Americans give themselves a passing grade on saving for retirement, but most are failing.

We keep convincing ourselves we’re doing OK on retirement, when we’re really not.

That’s what one new study from the group of insurers who make up the Indexed Annuity Leadership Council are saying about American attitudes toward retirement. Ninety-four percent of those who are planning for retirement grade their efforts with a C or higher, but most are making critical mistakes saving.

Not having a lot of money saved for retirement is going to create big problems when the time comes to stop working. More than a quarter of American say they will miss their health insurance when they retire — health care costs alone can add up to $250,000 in retirement.

Almost a quarter of those surveyed say they don’t even know what they’re saving for. Half say the number one thing we will miss in retirement is a paycheck, while many will be banking on Social Security as a steady source of income — hopefully that won’t be all they have planned. Especially if you start claiming it early, it might not be enough to cover the bills.

But we’re making the grade … right?

Though we may feel like we’re doing okay saving for retirement, giving ourselves an overall C grade, research is suggesting that we’re scoring a big fat F — at least when it comes to how educated we are.

In a study that asked questions about Social Security, Medicare, investment strategy and other financial concepts, 80 percent received a score below 60 percent — an F. Only 20 percent earned a passing grade.

Most of us feel we have priorities we need to save for before retirement: Keeping up with our expenses, saving for emergency situations, health care bills, and credit card debt. It’s hard fitting in saving for retirement also. Some are choosing to skip saving for retirement, with 30 percent choosing not to set aside any money right now.

What’s worse is Americans who are getting closer to retirement age who don’t have a 401(k) or IRA and no plan to do so. About half of households age 55 and older have no retirement savings at all.  Among those households, aside from a 401(k) and IRA plan, 29 percent don’t have a pension, or even a savings account.

Why aren’t we saving for retirement?

Previous research has shown that pensions are declining, people are living longer, and health care costs have steadily increased.

Americans also feel saving for retirement is becoming more difficult due to “middle class” salaries not keeping up with the cost of living. But we’re not seeing any real sense of urgency to save more — we’re too stressed about today to worry about tomorrow. Unfortunately, the number of people retiring with little to no savings is show this is becoming a concern we’re all going to face.

There are about 76 million baby boomers, many approaching retirement. The majority of Americans feel we’re facing a “retirement crisis” — 86 percent agree with that statement and 57 percent strongly agree. That’s not just older and low income households.

It may be easiest just to tell ourselves that we are doing okay with our retirement plans, but Cs won’t get degrees in this scenario. The problem is real, and we need a real retirement strategy to deal with it.

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Joe Pye

Joe Pye

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Pye is the associate editor of


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Article last modified on June 27, 2017 Published by, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: We Grade Our Retirement Plans On a Curve - AMP.