Working on Current Health Important to Retirement Planning

Achieving retirement aspirations requires more than saving, investing and planning, it also depends on staying in good health, a survey report notes.

Retirement has become an active stage of life—one people have positive ideas about. For example, they aspire to stay socially connected, participate in their communities and remain economically active, according to the 2016 Aegon Retirement Readiness Survey.

Globally, the majority (72%) of people associate positive words with retirement, including “leisure” (46%), “freedom” (41%) and “enjoyment” (31%). People ages 65 and older have more positive associations with retirement than do younger people, ages 18 through 24.

The two most widely held retirement aspirations among respondents are traveling (62%) and spending time with friends and family (57%). Twenty-six percent mention some form of paid work as a retirement aspiration.

Achieving retirement aspirations requires more than saving, investing and planning, however; it also depends on staying in good health, the survey report notes.

Globally, 68% of respondents characterize their overall health as good (51%) or excellent (16%). One-third say their health is only fair (29%) or poor (3%).

People report having concerns about their health in older age. Forty-three percent say their health is a primary concern, and 39% say it is a minor concern. Despite these worries, only 43% of respondents agree with the statement, “I think about my long-term health when making lifestyle choices,” and 57% say “I eat healthily.”

Workers in excellent health (78%) are more likely to say they are very/somewhat aware of the need to plan financially for retirement compared with workers in poor health (63%). They are also seven times more likely to say they are extremely/very confident of achieving a comfortable retirement (49% compared with 7% of those not in excellent health).

NEXT: Financial readiness

Globally, people expect 46% of their retirement income to come from the government, 24% from their employer and 30% from their own savings and investments.

Starting to save consistently at age 20 can give a boost of up to 64% in retirement income compared with starting at 30, the report notes. Globally, people start saving for retirement for a range of reasons, some of which are life stage (47%) or employment-related (41%).

Thirty-nine percent of workers globally describe themselves as habitual savers—i.e., they say they are always saving for retirement. This group has the brightest retirement outlook of the five saving types and is almost eight times more likely to achieve a high Aegon Retirement Readiness Index (ARRI) score than are non-savers, at the opposite end of the saving spectrum—38% compared with 5%. Only 14% of workers have a written strategy for retirement. Those who have such a strategy are significantly more likely to turn their good intentions into actions. Seventy-four percent say they are always saving for retirement, which is well above those with an unwritten strategy (48%) or those with no strategy at all (19%).

Globally, only one in three workers has a backup plan in case they lose their ability to work before reaching their planned retirement age. For those who do have a plan, many will rely on assets that may be quickly depleted such as savings, rather than specifically designed insurance products.

Many workers now envision fully retiring at an older age. However, success in achieving this largely depends on workers’ health and financial ability, Aegon notes.

Fifty-seven percent of workers envision continuing some form of employment in retirement. This includes working part-time before stopping altogether (31%), changing the way they work but still working throughout retirement (16%), and continuing to working just as they have been (10%).

Employees who envision working to some extent in retirement are doing so for financial and healthy aging-related reasons. Globally, 56% want to stay active/keep their brain alert, and 38% enjoy their work. A net 73% cite income and savings-related concerns.

Maybe surprisingly, workers in poor health are more likely to plan to work to age 70 or older, or to never retire (23%), compared to those in excellent health (17%). But the sobering reality is that 39% of the fully retired say they retired sooner than planned. The most frequently cited reasons for doing so are ill health or employment/job loss (29% and 25%, respectively).

NEXT: Employers’ roles

Employers play a significant role in designing a workplace environment that helps to stimulate greater savings, healthier lifestyle choices, and the opportunity for workers to transition to retirement, according to the report. It suggests a combination of nudges, whereby life-stage-driven prompts offered through the workplace provide an opportunity to create a pattern of habitual saving. This is critical for helping workers achieve their retirement aspirations, the report says.

Automatic enrollment receives a widespread appeal: 66% of workers globally find the prospect of being automatically enrolled into their employer retirement plan with a contribution rate of 6% of their annual salary to be somewhat/very appealing.

Ninety-one percent of workers say they would be interested in at least one health and wellness program if their employer were to offer it. Even small steps, such as providing healthy food and snacks at the office, are found to be appealing to 42% of workers.

Only 24% of workers say their employer offers the option to move from full-time to part-time work as a way to help them phase into retirement.

The 2016 Aegon Retirement Readiness Survey canvassed 16,000 people across 15 countries. The survey was conducted with the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® and Cicero Consulting.

The full survey report is available at