Data and Research

Bills, Low Income and Debt Hinder Retirement Savings

However, a study finds those who started saving for retirement early and have consistently saved are more confident in their financial future.

By Rebecca Moore | August 29, 2016

Americans are trying to save despite having many other competing financial interests, according to a survey by Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board).

CFP Board Consumer Advocate Eleanor Blayney notes, "An inability to start saving early, debt and stagnant incomes are just a few of the factors driving Americans' financial anxiety."

Nearly half (48%) of respondents say they "don't always have enough money left over to save after bills.” More than one-third (35%) have seen a significant decrease in household income, and 34% say debt prevents them from saving.

In addition, 30% of respondents have experienced a job change in the past three years, and 20% have experienced a major medical expenditure.

Fifty-one percent believe credit card debt is the most important debt to pay off, followed by mortgages (36%) and student loan debt (19%).

About half (51%) save money regularly on a monthly basis, and more than one-third (36%) of respondents anticipate working in retirement. Only 35% utilize the services of a financial professional.

The survey includes a segmentation analysis that focuses on respondents' propensity to save regularly and their general feelings toward money. The analysis found that Americans fall into four distinct categories:

Concerned Strivers – 27% of respondents

  • Concerned Strivers have high incomes, but still struggle to make ends meet due to financial demands, including mortgage debt, credit card debt and college payments.
  • Nearly all place a high importance on saving, but are concerned with their ability to save.
  • About half save money on a regular basis.
  • Nearly seven-in-10 have access to an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan.

Confident Savers – 22% of respondents

  • Confident Savers began saving for retirement around 25 years old.
  • Saving money is a top priority and they save money regularly on a monthly basis.
  • They feel confident about their financial future and retirement savings goals, and feel well prepared to make investment decisions.
  • Nearly eight-in-10 have access to an employer-sponsored savings plan.

Tentative Savers – 24% of respondents

  • Tentative Savers skew older than Concerned Strivers, but have similar levels of income.
  • Almost eight-in-10 save regularly on a monthly basis, but are still concerned about their ability to save.
  • Nearly two-thirds are not confident they are saving enough for retirement.
  • Seven-in-10 have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

Stretched Worriers – 26% of respondents

  • Stretched Worriers are most likely to report being anxious about their financial futures.
  • They have been saving for retirement since age 35, on average.
  • This is the only segment where staying current on bills is a higher priority than saving.
  • Four-in-10 have access to an employer-sponsored savings plan.
The online survey was conducted May 13-16, 2016, of 1,000 adults 25 and older who are not unemployed or retired. A summary of the results can be found at