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Do You Share These 7 Fears About Retirement?

By Christy Bieber – Sep 12, 2020 at 7:16AM

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Here's how to overcome them.

Americans are really worried about their retirement prospects. In fact, according to a recent SimplyWise survey, 62% of Americans are more concerned about retirement than they were a year ago. Retirement-related worries cover many different aspects of life after paychecks end, but there are seven particular sources of fear many Americans share. This is what they are. 

1. Social Security drying up

This is the number one fear Americans share, with 55% describing it as their greatest concern. Fortunately, there's some good news -- this can't happen unless Social Security's funding mechanism is changed. 

Older woman sitting with arms crossed looking worried.

Image source: Getty Images.

Under the current system, Social Security gets much of its revenue from payroll tax. And while President Trump has proposed eliminating the payroll tax if he is reelected and instead funding the program from general revenue, this is very unlikely to happen as it would require action from a Congress that's shown little appetite to tinker with Social Security.

As long as payroll taxes remain in effect, even if the program's trust fund runs out in 2035 as it's currently slated to do, revenue collected from current workers will provide enough money to pay out most of the promised benefits. In a worst-case scenario if the trust fund were to run dry, retirees would still get 76% of what you were promised. 

This doesn't mean you should over-rely on Social Security, as it's designed to replace only a small portion of pre-retirement income -- and there is that looming threat of a benefit cut. But unless major changes are made, you don't have to worry about retiring without getting your Social Security checks. 

2. Outliving savings

Half of all Americans worry their savings won't last as long as they need it, according to SimplyWise's data. This is a more valid concern, as Americans have far too little invested for their later years.

But you can reduce the risk by developing a safe withdrawal strategy, including taking out a certain percentage -- such as 4% or less -- of your account balance. Those who are still working should set a retirement savings goal that ensures they'll have enough money to make their savings last even at a safe withdrawal rate. Current retirees must also make sure they aren't taking out too much, even if that means making budget cuts to live on what you can safely withdraw. 

3. Paying medical bills 

A full 47% of Americans are worried about how they'll cover healthcare costs in retirement, and with good reason as recent research suggests a senior couple turning 65 may have around $325,000 for out-of-pocket medical expenditures during their retirement years.

The best way to reduce this worry if you're still working is to invest money earmarked for medical care in a Health Savings Account, if you're eligible, or in another tax-advantaged retirement plan if you aren't. Both current and future retirees should also research insurance options and Medicare coverage rules to understand what benefits are available and to pick the best plan that keeps out-of-pocket healthcare spending down. 

4. Covering daily living expenses

It's not just medical care people worry about paying for -- 39% of Americans say their ability to cover daily living expenses is a source of great concern. 

For current retirees, making and living on a budget can help make this concern disappear. Add up your different sources of income, including investment income at a safe withdrawal rate, then allocate your funds to cover both essentials and discretionary expenses. If you don't have enough, making major cuts such as relocating or downsizing could be the solution as this would mean making one lifestyle change rather than a series of small, sustained sacrifices.

Future retirees can avoid this problem by setting aggressive retirement savings goals and living on a tighter budget now to meet them so you can have more flexibility as a retiree. 

5. Not being able to retire at all

For 37% of Americans, their greatest fear about retirement is they'll never have the money to reach it. This is obviously a worry only future retirees face, and the solution will depend on your situation.

If you can make budget cuts that are substantial enough to allow you to build the nest egg you need to retire at a reasonable age, do so today. If you can't save enough no matter how much you cut, look for ways to increase your income such as taking on a side hustle or going back to school to learn new skills that make you more employable. 

6. Having too much debt

Twenty-eight percent of Americans report they're extremely concerned about going into retirement still owing money. This, too, is a rational fear, as a growing number of seniors in the workforce are still substantially in the red.

Whether you're still working or are already retired, you can eliminate this as a source of concern by making a debt payoff plan and committing to not borrow for nonessentials. 

7. Feeling bored or lonely

Finally, 24% describe a worry about being bored or lonely as a major concern in retirement. This can be both the easiest and hardest problem to solve since the size of your social network is in your control, but it's not always easy to expand it. 

Retirees can fill their days in a number of ways, from working part time to traveling to volunteering. Think about what you enjoy and make a plan to do it so you use your time in retirement wisely and never need to worry about being bored. 

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