Study: Americans Workers Falling Short of Perceived Retirement Savings Goals

We are now eight years past the 2008 stock market crash and the beginning of the ensuing recession, but Americans have still not quite regained their financial footing.

That is the gist of the 17thAnnual Transamerica Retirement Survey – one of the longest-running retirement sentiment surveys in the industry, which was just released last month.

The cross-generational sample of U.S. workers overwhelmingly believe that their standard of living will decrease in their retirement years, and that they will have a harder time achieving any kind of long-term financial security compared to their parents.

In all, more than 8 out of every 10 Generation X workers anticipate that their generation will struggle to achieve retirement security. Baby Boomers fare better, with 45 percent of these workers expecting their standard of living to decline in retirement. Of Millennial workers, only 18 percent report that they are ‘very confident’ of their ability to retire.

“Although the Great Recession ended years ago, millions of Americans are still regaining their financial footing,” said Catherine Collinson, President of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. “As each year passes, people’s fears about our current retirement system come more sharply into focus.”

Among other key findings:

  • Six in ten workers, or sixty-one percent, report that they have not fully recovered from the last recession. 13 percent reported that they have not yet begun to recover, and 7 percent told researcher that they may never recover from their financial setbacks in the Great Recession.
  • Nearly 8 in 10 workers – 77 percent – say they are concerned that Social Security will not be there when they reach their retirement age.
  • 65 percent of respondents report that they believe they can work until age 65 and not save enough money for retirement.
  • Only about half of workers surveyed – 51 percent – report that they believe they are building a nest egg that will be able to sustain them through their retirement years. Only 16 percent say they strongly agree that they are building a large enough nest egg to sustain them through retirement.
  • Almost four in ten respondents – 38 percent – said they plan on working well beyond age 65.


“Amid retirement savings shortfalls, American workers are attempting to prop up our system’s three-legged stool by adding a fourth leg: working during retirement,” said Collinson.

Generational Differences

The survey, published under the title Perspectives on Retirement: Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials, looked at the differences in sentiment and outlook between the generations.

Baby Boomers

The survey found that 87 percent of Baby Boomers – the cohort born between 1946 and 1964 – expect Social Security to be a major source of retirement income, and one in three believe that Social Security will be a primary source of retirement income.

About one out of three expect income from a defined benefit pension, and 78 percent say they will be receiving income from private savings such as IRAs and other investments.

The median Baby Boomer savings in all retirement accounts among this cohort is $147,000.

Generation X

Generation X, those born between 1964 and 1978, is more pessimistic about their retirement prospects: Just twelve percent say they feel confident about being able to retire with an acceptable lifestyle.

Among Generation X workers, the total median household retirement savings for members of this generation thus far is $69,000. Generation X workers also tend to have very little in the way of funds to cover unexpected shorter-term setbacks, with a median of $5,000 set aside in reasonably liquid savings. One out of four Gen-Xers have less than $1,000 saved up.


Millennials – those workers born since 1979 – now make up the majority of the U.S. work force. They have begun saving in droves, with 72 percent of those with access to a retirement plan at work actively contributing. 30 percent of them are contributing more than 10 percent of their incomes to retirement plans such as 401(k)s.

Millennials overwhelmingly report that they would value more guidance and education from employers when it comes to saving for their retirement goals. Unsurprisingly, they are also the most digitally connected generation when it comes to their financial affairs: 80 percent of Millennial workers report that mobile apps to help track their finances are helpful, compared to just 48 percent of Baby Boomers.

The full study is available here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s