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They've saved, but not enough. And what they do have, they aren't using wisely.

4 minute read

Most baby boomers are far more confident about their retirement than they should be.

About 10,000 boomers go into retirement every day, according to financial education website Investopedia, [1] and the majority of them (72 percent) feel financially prepared for it, says a poll by financial services company Allianz. [2]

But while boomers do put money aside for retirement, it may not be enough — and with their low financial literacy, declining health, and a volatile job market in the mix, there’s more than enough reasons to be nervous about their golden years. Here are the top three reasons Debt.com has found through research and expert advice…

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1. Slow savings

The average baby boomer has saved about $175,000 set aside for retirement, Allianz says, and a third has $250,000. While this may seem like a lot, it’s not even close to what they should have stocked up, according to Debt.com chairman and CPA Howard Dvorkin.

“The common wisdom is that an average American needs at least $1 million to comfortably retire in their late 60s,” Dvorkin says. “Of course, common wisdom is commonly wrong, because each individual’s circumstances are different. But think about it this way: If you plan on living two decades after you retire, how far will $175,00 or even $250,000 really take you? Don’t forget to factor in your escalating healthcare costs and inflation. Do the math, and you might be in for a shock.”

Boomers also started saving for retirement later than other generations. The normal boomer began at 35, while members of Gen X started at 30 and millennials started at 24, according to the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies (TCRS). [3]

Because of this lag, boomers would have to save a larger percentage of their income to catch up — but they don’t. Baby boomers put aside about 10 percent of their income annually for retirement, but millennials are also saving 10 percent despite negative money-handling stereotypes, while Gen X saves eight percent, TCRS says.

All generations are behind, however — experts recommend that you stash 15 percent for retirement, according to financial services company Fidelity. [4] But the 5 percent gap matters more for boomers, who are on the cusp of retirement right now as opposed to 30 years in the future.

2. High confidence, low skills

Baby boomers take retirement seriously. Nearly two-thirds say saving for their golden years is as important as food or housing, and that same amount counts themselves as savers over spenders. And they keep tabs on their finances, too, with 61 percent knowing “exactly how much money is in their accounts,” according to Allianz’s survey.

But boomers don’t know how to handle what they do save up due to a lack of financial literacy, according to a survey by The American College of Financial Services (ACFS). [5]

The poll asked more than 1,200 60- to 75-year-olds with at least $100,000 in household assets about financial planning, and many boomers didn’t entirely know what they were talking about when it comes to major money decisions.

Only 35 percent of men and 18 percent of women passed the quiz, even though 61 percent of those polled claimed to have a high level of knowledge about retirement income.

“More and more Americans are retiring but so few understand basic facts and strategies when it comes to ensuring that their retirement is a comfortable one,” says David Littell, a retirement expert at ACFS. “The results of this survey are alarming and a stark reminder of the need to be prepared for the decades in retirement when you are not earning a steady stream of income.”

And the more you know about money, the better you are at managing it. Those who passed the quiz were 46 percent more likely to have a long-term care plan in place, and more than one-third felt like they could manage their investments throughout retirement.

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3. Careers and health on the decline

If your lack of retirement knowledge won’t come back to haunt you, the job market will.

The American Association of Retired Persons says nearly one-third of Americans (50 and older) have faced career setbacks, like job loss and stagnant wages, that have halted their plans for retirement savings. This means that retirees will collectively lose $4.3 trillion in retirement savings by 2021.

“Consumers say they have suffered career setbacks such as a layoff or wage stagnation, making it the No. 1 obstacle for saving money,” the study says. “And 21 percent of 50+ consumers report that career setbacks caused them to dig into their retirement savings to make ends meet. Recovering from these stumbles is complicated and has put millions of 50+ consumers behind the necessary pace to attain financial freedom.”

But it goes beyond jobs. Financial health and physical health have a huge impact on one another, and the AARP says 41 percent of 50+ Americans have suffered from a major medical issue in the last five years.

Even with medical-related debt being a problem, only 11 percent of people in that age group have started to save for health-related emergencies. Since they anticipate more health-related problems later in life, many admit that their lack of savings will keep them working long after they hit retirement age.

Not only that, long-term health care costs are increasingly becoming a burden on older Americans. While cheaper in some states, the overall costs are at a minimum of a few thousand dollars a year.

But educating yourself on the reality of these situations, going through your options, and making concrete financial plans can help.

“With more and more Americans entering into retirement each year, there is a premium on retirement literacy,” Littell says. “The time is now for retirees and pre-retirees to gain the knowledge they need to make smart decisions for a financially secure retirement. It is critical to have a plan in place in order to ensure you are on track for secure retirement years.”

Check out Debt.com’s guide on how to save for retirement, and consider calling us at for a free debt analysis. Planning for retirement is stressful, but you don’t have to go through it alone.

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About the Author

Dori Zinn

Dori Zinn

Dori Zinn is a full-time freelance journalist based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. She’s president of Blossomers Media, Inc., a web development and online media consulting company. Along with her work on debt.com, she’s been a longtime freelancer for Money Talks News — a personal and consumer finance website — and South Florida Gay News — the largest weekly LGBT newspaper in the South. Zinn has written for a variety of other publications, including Huffington Post, The Week, Quartz, Fort Lauderdale Magazine, Indulge, and realtor.com.

Published by Debt.com, LLC