Relaxed? Nope. Our informal survey reveals that for many the answer is “old”!
Judging by the advertising produced by financial services firms (including our own), you could get the impression that retirement involves life on a golf course or beach, perpetually tanned, relaxed and secure. But when we asked people how they really feel about retirement, we got a much more complex and nuanced picture.
When we informally asked the readers of our blog how they felt when they heard the word “retirement,” the most popular unaided answer wasn’t “sexy,” “accomplished” or “serene.” It was “old,” with 11 percent of respondents writing that in. In fact, “old” was the number one answer across all age groups between 20 and 65.
We intentionally left the question open-ended so we could let people choose any word(s) they wanted to tell us how they feel when they heard the word retirement. It’s interesting that “old” was the top trend above all of the others. The next trending word written by six percent of the respondents was “excited.” Here are the top ten trending answers to the question:
- long time away
While there are clearly some positive feelings associated with retirement for all ages, there is anxiety and fear as well. Financial firms like ours often encourage people to focus on their retirement goals, but if the word “retirement” makes people feel old, scared or sad, they may be subconsciously avoiding the topic. Who likes to feel old?
How our parents handled retirement may provide lessons for our future.
The survey also asked what people would do differently from the way their parents retired. The top three write-in answers were:
- Save more money (23 percent);
- Travel (11 percent); and
- Work longer (6 percent).
Some of the verbatim answers provide insight into what people are thinking:
“Save early and make retirement a high priority, higher than college savings. My parents never retired (75 and 80 years old).” – male in his 40s
“My parents are still working, unfortunately. The one thing I NEED to do, based on their experience, is save for the long term. We enjoyed a lot “in the moment” and now that they are near retirement age without adequate funds to survive, I feel that we could have done without those “in the moment” perks” – male in his 30s
“I’d like to put away more money than they did, but since I make a lot less than them, I don’t see how I can do that.”- female in her 30s
“My parents aren’t yet retired but I wouldn’t do anything differently than they have done. They’ve always taught me to save, save, save and invest along the way.” – female in her 20s
“I hope to be healthy when I retire for at least five or more years which they were not able to do.” – male in his 60s
“Try to maintain better health so retirement is not a struggle to be well.” – male in his 50s
Respondents feel more positive about reaching retirement as they age.
According to the survey, when asked “how on track they were for retirement,” 24 percent said that they were not at all on track with 34 percent saying not really on track or unsure. Thirty-one percent were mostly on track and 11 percent said they were totally on track with their retirement saving. People aged 60 and older were much more positive about their current state of preparation for retirement (56 percent) than people in their 30s (30 percent) and 20s (23 percent). We didn’t define the term “on track.” We let the respondents decide what that meant to them.
While retirement clearly may not always be as rosy as some advertising would like us to believe, it’s not all doom and gloom either. In the end, your retirement and how you feel about planning for it will be as individual as you are. While these results were generated from an informal blog survey, we plan on conducting more robust research around the emotions involved with saving and investing to shed more light on how we can help people make better-informed decisions to achieve their retirement goals.
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*This informal qualitative survey had 1134 respondents. The questions were open-ended, allowing respondents to write their answers rather than choose from a set. Content analysis was used to evaluate the data.