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What Americans Want in Retirement -- and Why They're Not Getting It

By Sarah Szczypinski – Aug 22, 2017 at 7:41AM

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Retirees aren't loving their golden years. Here's why.

Retirement is supposed to be a relaxing reward after a long life of working, but for the average American, the reality is somewhat different. That doesn't mean we aren't hopeful. In fact, a 2017 survey conducted by Teachers Insurance and Annuity (TIAA) revealed that 95% of people approaching retirement consider "freedom from financial concern" as the ultimate measure of success in their golden years. So, what's keeping retirees from living their dreams? It comes down to a few factors. 

Not enough savings

It's no secret that Americans don't save enough for retirement, but few realize just how dire the situation has become. The average worker aged 55 to 61 saved a mere $17,000 between 1989 and 2013, and 40% of Baby Boomers have saved nothing at all. To put this into perspective, that latest data suggests that a couple retiring today will need almost $750,000 to secure $2,000 a month in income.

It's not enough to clip coupons in retirement. While Social Security is meant to replace 40% of your income, you'll need much more to make ends meet. If you're over 50 and haven't begun saving, you probably won't reach that $750,000 goal, but that doesn't mean you can't make decisive and helpful changes. The first step is catch-up contributions to your 401(k), Roth or traditional IRA. These options provide tax advantages that allow you to stash more money, and your employer may even match a percentage of your savings. 

401k savings jar

image source: getty images.

Stress and planning

You're not alone if money management terrifies you. According to a 2015 Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association (APA), 64% of Americans felt moderate to significant levels of stress related to personal finance. Though not true for everyone, worrying about money for some can lead to a psychological issue called "avoidance coping," which prevents you from pursuing goals if the byproducts include negative thoughts and anxiety. 

You may never feel comfortable about money, and you don't have to face retirement planning alone. Consider working with a financial advisor who can provide support and help you make informed decisions. Gaining control of your future can alleviate some of your stress. 

Adult children at home

In a perfect world, kids grow up and live independently from their parents, but the latest trends tell another story. Approximately 32.1% of adults ages 18 to 34 live with their parents, the highest rate since 1940. In addition to falling marriage rates, financial strain is among the main reasons adult kids aren't leaving the nest. 

While most of the research focuses on the plight of young adults, Mom and Dad are presumably picking up the tab instead of saving for retirement. A 2014 survey by U.K.-based company, Vouchercloud, revealed that adult children over 21 cost their parents an average of $2,300 every year. 

college students using laptop outside

image source: getty images.

It's natural to help your children in times of need, but it comes at a price. For example, suppose you gift your child $2,300 a year for 10 years. At a return of 7%, you've missed an opportunity to add $33,405 to your retirement savings. Balancing family responsibility is tricky, but it's time to get serious about your own needs. Talk to your offspring tenants about paying rent and contributing to the household finances. 

Healthcare costs

One of the toughest things about leaving the workforce is giving up employer-sponsored health coverage. Even with Medicare, you and your spouse will need a combined $260,000 to cover healthcare expenses in retirement, and an additional $130,000 for long-term care insurance, according to a Fidelity study. Keep in mind that these numbers are averages, and the costs can vary dramatically by location. 

It's difficult to budget for variable expenses, and one safety option is to set up passive income, like rental property. Whether it's a room in your home or a separate residence, it allows to you pad your income with minimal effort. If you're still interested in working, there are literally thousands of remote opportunities in customer service, communication, and even specialized niches like writing and computer science. Learn more about your prospects by browsing job boards like Monster.com and Indeed.com, and list your location as "remote" or "work from home." 

financial health stethoscope

image source: getty images.

Living in the U.S. is expensive, and it doesn't get easier with age. While you can't avoid the hurdles that come with retirement planning, you can make changes that yield financial security and peace of mind. Take advantage of the time you have. 

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