Retirement, Expectations and Reality

We've put a few years between us and the Great Recession. But Americans' expectations concerning their retirements don't yet match the reality.

That's the central finding of a recent report from the Transamerica Institute, The Current State of Retirement: Expectations and Realities, released in December 2015. The study surveyed both retirees age 50 and older and people currently in the work force age 18 and older to see whether the reality faced by those currently in retirement was anything close to what those currently working expected or were planning for. The study found significant disconnects across the board.

Key Findings

54 percent of workers age 50 and older planned to continue to work at least part time, post-retirement. But of those currently retired, only 5 percent of report that they are working in their retirement. Another 2 percent report that they are unemployed and looking for work.

Most retirees -60 percent - left the workforce sooner than they planned. Only 7 percent reported retiring later than planned. 33 percent retired at the age they expected to.

The median age at which they report they expect to retire is 67 years. However, the study authors found that the actual experience of those currently over 65 is radically different from the expectations of the 50+ working crowd. Consider: Two thirds of those who reported that they had retired sooner than planned were forced into retirement involuntarily by a variety of factors beyond their control. For example:

  • 66 percent had to retire because of employment-related reasons such as job loss or the receipt of a buyout.
  • 27 percent report they retired because of health reasons or disabilities, and another 11 percent report they had to retire because of family responsibilities.

The study's authors found that only 16 percent of those who retired ahead of schedule were able to do so because they decided they had saved up enough or because they had received a financial windfall such as an inheritance.

Plan For Longevity

Retirees are reaching the ends of their careers in better health than in past generations. 84 percent or retirees and age 50+ workers report themselves to be in good or excellent health. Only 5 percent of retirees surveyed say they are in poor health. Nearly 6 in 10 report they are planning to live to age 90 or more.

On average (median), retirees expect to live 28 years into retirement. But 41 percent report expecting to live at least three decades into retirement - necessitating a much more conservative approach to retirement income planning.

Greatest Fears

The biggest fears Americans have about their retirement years are the possibility of a reduction in Social Security Benefits and the possibility of outliving their savings. 43 percent report fearing spending through all their assets in retirement. Other top concerns include long-term disability and the need to pay nursing home costs.


The study's authors made a series of recommendations to workers, retirees and families:

  • Increase retirement savings.
  • Leverage catch-up contributions
  • Pay off high interest debt
  • Live within written budget.
  • Find creative ways to cut expenses
  • Consider renting a room in your house
  • Try to delay taking Social Security benefits to full retirement age, especially if you are in good health.
  • Get help from professional financial advisors.
  • Plan for the long haul
  • Have a plan in place for disability, long-term care or major stock market declines.

Your insurance professional can help you set up a plan to provide guaranteed monthly income for as long as you live, and help you protect it with long term care insurance and other insurance planning.



May 22, 2017
by Jeff Neuhalfen
Insurance Advisor