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Survey: Most Americans Have Raided Their Retirement Savings

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Successfully saving for retirement requires dedication and self-restraint, but more than half the country admits to robbing their future selves in order to satisfy today’s spending needs, according to a new survey by MagnifyMoney. While the economic pressures bearing down on workers today make their actions understandable, the hard truth is that many Americans are turning an already-difficult task that much harder by tapping into their retirement savings early.

Key Findings

  • Approximately 52% of respondents admit to tapping their retirement savings account early for a purpose other than retiring: 23% have done so to pay off debt, 17% for a down payment on a home, 11% for college tuition, 9% for medical expenses, and 3% for some other reason.
  • About 29% say there are some scenarios where it is a good idea to withdraw money early from a retirement savings account.
  • Around 60% of respondents do not know exactly how much they have saved for retirement. Just 40% know the exact amount, while 45% have a rough idea, and 15% have no clue.
  • Almost 25% are unhappy with their retirement savings. 47% are happy with the amount saved, and about 28% are neither happy nor unhappy.
  • Finally, 27% have never thought about how much money they’ll need in retirement.

Why are Americans tapping their retirement savings early?

The two main reasons respondents cited for withdrawing money from their retirement savings are as American as apple pie: home ownership and personal debt. According to the survey, 23% of those making an early withdrawal did so to help pay down non-medical debt, while 17% needed the money for a down payment on a home.

Although the housing market appears to be cooling off compared to just a few years ago, a down payment on a home still requires a significant chunk of change — experts recommend a down payment equaling 20% of the total mortgage to optimize your mortgage payments.

Personal debt, from credit cards to student loans, remains a fixture of everyday economic reality for millions of Americans. In other words, the stressors that cause workers to raid their retirement funds don’t look like they will decrease appreciably in the foreseeable future.

Which Americans are withdrawing money the most?

Breaking down the demographics, older savers are less likely to withdraw money from their retirement fund than younger savers. 54% of millennial savers say they’ve taken an early withdrawal from a retirement savings account, compared with 50% of Gen Xers and 43% of baby boomers. This stands to reason considering that many millennials have now entered the stage of life where they are getting mortgages, starting families and taking on bigger financial obligations while also being decades away from the traditional retirement age. Millennials are also more likely to say that raiding your retirement fund is justified under certain circumstances, as seen in the chart below:

Just one of many bad retirement savings habits

Tapping into retirement funds — whether an employer-sponsored 401(k) or a traditional IRA — before the appropriate age almost always comes with a financial penalty in the form of additional taxes and fees. What is more, you’re diminishing the principle that fuels the compound interest you need to meet your retirement savings goals.

Unfortunately the survey reveals early withdrawals are just one of the many bad habits Americans engage in when it comes to retirement savings. This list of less-than-ideal practices includes:

  • 35% of Americans are not currently saving for retirement. Of those who are, 37% started saving at age 30 or above, and 12% started saving when they were older than 40.
  • 60% of Americans do not know exactly how much they have saved for retirement. Just 40% know the exact amount, while 45% have a rough idea and 15% have no clue.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 Americans don’t contribute enough to their employer-sponsored retirement account to get the maximum company match. Maximizing a company match is one of  your best ways to maximize your retirement savings. Among those with an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan, just 17% of respondents contribute 10% or more of their take-home pay. Almost 5% contribute nothing at all, and nearly 6% are unclear about how much they contribute.

  • Approximately 42% of respondents have made the mistake of withdrawing their entire balance from an employer-sponsored retirement plan when changing jobs without rolling it over – and nearly 15% have done so more than once. A little more than 47% of millennials admit to this faux pas.

The most damning finding of all is that 27% of those surveyed have never thought about how much they’ll need in retirement. And while “ignorance is bliss” may hold true when it comes to some things in life, this expression should not apply to your retirement plans.

Methodology

MagnifyMoney by LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,029 Americans, with the sample base proportioned to represent the general population. The survey was fielded June 24-27, 2019.

