More baby boomers plan to postpone retirement

More baby boomers plan to postpone retirement
Stock market woes clip optimism from 1990s

Americans’ overall confidence in their ability to retire comfortably has decreased only slightly from last year, yet there are strong indications of growing anxiety because of stock market losses and continuing economic turmoil.
Those are some of the key conclusions of the 13th annual Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS) recently released by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, American Savings Education Council (ASEC) and Mathew Greenwald & Associates.
Specifically, the 2003 RCS shows that 21% of workers feel very confident about having enough money to live comfortably in retirement and 45% feel somewhat confident.
However, nearly a quarter (24%) of workers age 45 or older this year say that they plan to postpone their retirement age, up nine percentage points from 2002 (15%), mainly due to financial or economic concerns.
In addition, the survey found a six-percentage-point increase in the share of workers not at all confident that they will have enough money saved for retirement, up from 10% in 2002 to 16% in 2003.
Through most of the 1990s, the rise in the stock market was offered as the explanation why many workers were confident that they would be able to afford a comfortable lifestyle after they stopped working.
According to the authors of the survey, here are three factors that may help to explain why baby boomers remain confident today:

  • Many workers simply do not know how much money it takes to live comfortably in retirement; the RCS indicates that many have never tried to figure this out.
  • A significant proportion of workers say they have made changes in their life to address these uncertain economic times, such as planning to work longer and saving a little more. For many, postponing retirement is the best solution as they realize that they do not have enough money saved at this point.
  • Many workers have not been affected by the stock market decline, simply because they did not have that much, if any, money invested in the stock market. The bear market has had a significant effect, but it is dampened by the low investment levels of many workers.
    "Our RCS data over the past decade continues to show that Americans are chronically optimistic about their retirement prospects, despite a variety of market conditions, but market declines over the past few years seem
    to have made people more cautious," said Dallas Salisbury, chief executive officer and president of EBRI. "The percentage of workers very confident about having enough money in retirement is 21% in 2003, vs. 18% in 1993. Yet, the percentage of those not at all confident is 16% in 2003, vs. 6% in 1993."
    Here are some other conclusions from the survey:
  • Both baby boom workers and retires say they spent more time in the past year planning for holidays and social events, than planning for retirement. In fact, 17% said they spent "no time" planning for retirement.
  • People are saving blindly. More than half of all worker households have not calculated how much money they will need to save by the time they retire.
  • Survey respondents have given little or no thought to the need for long-term care insurance for nursing home or home health care (79%).
    "In today’s market, planning for retirement may be less fun than it once was, but more important than ever," ASEC president Don Blandin said. "And retirement planning guarantees a big payoff for those willing to do the work and put in the time."
    Baby boomers can find more than 100 financial planning calculators and interactive tools on the Internet at, a Web site developed for the general public to aid in savings education and retirement planning.

    June 13, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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