It’s no secret that millions of Americans are approaching their retirement years with meager savings and high anxiety about their financial security. And a recent study from Merrill Lynch and Age Wave reveals steps that Americans are willing to take to get their retirement back on track.
The overwhelming majority (88 percent) of people surveyed said their primary objective is peace of mind, while just 12 percent say they want to accumulate as much wealth as possible. But peace of mind means different things to different people:
- 57 percent report they want to live comfortably within their means.
- 39 percent say they want to have the financial resources to live the life they choose.
- 34 percent want to feel they could handle a major unexpected expense.
- 25 percent want to feel confident they won’t outlive their money.
- 17 percent want to provide for their family if something happens to them.
Only 8 percent of survey respondents feel personal finances can be discussed openly, while the remainder consider the topic a private matter or one that can be discussed with a spouse or partner or only very close family and friends. It would certainly help if older workers and retirees would share their ideas and insights with their family and friends.
What changes are people willing to make to enhance their financial security in retirement? Here are steps the survey found Americans are willing to take:
- 90 percent would be willing to cut back on their expenses. Perhaps they can focus on spending just enough to meet their basic living needs and what truly makes them happy.
- 79 percent would seek financial advice. In this case, they’ll want to make sure their advisers are qualified and act in their best interests.
- 77 percent would increase the use of tax-protected retirement accounts.
- 75 percent would seek expert advice on how to pay lower taxes. Note that this may not be a good use of time for Americans with meager savings, since they could already be in a very low tax bracket when they retire.
- 66 percent would sell real estate or other personal belongings. Finding the best way to deploy home equity is a good use of time for older workers and retirees who own a home but have modest retirement savings.
- 64 percent would postpone taking Social Security.
- 43 percent would withdraw the cash value from a life insurance policy. Such people would want to explore their options: Many policies allow the holder to convert the policy’s cash value into a lifetime annuity.
In addition to taking these steps, older workers would be wise to develop a strategy for generating lifetime retirement income, explore their options for continuing to work and make sure they have adequate medical insurance that supplements Medicare.
As you can see, your financial security in retirement has many moving parts. It is well worth spending hours and days planning for peace of mind in your retirement years, so you can go enjoy the rest of your life.