SURVEY SAYS: Obstacles to Retirement Savings Goals

February 25, 2013 ( – Last week, I asked NewsDash readers what obstacle currently is most keeping them from reaching their retirement savings goals?

The biggest percentage of responding readers (22.3%) chose “other,” and obstacles mentioned included unexpected life events—divorce, spouse’s disability and loss of jobs for either spouse or reader; bad spending habits, financially helping or taking care of grandchildren, “life,” time and none.  

Among the list of obstacles provided in the survey, “stagnant or slow-to-increase income,” was selected by 20.2% of readers as the one most keeping them from reaching their retirement savings goals, followed by “struggle to keep up with everyday living expenses” (13.8%). Many verbatim comments concerned income not keeping pace with inflation.   

Children’s education expenses are hindering 10.6% of respondents, while “regulatory limits on savings or deferral amounts” and “stock market volatility” were each chosen by 9.6% of respondents.  Too much debt is the obstacle most keeping 7.4% of respondents from meeting their retirement savings goals, while helping adult children financially and current health care costs are top obstacles for 4.3% and 2.1% of respondents, respectively.  

Surprisingly, at least for me, no one reported that caring for aging parents was the obstacle most keeping them from reaching their retirement savings goals.  

I was also surprised at the strong reactions this question elicited as reflected in the verbatim comments. And, while it is no joking matter, some  readers’ sense of humor about it made me laugh out loud: “I am not too worried about saving enough for retirement. My job will kill me long before I reach retirement age,” “So many pretty shoes out there!!!” and “ADP test refunds are stupid.” One reader turned the table on one of the listed obstacles and said “parents unable to provide” is what is keeping him or her from saving enough.  

Some readers had a hard time picking a single obstacle most hindering them from reaching their goals, and listed several that are. Others shared good advice about what to change now to help with accumulating retirement savings.  

Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said: “If everyday expenses such as gas, food, utilities would just keep in pace with my income, I would be paying 2.00/gallon of gas, .75 for eggs and my water bill wouldn’t be higher than my electric bill!” 


I suspect these days every day expenses and debt are making it hard for most - but I'm at a stage in my career where I'm finally able to sock away as much as Uncle Sam will allow. Would that it were more! 


return on investment 


Parents unable to provide 


My spouse is disabled, and we have one adult child, unemployed and living at home. We'll get just may take a few years longer! 


Instead of trying to save enough to meet a specified salary replacement percentage in retirement, start cutting costs and expenditures now while still employed to skinny down to what you can live with when retired. Build up your deferred compensation savings account and use ti to pay your health care premiums during retirement. 


It's the "I gotta have it now" mentality; never learning how to budget and live within one's means. 


Being a single home owner is tough because I have all the bills of a married couple but only 1 income. 


The U.S. Congress inability to address the problems that vex all of us and our retirement goals including Wall Street's soul less greed oh and we're raising a generation of mindless morons who will be running the world. 


I am not too worried about saving enough for retirement. My job will kill me long before I reach retirement age. 


Relocated for work and house hasn't sold, so we have 2 mortgages.

Verbatim (cont.)  

Never know when your investment savings are going to take a hit, so limit exposure to stocks, but this in turn severely impacts the amount that SHOULD be available come time for retirement. Need an investment advisor with a crystal ball... 


With the rising costs of basic necessities, food, fuel, utilities, is harder to make ends meet as there has been no adjustment/increase in pay for over 4 years. As prices rise, savings are less. Robbing Peter to Pay Paul... 


I am actually in very good shape. I defer the maximum, but would defer more if allowed. 


With a weary economy, I am focused on ensuring that I have fully funded my regular savings account with the requisite 6 months worth of earnings. I'm trying to balance the risk of potentially having too much in retirement savings with not enough in "cash" savings that would be accessible if I need it. 


Can you really ever have enough saved? When limited by regulations, you wonder! 


Not only are we in middle of 8 years of college expenses, both of our 'pride n joys' decided to go out of state ... OUCH! 


The obstacles have changed as I've aged, but there's always something that can serve as an excuse. I just have to remain focused and committed to reach my goal. 


children living back at home and helping with educational costs for the kids. Killing me financially. 


For me it's about what kind of lifestyle I want in retirement. Am I on goal to live comfortably, but be unable to travel or do anything extra? Yes. Do I want to retire that way? No. 


If everyday expenses such as gas, food, utilities would just keep in pace with my income, I would be paying 2.00/gallon of gas, .75 for eggs and my water bill wouldn't be higher than my electric bill! 

Verbatim (cont.)  

