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Retired Americans left workforce earlier than expected

Health issues, layoffs cited as reasons

If they want to save enough for a comfortable retirement, nearly half of Americans concede the likelihood of being tied to the cubicle longer than expected. Is that a reasonable assumption? Can they do so? Perhaps not, according to a recent survey.

A study by PNC Financial Services Group Inc. found that 49 percent of Americans in their “prime retirement planning years” intend to work longer than expected to shore up their retirement accounts. However, more than half — 58 percent — of those 70 and under who have already left the workforce did so sooner than planned.

The reasons range from health issues (40 percent) and employment changes (26 percent). Typically, those employment changes involved forced early retirement or a layoff.

PNC polled 1,200 adults between the ages of 35 and 70 to ascertain retirement preparation attitudes. The nationwide survey was conducted in July.

A spokesperson for PNC says that the term “prime retirement planning years” is subjective. By surveying people between those ages, “we figured most were either thinking retirement planning, about to retire or already retired,” he said.

Celandra Deane-Bess, CFP, vice president and senior wealth planner with PNC, noted in a statement that the results indicate the decision to retire is not always within the control of the individual. “Economic uncertainty, employer actions and unexpected health issues often force individuals to retire earlier than expected, which puts a premium on sound financial habits early,” she stated.

So, how are Americans planning for retirement? The PNC survey segments the respondents into three categories:

  1. Planners: This group comprised about 42 percent of those polled. They consider themselves on track in their preparation for retirement.
  2. Procrastinators: Making up 35 percent, they recognize the need to prepare but admit they have not taken the steps to do so yet.
  3. Avoiders: About 23 percent acknowledge they are well behind on their retirement planning.

Whichever group they belong to has a significant impact on their retirement prep, the study uncovered. For instance, 79 percent of the planners participate in their employer-sponsored retirement plan, compared to just 39 percent of the avoiders. Further, on average, the planners target a retirement age of 65.7 years, while the a+voiders expect to retire at 68.2.

Women worried

Broken down by gender, the survey revealed that women feel less secure about being able to enjoy their golden years in comfort. When queried “I’m afraid I may not be able to retire?,” 51 percent of women agreed versus 40 percent of men. About 48 percent of men believe they are prepared for retirement, while only 38 percent of women feel the same. Asked whether they make retirement saving a habit, 79 percent of men said they do compared to 70 percent of women.

Where have all the pensions gone?

The study further confirmed the dwindling number of employer-sponsored pension plans. Of those now retired, 64 percent report receiving a pension and 45 percent said it contributes a large portion to their retirement funds. Yet for those still in the workforce, 43 percent have a pension.

That’s probably why nearly half – 44 percent – said they expect to be entirely or mostly responsible for their retirement savings, and 45 percent said they expect to rely mostly on either their employer’s retirement plan or Social Security for their retirement income.

Health a concern

The frequently tagged “burning question” about retirement savings was health-care expenses. It was cited by 50 percent of those in the years leading up to retirement.

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Nichole Morford

Nichole Morford
Managing Editor

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