Successful Savers Share Their Secrets

September 05, 2012 ( - Determination, early saving and financial discipline are among the lessons from successful retirement savers, according to a survey by PNC Financial Services Group Inc.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of Americans with $100,000 or more in assets say they are on target or ahead of their retirement planning goals, while one-third (35%) say their retirement planning goals have not been adversely affected by the recession, according to “Perspectives of Retirement: Lessons from Successful Savers.”   

Nearly half of the 1,038 respondents (47%) say “living within my means” is the most important retirement decision they have made, while more than one-third (35%) say they “started saving from an early or at a young age.” Saving for retirement is their primary financial goal, 42% of respondents say.  

Respondents demonstrated financial discipline in areas other than saving, such as reducing debt (46%), changing spending habits (33%) and paying off their mortgage (23%).

Nearly three quarters (72%) say they invest as much as they can through their employment retirement account and nearly two-thirds (62%) regularly save in addition to their employment account. The survey revealed that most (92%) non-retired households have money in an employer-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401(k) or 403(b).  

“Clearly, the lesson is: Work and save more now while you are in your prime earning years so that you have the option of not working at all during retirement,” said Stephen Pappaterra, head of wealth planning for PNC. “A pattern of making good decisions, planning and sticking to the plan is a theme repeated throughout the survey.”  

Among retirees, 80% say, “I do not work at all outside the home.” Only 12% continue working as a consultant or other flexible work arrangement, and 6% say they wish they had some type of paid employment.  

Retirement is usually on the minds of successful savers. More than eight in 10 (83%) say they think about retirement at least occasionally, while only 14% say they rarely do. While 80% of current retirees say they do not work at all outside the home, nearly three-quarters of future retirees would like to continue working in some fashion after retirement.

More than two-thirds (69%) of retirees say the recession has had little effect on them, and only 26% say, “I think I will have significantly less money for retirement because of the recession.” The concept of leaving an inheritance is not something most (58%) are particularly concerned about. Only three in 10 (30%) say leaving an inheritance is very important.  

The top emotions about retirement are positive, with nearly half of future retirees (47%) feeling hopeful about retirement; 34% enthusiastic and only 25% apprehensive. Despite the optimism, a number of concerns remain in working individuals’ thoughts. Health care costs are the top concern for future retirees (42%), followed by running out of money (29%) and the economy (27%). Only 20% expressed concern about the stability of Social Security.  

The study was conducted online in July among a nationwide cross-section of 1,038 adults in the U.S. ages 35 to 70 with more than $100,000 in investable assets and at least $25,000 in liquid investable assets. One-quarter of the sample had $1 million or more in total investable assets. The study represents approximately 20% of American households.  


Jill Cornfield