TIAA-CREF Survey: Half of Employees Approaching Retirement Wish They Had Started Saving Sooner

Running out of money to cover monthly expenses is the top concern for near-retirees
New York, November 19, 2014 — More than half (52 percent) of people approaching retirement (age 55-64) say they wish they had started saving for the future sooner, according to results from a new TIAA-CREF survey. Many say they wish they had made smarter financial decisions earlier in their career, including saving more of their paycheck (47 percent) and investing their savings more aggressively (34 percent). These findings underscore the importance for employees, with support from their employers, to start thinking about retirement planning early and remain engaged in the process throughout their careers.
These findings come from TIAA-CREF’s Ready to Retire Survey, which was conducted by an independent research firm and polled a random sample of 1,000 adults nationwide with an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

Individuals Nearing Retirement Miss Common Savings Opportunities

Forty-five percent of respondents age 55-64 say financial readiness is the most important factor in determining when they will retire. Yet these individuals haven’t always taken advantage of many common retirement planning and saving strategies that could help them feel financially prepared. Only 35 percent say they saved in an IRA or met with a financial advisor, 32 percent have calculated the income they would need for each year of their retirement, and 12 percent have saved in a healthcare savings account. By not making the most of these options, many Americans now feel uncertain about their financial futures, with 68 percent of those approaching retirement saying they are not prepared for what’s to come.
“This research reinforces that preparing for retirement shouldn’t become a sprint to the finish, but rather a long-distance pursuit that requires careful planning throughout an adult’s life,” said Teresa Hassara, executive vice president of TIAA-CREF's Institutional Business. “This will help prevent those nearing retirement from feeling like they have to play catch-up near the end of their careers. Developing and acting on a carefully constructed plan can help individuals at any age build a financially secure future.”

Financial Challenges Lead Many to Reconsider What Retirement Looks Like

According to the survey, financial challenges make up three of the top four concerns for individuals close to retirement. Many worry about not having enough money to cover their monthly expenses (45 percent), while others are anxious about how healthcare costs (35 percent) or inflation (32 percent) could deplete their retirement savings. However, despite these concerns, 10 percent of this age group has purchased an annuity, the only retirement product that guarantees* an income stream for life. According to the Social Security Administration, a 65-year-old male in 2010 could expect to live an average of another 17.57 years, while a woman of the same age could expect to live an average of another 20.20 years1. Lifetime income products such as annuities could help prevent individuals from outliving their savings.
These challenges are leading some to reconsider what their retirement will look like. Forty-two percent of survey respondents age 55-64 say they plan on working in a part-time job, 39 percent say they’ll be more conservative about how much they spend on entertainment and other luxuries, and 23 percent say they will downgrade their living quarters to something that’s less costly. These realities may conflict with their desire for flexibility to do “what they want, when they want” during retirement, which 57 percent of this group says they look forward to the most in these coming years.
“If Americans find that their retirement savings aren’t adequate to meet their expectations about retirement life, it’s never too late to make adjustments. In fact, if a 55-year-old starts to max out his or her employer-sponsored retirement plan contribution next year and continues to do so for the next 10 years, those savings could grow to about $325,0002,”  Hassara said. “Employers and financial advisors can work with individuals to develop a robust retirement plan at any life stage so they can pursue the kind of retirement they envision.”
For more information on the survey, please read the 2014 TIAA-CREF Ready to Retire Survey Executive Summary. TIAA-CREF also has prepared an article for individuals that discusses how to make a smooth transition as they approach retirement.
*Guaranteed income from annuities is subject to the issuing insurance company’s claims paying ability.

Survey Methodology

The findings come from TIAA-CREF’s Ready to Retire Survey, which was conducted among a sample of 1,000 adults currently contributing to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, conducted by an independent research firm between May 19, 2014, and May 28, 2014. The sample included 140 adults age 55-64.
The survey was conducted by KRC Research online among a sample of 1,000 employed adults, age 18 years and older, currently contributing to an employer-sponsored retirement plan. Data was weighted by key demographic variables to ensure the sample is representative of the employed population contributing to defined-contribution plans.
Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have volunteered to participate in online surveys and polls. Because the sample is based on those who initially self-selected for participation, no estimates of sampling error can be calculated. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to multiple sources of error, including, but not limited to, sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options. The survey was not conducted among TIAA-CREF participants, and the survey questions and responses did not reference or concern any TIAA-CREF product, service or client experience.


TIAA-CREF ( is a national financial services organization with $840 billion in total assets under management (as of 10.1.14) and is the leading provider of retirement services in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields.

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Stephen Gawlik
1 Social Security Administration actuarial life table,
2 Maximum contributions to 401(k) or 403(b) plans will be $24,000 in 2015. Assumes 6 percent annual effective rate of return. These figures are purely hypothetical and are not intended to predict or project returns.
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