It's never just one thing. It's a little of this, a little of that! 


Multiple answers! Debt, adult children, job insecurity. 


Costs (fuel, food) are rising and little or no increase in income means there is nothing left over to save. 


When inflation goes up five times faster than salaries, it's hard to keep up with the costs of everything. Taxes keep going up, gas prices go up, health care costs go up along with higher deductibles, food prices go up, pretty much everything goes up, and salaries stay the same. Makes it's pretty hard to save for retirement when you have a family of 6 and it costs you $6000 - 8000 more to live than the previous year due to everything going up and your income stays the same. Companies in Corporate American are only bringing in $900 Million to a $1 Bilion dollars a year in income, how can they give their employees raises on that chump change? People in the government instantly become stupid once they take office, and all of a sudden don't know how to spend money wisely. The unfortunate thing is none of it will ever change. Corporations will always be greedy, government officials will always be dumb and play dumb. That's just the nature of today’s world, and it's only going to get worse. Happy Friday everyone! 


Net compensation increases are not keeping up with increases in living increases. Also, increases in benefits cost (employee contributions) exceed net compensation increases. It's hard to put more aside for retirement savings in this scenario. I'm glad I'm able to force myself to save at the level I do now, but need to increase it to reach retirement savings targets. 


You have to decide; Do I eat today or do I put gas in the car? 


Stock market volatility, limits on savings deferrals, little interest on savings accounts and the ever increasing costs for health care in retirement - just when I think I'm getting close to my goal, the projection for how much I need to save for retirement goes up again. I just can't get there. 


There are 3 major issues in my way of reaching my retirement savings goals: 1) I work for a company that posts a $40mil+ profit annually, but does not increase salaries, 2) Helping adult children financially, 3) Higher education expenses for children and myself. There is so much money floating around our wonderful country and the individuals/groups with that money are not seriously investing in our future. 


Two people spending one income and planning to live on one retirement account doesn't help! 


The biggest obstacle for most middle class and above is not living below their means. We buy a bigger house than we probably should because somebody told us we could "qualify" for that bigger mortgage, we buy a more expensive car than is necessary because we buy on emotions and the dealer can "fit" the car payment into a lower payment (by making the loan take longer to pay off), we get smart phones with expensive data plans...cable, Starbucks, the list goes on and on. Then in the end, we have little left to contribute to the 401(k), IRA and savings. It's all about priorities and the intentional actions people take (or don't take) reflect that peope are more interested in the immediate gratification of stuff and retirement savings is not a priority for many people.

Verbatim (cont.)  

So many pretty shoes out there!!! 


Everyday living expenses are rising much faster than increases to wages. 


People keep saying I should have another kid and I'm thinking, "Are you kidding? I can't afford the one I have! Been thinking about selling him..." Just kidding, but really...what happened to raises? They've gone POOF. 


Ahh, the Regan Years! Remember those? Everyone had a job, everyone could buy whatever they wanted. And interest rates at 23%! Now we're lucky to get .23%! Ugh! 


It was a tossup between debt and education expenses...we recently went from a soft freeze to a hard freeze on our pension which really put me in a bind (cut monthly pension income by 2/3) and that is hard to make up 


The children in college will eventually graduate and my savings level can then increase. I just have to bully my spouse into working a few more years to build up our savings 


A huge obstacle for me is the requirement for my husband to pay child support and alimony to his ex-wife. It is extremely difficult to save money for retirement when you have expenses for your present situation as well as for your former spouse. 


Market volatility and poor economy have decimated what was once a healthy retirement portfolio. Thank you George W. Bush 


Having saved "to the match" level for most of my working career, I used my discretionary funds to deal with the nearer term needs like paying off a mortgage, getting my kids through college, and the occasional unexpected life disaster like new roofs on the house, major repairs on the cars, and having to replace the decades old heating system. In a sense, over the years, many of the things on the list above served as "obstacles". However, since I can't just print my way out of my financial constraints (unlike the federal government), I made choices, worked within my means. After years of doing that, today I'm trying hard to "catch up", and it's amazing how quickly one hits those regulatory caps - even with the allowance for catch up contributions. 


ADP test refunds are stupid. 


Through hard work, diligent savings, and...patience, I've managed to dig out of the hole that the speculators put in my savings. Not that they won't do it again before I retire, because apparently robbing banks is not illegal if you wear a tie and make enormous political donations. I still think that "here and now" expenses trump retirement (and should) for many. And I think that we're still afraid to tell participants the truth about what having a "career" in retirement costs. But we're getting better.... 😉 



NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not the stance of Asset International or its affiliates.
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