A recent survey found 56% of Americans are losing sleep over saving for retirement. Another shows having enough money to retire comfortably is the most common financial stressor among 401K participants, regardless of age. In short: Americans are freaking out about retirement.
That makes a lot of sense, considering that report after report has shown that we’re a nation of people who are terrible at saving money. And, as those retirement surveys suggest, we’re painfully aware of it.
Unfortunately, those most concerned about having enough money to comfortably retire are the ones who seem most likely to do it: 61% of active savers say they lose sleep over retirement, while just 49% of non-savers say the same. These figures come from a survey of 1,016 U.S. adults conducted between Feb. 26 and March 1 this year. The nationally representative poll was commissioned by Ramsey Solutions, and the margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Why would people saving money be more stressed than those who aren’t? Perhaps the non-savers are in a bit of denial, even though socking away cash isn’t a solution to financial-planning concerns. You have to have confidence in what you’re doing with that money, after all.
“Most people assume saving more will eliminate money stress,” Chris Hogan, a financial expert with Ramsey Solutions, said in a press release on the survey. “But it’s not just about saving money. It’s about having a plan, understanding how much they need to save and feeling in control of their future.”
Of course, planning for retirement can be tricky. (If it weren’t, people would likely be better at it.) Only 43% of people with 401Ks said they know how much they need to save to retire comfortably. That’s right — less than half the people saving by way of a 401K actually know what they’re doing (or at least think they do). That doesn’t bode well for those who aren’t saving.
The nationwide survey of 401K savers was conducted online between June 2 and June 8. The data is based on responses from 1,000 participants of Schwab Retirement Plan Services, who worked for companies with at least 25 employees, were currently contributing to their 401K plans and ages 25 to 70. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Not only are people pretty stressed out about saving for retirement and uncertain of how much they should save, they feel this way regardless of how close they are to retiring. While millennials have the most time to save, 38% of those surveyed said retirement was a significant financial stressor. Compare that to the 29% who said monthly expenses stressed them out, 26% who said the same of credit card debt and 24% who said that of student loans. (There could be other factors at work here, considering the sample doesn’t represent millennials as a whole but only those with 401Ks. Perhaps millennials actively saving for retirement have less credit card or student loan debt to contend with.)
Retirement can hang like a dark cloud over some people, rather than taking on a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel role for American workers. That’s not too surprising given the uncertainties of dealing with the future: How long will you work? How long will you live? Is your savings goal really enough to live on a few decades from now?
Answering those questions isn’t easy, but there are a lot of resources out there to help you figure it out. If you’re not sure how retirement planning works, this introduction to retirement lingo can help you get started.