fund their retirement but only have $74,100 saved. They are also the most likely to opt out of their workplace retirement plan because of debt, Natixis said.

Generation Y expects they will need $769,295 to fund their retirement but only have $23,079 in their retirement account. However, they started saving at age 23, compared to age 33 among Boomers and 30 among Generation X.

NEXT: Short-term pressures

“We’re seeing a conflict between investors’ long-term goals and the pressure they feel to address their immediate financial needs,” says John Hailer, chief executive officer of Natixis in the Americas and Asia. “For many, the short-term pressure wins out and they make minimal contributions, or opt out of their retirement plan altogether. And many borrow against their accounts, eroding the assets they’ve worked hard to accumulate.”

Among those who have opted out of their retirement plan, 51% say they need their money today. Fifty percent said they opted out because their company doesn’t provide a match or the match is too small. Just over one-third (34%) say they have too much personal debt to be able to save for retirement, and 23% say they need to pay off student loans.

Those who are participating in a plan were asked why. Sixty-eight percent said they want to achieve financial security, 52% said they do not want to work for the rest of their lives, 50% said they wanted to be able to provide for themselves, 44% did not want to end up being old and poor, and 38% did not want to be a burden on their family.

Natixis surveyed 1,000 investors, 750 of whom were active plan participants and 250 of whom were non-participants. The full survey can be downloaded here.