Unknowns Increase Stress About Retirement for Employees

Stress about retirement is especially felt among Millennials and Generation X employees, a survey finds.

Fewer individuals surveyed by Franklin Templeton are saving for retirement than in prior years, with 41% of respondents to the 2016 Retirement Income Strategies and Expectations (RISE) survey indicating that they are not yet saving, compared to 35% in 2014.

Stress when thinking about retirement savings and investments saw a slight uptick year-over-year, with 70% of all respondents reporting stress this year versus 67% in 2015.

Stress levels and attitudes about retirement appeared to fluctuate across different generations. Although the furthest from retirement, Gen Xers and Millennials reflected the highest levels of stress and anxiety when thinking about retirement savings and investments (76% and 70%, respectively). Diverging from their Gen X counterparts, Millennials reflected a far more positive outlook, with 35% believing their retirement will be better than previous generations, compared to only 26% of Gen Xers who felt the same.

When asked how concerned they are today versus 12 months ago about outliving assets or having to make major sacrifices during retirement, respondents again expressed higher levels of concern today (52%) compared to last year (43%). Again, levels appeared to peak among Gen Xers and Millennials, with these groups indicating the most concern overall about paying for expenses in retirement (89% and 90%, respectively). Respondents indicated the most concern about paying for health care (33%), with levels peaking among Baby Boomers and Gen Xers (both 39%).

An examination of retirement planning progress also revealed inconsistencies by age group and lifestyle. Overall, only 25% of respondents indicated that their retirement income strategy is complete. At the same time, the 2016 RISE survey found that half of Gen Xers (51%) felt their retirement income strategy is inadequate, and 40% of Millennials do not have a strategy in place at all.

Household size also appeared to have impacted retirement planning and expectations among respondents, with only 15% of those with children younger than 18 in the household indicating that they felt their retirement income strategy is complete, compared to 29% of those without children who indicated the same. Respondents with children younger than 18 were also more likely than their counterparts without children to consider retiring later due to insufficient income (64% and 54%, respectively).

“Our annual RISE survey consistently underscores the importance of creating a retirement income strategy to not only help meet long-term savings goals, but also reduce stress and anxiety surrounding retirement planning,” says Michael Doshier, vice president of Retirement Marketing for Franklin Templeton Investments.

NEXT: Unknowns increase stress about retirement

When examining key elements of retirement planning, the 2016 RISE survey revealed a significant disconnect between understanding and implementation of various retirement strategies. For example, nearly all (94%) respondents who have a workplace retirement plan funded through salary deduction indicated that their employer-sponsored plan was important to their overall retirement strategy.  However, when all respondents were asked whether they could say, with a high degree of confidence, how much of their current income will be replaced by income from a retirement plan at work, 38% could not do so.

Too often, the unknown can have an adverse effect on the retirement planning process, which in turn can lead to increased levels of stress and anxiety. For example, of those respondents who reported experiencing significant stress when thinking about their retirement savings, 65% indicated that they did not have an understanding of how much they should expect to withdraw/spend on an annual basis during retirement. Similarly, 60% of those who were concerned about managing retirement income do not know how they will pay their medical expenses during retirement.

Uncertainty decreased dramatically among respondents who have a formal or completed (26% and 29%, respectively) retirement plan, compared to 73% of those who do not.

Professional advice also appeared to have a positive impact on the retirement planning process. The majority of respondents (60%) considered a financial adviser important to both the planning process and generating income during retirement, and across all age groups, Millennials were most likely to reflect this attitude (69%). Even those who have not started saving for retirement recognized the positive role a financial adviser can have, with more than half (57%) echoing this sentiment. However, less than one-quarter of respondents (23%) currently work with an adviser and a mere 2% said they plan to do so in the next five years.

“While there’s no question that individuals understand the importance of planning for retirement, they may be overwhelmed with preconceived and often unrealistic expectations that can prevent them from taking any action, as they don’t know where to start,” says Yaqub Ahmed, head of Defined Contribution-U.S. for Franklin Templeton.

NEXT: Advice from retirees

The 2016 RISE survey also underscored the importance of taking advantage of all available retirement savings options, with 67% of retirees advising pre-retirees to contribute as much as they can either to their personal savings (56%) or workplace retirement plan (54%). Retired respondents also emphasized the value of professional advice, with nearly one-third (30%) recommending that pre-retirees work with a qualified financial adviser to help achieve retirement goals.

However, the need for specific retirement planning resources varies across generations. When working respondents were asked to identify which financial wellness topics/tools would be the most helpful for their current employer to provide, Millennials were most likely to choose debt management (22%) and college savings resources (13%), while 31% of Baby Boomers indicated that resources to help determine medical costs in retirement would be the most relevant.

Year after year, the No. 1 piece of advice retirees have for their non-retired counterparts is to save early, often and consistently (71%). Case in point, when respondents were asked to describe their feelings about their retirement income plan, those who were already saving exhibited more understanding, confidence and happiness overall, compared to those who have not started saving for retirement (63% vs. 24%).

The 2016 Franklin Templeton Retirement Income Strategies and Expectations (RISE) survey was conducted online among a sample of 2,019 adults comprising 1,011 men and 1,008 women 18 years of age or older. The survey was administered between January 4 and 18, 2016.