Generations are defined as:

  • Millennials are ages 22-37
  • Generation Xers are ages 38-53
  • Baby boomers are ages 54-72

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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Survey: Millennials Are Underestimating Retirement Savings Needs

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone and is not intended to be a source of investment advice. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

For many savers, a cozy retirement can seem like a distant dream rather than a realistic future. Costs of living continue to rise, while it’s becoming harder for many to keep up with saving. More and more senior citizens are working into retirement, and millennials may be underestimating just how much they’d need to save for retirement in the first place.

MagnifyMoney commissioned a survey of 800 full-time workers to get a better look at their understanding of their own retirement savings needs. The results show that while millennials may be underestimating the real costs of retirement, so are baby boomers. Furthermore, some baby boomers indicated that no amount of money would make them comfortable enough to retire.

Key findings

  • 73% of full-time working Americans believe $1 million is enough to get them through retirement if they stop working at age 66. There was widespread agreement on this across all age groups.
    • $1 million in retirement savings is a general rule of thumb to follow, although an individual’s actual retirement savings should be more specific based on projected spending in retirement.

  • Meanwhile, nearly 1 in 5 millennials said having $500,000 in their retirement savings account would make them comfortable enough to stop working tomorrow. Another 14% of millennials would retire after amassing $750,000.
    • Millennials aren’t alone in believing less than $1 million is enough. Across all age groups, 20% of respondents said that $500,000 in retirement savings was enough. The next largest cohort — 17.4% of respondents — said $1 million in retirement savings was enough.
  • Interestingly, more than 1 in 5 baby boomers responded similarly to millennials, saying just $500,000 would get them through retirement if they stopped working tomorrow. Another 15% of boomers said $750,000 would be enough to retire.
  • Some baby boomer respondents offered a bleaker outlook: More than a quarter of Americans ages 54-73 reported that no amount of money would make them comfortable enough to retire.
    • Boomers were almost twice as likely to say that no amount of money would make them comfortable enough to stop working compared to younger Americans. 14.4% of millennials and 15.2% of Gen X-ers had the same sentiment.
    • Boomers may be less willing to stop working than other age cohorts because they believe they need to save more before they stop working, or because some feel you can never really have enough money saved for retirement.
  • More than 1 in 10 Americans have lofty goals for their retirement savings. Just under 12% of our respondents want to accumulate at least $3 million before ending their career.

How much should I save for retirement?

Saving for retirement is not an exact science. Shooting for a $1 million nest egg is a common rule of thumb — and most survey respondents agree that $1 million would be enough.

However, the amount of retirement savings you need depends on your estimated expenses in retirement. Your exact number could be more or less than $1 million, depending on how much you expect to spend on housing, discretionary costs or lingering debts.

For example, $1 million in savings would fund a 20-year retirement where you’re limited to $50,000 in annual spending. If you anticipate a 30-year retirement, $1 million in savings would only cover around $33,000 in annual spending.

How much you should have saved for retirement also depends largely on your age. For example, it’s unlikely that at 30 years old, you’ll already have $1 million set aside unless you’re extremely blessed. You’ll have to build up your savings as you go and as your income, hopefully, increases with age.

Fidelity offers a different take on savings guidelines by age. According to Fidelity, by age 30 you should have 1x your annual salary saved, growing to 3x your annual salary saved by age 40, 6x by 50, and 8x by 60.

How do I save for retirement?

If you think you’ve underestimated how much you truly need to save for retirement, there’s still time to get your savings on track.

A common retirement savings tool is the 25x rule, which dictates you need to have 25 times your annual retirement expenses saved. Core to this rule is the assumption that you’ll need to cover 25 years of retirement. So if you calculate an estimated $70,000 in annual spending in retirement, for example, following the 25x rule would indicate a nest egg goal of $1.75 million.

That’s a far cry from the mere $500,000 that 20% of our respondents indicated would be adequate for retirement. If you stuck to that goal, by the 25x rule, your annual spending in retirement would be cut down to $20,000.

It’s best to throw your retirement savings into an investment account, rather than a high-yield savings account. Over time, investing can post returns around 8%, well above the 2% savings APYs we see today. Retirement savings are more than just your 401(k), too: individual retirement accounts, or IRAs, allow you to save on your own, whether instead of or in addition to your 401(k).

