Trust in Social Security Falters in 2018 Planning & Progress Study

About one in three Americans have less than $5,000 in retirement savings, and one in five have no individual private retirement savings at all, according to a new Northwestern Mutual study.

Northwestern Mutual has published its 2018 Planning & Progress Study; this year the annual research report is subtitled “Living Long and Working Longer” and focuses on the sizable opportunities and challenges facing U.S. workers and their long-term financial security.

The underlying data set represents some 2,000-plus U.S. adults, including an “over-sample of 601 interviews with U.S. Millennials age 18 to 34.” Responses were weighted to be representative of the U.S. population based on Census targets for education, age, gender, race/ethnicity, region and household income.

Across this broad group, nearly eight in 10 people say they are “extremely” or “somewhat” concerned about affording a comfortable retirement, and two-thirds of U.S. adults believe there is a real chance they will outlive their savings. At the same time, Northwestern Mutual reports, about one in three Americans have less than $5,000 in retirement savings, and one in five have no individual private retirement savings at all. The average amount of retirement savings reported came in at just about $85,000, which is far short of what most Americans can expect to pay for health care expense alone in retirement.

Thinking about the deeper future, three-quarters of Americans believe it is “not at all likely” or only “somewhat likely” that Social Security will be available when they retire. While nearly half of adults say they have taken no specific steps to prepare for the possibility of outliving their individual savings, 23% say they have recently increase the amount they save each month. Another 18% say they have put together a financial plan, nearly the same number who have purchased new investments (17%) or sought professional financial advice (17%).

Another point of concern in the data is the increasing number of Americans who anticipate retiring at 70 years or older than in the “traditional 65 to 69 range.” Within the group expected to work beyond 70, 55% suggest this will be due to necessity and 45% say it is their choice. Importantly, these figures contravene real-world statistics showing most people still retire in the 65 to 69 range, if not earlier.

According to the Northwestern Mutual survey, among the more than half of Americans expecting to work past the traditional retirement age by necessity, the main reasons were inadequate savings and a lack of confidence in Social Security’s ability to take care of their needs. Other concerns cited touched on rising healthcare costs or caring for loved ones.