Millennials' Retirement Expectations Don't Match Savings

Nearly half are concerned about finances.
Millennials are looking forward to retirement in new and refreshing ways, suggesting that retirement in the future could become something very different from what it is today. That was the main focus the latest Merrill Edge Report, a survey of 1,000 mass affluent Americans.

Fifty-three percent of Millennials say that retirement can be the start of something exciting. Ten percent said they are likely to further their education, and 7% said they might start their own business.

Forty-one percent of Millennials plan to retire when they hit a certain financial milestone or savings goals, whereas their older counterparts plan to retire at a certain age or when they can no longer work due to health concerns.

In addition, 47% of Millennials believe the outcome of the 2016 presidential election will have a positive impact on their long-term financial goals, higher than any other generation.

“It’s refreshing to see the mindset around retirement evolve, particularly a strong optimism and a goal-oriented approach from younger generations,” says Aron Levine, head of Merrill Edge and Bank of America. “This focus is a great start, but one of the keys to a successful retirement is to ensure savings are prioritized early and often. Year over year, we continue to see today’s non-retirees struggle with the impact short-term spending has on their long-term financial future.”

NEXT: Areas of concern

While Millennials are taking more of a goal-oriented approach to retirement than other generations, they share Americans’ realization that they need to be more proactive. Forty-eight percent say they are insecure about some aspect of their finances, be it their financial future, retirement or income. Retirement savings is one of the top insecurities, cited by 21%, followed by personal relationships (10%), judgment of others (6%) and career path (4%). 

Asked what their financial concerns will be in retirement, the first one cited is daily expenses (28%) followed by health care expenses (17%) and housing expenses (17%).

Asked to grade themselves on how well they are preparing for retirement, 38% gave themselves a “C” or lower. Only 18% gave themselves an “A”.

“It has become increasingly apparent that retirement planning is not only evolving but also has become a moving target that Americans must continuously revisit to pursue their goals and priorities,” says Ken Dychtwald, founder and CEO of Age Wage. “As we see in the latest Merrill Edge Report, retirement planning requires a new mentality. ‘Set it and forget it’ is a thing of the past. As Millennials are envisioning living very long lives, this study reveals new priorities they have for work, leisure, success and money as they are coming to realize that everything they do today, financially speaking, can impact the lives they’re hoping to live in retirement.”

NEXT: Retiree realities

The survey also asked retirees what they have done in retirement that they didn’t expect. The top response was spend more money than anticipated (30%), followed by moving to a new location (19%) and feeling a lack of purpose (18%).
Retirees were also asked about their top priorities. The biggest one was maintaining their standard of living (29%), closely followed by spending time with loved ones (27%) and maintaining their health (23%).
“Today’s retirees tell us they are experiencing a very different retirement than non-retirees are envisioning,” Levine says. “With continuing savings challenges and potential economic uncertainties ahead, non-retirees should have a plan in place and regularly revisit it to make sure it still aligns with what’s most important to them for their retirement years.”