The secret to retirement saving

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How have they socked away so much money?

The most successful savers for retirement admit to hitting bumps in the road, but they didn’t let a few rocks get in the way of their future. Following their lead could set more Americans on the path to a fulfilling rather than a fearful retirement, according to a survey commissioned by PNC Financial Services Group.

The narrative about retirement is littered with news of our failures.

Too few Americans can get into a workplace retirement plan. When they do, they aren’t saving enough. When they finally land in retirement, they’re outliving their money. And that was just one report out this month. It’s enough to induce fear and hopelessness — something a quarter of millennials reported grappling when considering their retirement.

The successful savers tapped by PNC’s survey are working or retired, ages 25 to 75, with at least $50,000 in investable assets (if they were younger than 44) and at least $100,000 (if they were 44 and older). Believe it or not, that didn’t include any 401(k) investments.

They may already sound better off than you, but they too reported having to overcome an obstacle or two. The top stumbling blocks included not having enough money to save they way they knew they should, lack of time to squirrel away that money, and procrastination. Yet, only 5 percent doubted they’d get to their goals in the end.

“Our survey results reinforce the importance of setting goals and monitoring plans to balance those emotions,” says Rich Ramassini, CFP director of strategy for PNC Investments. “We understand that consumer decision-making about significant purchases or investments, such as buying a new car, a first home or many other products is heavily influenced by emotion. Similarly, we believe emotions are in play when people think about retirement.”

So how can you set aside emotion and learn from these great savers? Here’s what they do…

  • 70 percent are investing with investment firms, banks, and brokerage firms and in mutual funds
  • 63 percent have health insurance
  • 77 percent set their goals and regularly revisit their plans
  • 53 percent are in employer-sponsored plans
  • 45 percent have been saving for at least 20 years

It’s not all about saving and investing, though.

More than half were paying off expenses before retirement. The biggest target: their mortgage. Nearly one in three were working to own their home, while 10 percent were paying down credit card debt and 8 percent were paying off a car.

Other solid pieces of advice for those seeking to make their money last in retirement, include waiting until age 70 to collect Social Security and tapping the interest or returns generated by investment for your “fun” money rather than drawing down the principal and start planning now, regardless of your age.

That planning should take into consideration the life you envision in retirement.

While everyone in PNC’s survey was shooting for an enjoyable retirement, not everyone defined enjoyable the same way. Millennials (those ages 25 to 34) said they relished more time with their family more so than older survey respondents. And while most age groups rated enjoying life or having fun as a top goal, those in the 45-to-54 age set put feeling “stable and secure” at the head of the list — perhaps because they are in a sandwich generation still caring for their parents and their kids at once.

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Meet the Author

Michelle Bryan

Michelle Bryan

Public Relations and Communications Manager

Ms. Bryan is the Public Relations and Communications Manager for


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