Retirement a Top Priority Even for the Affluent

“Retirement looms large even for higher-net-worth Americans who recognize the importance of saving and investing,” says TIAA-CREF’s Kathie Andrade.

Nine in 10 affluent investors, defined as those with $250,000 or more in investable assets, say their most important investment goal is retirement related—50% intend to generate income and 41% want to accumulate savings for their golden years. Just 5% say creating a legacy for their heirs is a top priority.

Nearly two-thirds of these investors claim to be bullish on the economy, and the most common investments within their portfolios are stocks (76%) and mutual funds (73%). Sixty-three percent believe stocks present the best opportunity for growing their wealth, while just 12% favor real estate.

“Retirement looms large even for higher-net-worth Americans who recognize the importance of saving and investing,” says Kathie Andrade, executive vice president, head of Individual Advisory Services (IAS) at TIAA-CREF. “Retirement can sometimes last 20 or 30 years or more, so individuals need to strike the right balance between shorter-term financial priorities and long-term planning, to help ensure they’ll have income to last throughout their retirement.”

Affluent investors are more likely than the general population to seek help from an adviser—60% versus 39%–and more than half of affluent investors first met with an adviser before age 44, rather than waiting until they approach retirement.

While the wealthiest investors are more optimistic about the economy—70% of those with $5 million or more in assets believe the economy is strong, compared with 57% of those with less than $500,000—more male investors report being confident than do women, at 73% and 51%, respectively.

Among those with doubts, the biggest concern is losses due to market downturns, cited by 35%. Twenty-eight percent say geopolitical instability would likely make them feel less confident in the economy, while 24% cited market volatility and 17% said higher unemployment rates.

In times of market stress, investors with financial advisers were more likely than others to ride out the storm because their portfolio was prepared for volatility—53% versus 41%.

“Advisers can offer individuals long-term perspective on investing and help them make smart decisions when they experience market volatility or major life changes, so they can stay on the path to a secure financial future,” says Andrade. Most affluent investors (57%) say their adviser is their most reliable source of financial information, compared with financial newspapers (23%) and websites (20%). 

The 2015 TIAA-CREF Affluent Investor Barometer, conducted by an independent research firm, polled a nationwide sample of 1,242 randomly selected adults who are financial decisionmakers for their household and have at least $250,000 in investable assets.