Retirement tops Americans' list of worries

2005

When Americans look forward, they see a future fraught with peril. But while they are worried about terrorism, their families and their health, their biggest fear is that despite their best efforts, they won't have enough money to retire on.

Fear about what will happen to them after the office door closes for the last time looms large in the 2005 "Retirement Reality Check" survey carried out by life insurance company Allstate.

The survey of 1,600 Americans born between 1946 and 1978 found that seven out of 10 admit to being "concerned about the future" while almost a quarter (22 per cent) said they are "very" concerned.

The top two fears that emerged from the research were terrorism and saving for retirement, both cited by 55 per cent of respondents.

These eclipsed worries such as family, cited by 43 per cent; current finances, 38 per cent; getting into an accident, 33 per cent; and health, 30 per cent.

Only 22 per cent said they were worried about their careers.

"Many of these issues, such as one's health or career, are things we as individuals can control to a large extent," said Casey Sylla, president of Allstate Financial, part of The Allstate Corporation.

"Perhaps that is why they rank so far below terrorism, which is top-of-mind because of constant media coverage, but not within most people's control."

"What surprised us is that people said they worry equally about terrorism and saving for retirement," he added.

The survey also revealed that far from looking forward to retirement, half of Americans view it with apprehension or outright dread.

A mere one in seven (16 per cent) said they were "eagerly awaiting" retirement, and only one in three expects to enjoy it.

"So why are people worried? It appears people aren't so much worried about retirement itself as they are about something they can't control - the cost of health care after retirement," said Mathew Greenwald, president of Mathew Greenwald & Associates, the Washington, D.C. firm that carried out the survey for Allstate.

"Like terrorism, the retirement health-care issue has been discussed widely in the media, so it isn't surprising that it is on people's minds."

In fact, two-thirds of those surveyed said they worry about their ability to afford health care after retirement. Almost six out of 10 of those who "eagerly await" retirement raise this concern, as well as half per cent who say they are "very prepared" financially.

But beyond health care, people who have saved the least see a clear link between lack of money and quality of life after retirement.

For example, seven out of 10 of those who said they are not financially prepared for retirement say that, by not saving more now, they run the risk of being forced to work longer or work in retirement.

Overall, half of respondents raised the same concern compared to only one in five who described themselves as "very" prepared financially for retirement.

"The link between financial security and people's comfort level about retirement is quite clear," Casey Sylla said.

"The consequences of lack of money - having to work, having to rely on family, even having to rely on social services - likely is the source of people's apprehension and dread about retirement. "

"The good news is that this is largely within individuals' control, and they have the opportunity to do something about it," he added.

"The more people have prepared themselves financially, the more positive and confident they are. So people should consider their fears a call to action to take concrete steps to address those financial concerns."

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