If you’re an investing beginner, there are a ton of resources out there to help you get started. Robo-advisors and online brokerages offer an easily navigable investing experience that allow you to set your own goals and preferences.

Methodology

MagnifyMoney by LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 816 full-time American workers. The survey was fielded October 1-3, 2019.

We define millennials as those aged 23 to 38, Gen X as those 39 to 53 and Boomers as those aged 54 to 73. Members of Gen Z (ages 18 to 22) and the Silent Generation (ages 74 and up) were also surveyed, and their responses are included within the overall total percentages. However, they were excluded from the age breakdowns due to the lower sample size among respondents in those age groups.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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Survey: For 36% of Americans, Economy Informs 2020 Presidential Preference

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

The presidential election will dominate headlines throughout 2020, with voters and pundits alike obsessively following polls, reading coverage and watching debates to get a feel for who’s leading in the race for the White House. In addition, they’ll be closely watching another key indicator for the race: the performance of the U.S. economy.

MagnifyMoney commissioned a survey of 1,000 Americans to gauge how people think about the relationship between the economy and the 2020 presidential election. Our survey found that nearly four in ten respondents said monitoring the economy helps them decide which candidate to support, and believe the results of an election can be at least somewhat predicted by the performance of the economy.

Key findings

  • About 41% of respondents believe the outcome of a presidential election can be predicted based on U.S. economic performance in the 12 months leading up to the election.
    • Around 36% said monitoring the stock market and the economy helps them decide which presidential candidate to support.
  • Republicans are more confident than Democrats about three key aspects of the economy over the next 12 months: that the stock market will continue to rise, jobs will continue to be added to the economy and the overall economy will continue to grow.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 respondents think the 2020 presidential campaign will positively impact the economy — while about 18% believe the economy will be negatively impacted.
    • Investors are almost twice as likely as non-investors to believe the campaign will positively benefit the economy, and six-figure earners are also more likely to agree with this proposition.
  • Like many topics in politics, the potential economic impact of re-electing Donald Trump is a polarizing subject.
    • When asked which 2020 presidential candidate made them most optimistic about the future of the U.S. economy, the most-cited candidate was Donald Trump, with 33% of respondents overall.
    • When asked which candidate made them most pessimistic about the future of the U.S. economy, Trump was yet again the most cited candidate, by 35% respondents overall.

How could the state of the U.S. economy impact the election?

Our survey found that about 4 in 10 respondents think you can at least somewhat predict the outcome of the presidential election based on U.S. economic performance in the year leading up to the election. Meanwhile, 37% say that they do not think that economic performance could predict the election’s outcome, while nearly 22% were not sure.

Republicans were more likely than Democrats to say that economic performance could at least somewhat predict the 2020 election, 53% versus 43%. Meanwhile, 50% of millennials think that the state of the economy could at least somewhat predict the 2020 election, compared to 40% of Gen Xers and 32% of baby boomers.

Our survey asked whether people monitor the stock market and economic performance when deciding which presidential candidate to support. We found that the majority of people (64%) do not track such metrics when deciding who to support, while approximately 21% do somewhat and 15% do a great deal. The results didn’t differ greatly when considering party affiliation: 40% of Democrats and 42% of Republicans follow these metrics at least somewhat when determining who to vote for.

How could the election impact the U.S. economy?

While our survey revealed that many people think that economic conditions can help predict the outcome of the 2020 election, we also asked respondents how they think the election will impact the economy once the polls close and the next president is selected.

Overall, people feel very differently about how the 2020 election results will impact the economy, with 31% of respondents saying it will positively affect it, 18% saying it will negatively affect it, 42% saying they are unsure how it will affect it and 9% saying it will not affect it at all.

Those results look somewhat different when party affiliation is taken into account: 41% of Republicans said the outcome of the election will positively impact the economy, compared to just 32% of Democrats. Meanwhile, Democrats were more likely to say that the election would have a negative impact on the economy, 19% compared to 14% of Republicans.

Different generations also had different thoughts on how the election’s results might affect the economy, with millennials (39%) most likely to say they think it will have a positive impact, followed by Gen Xers (28%) and baby boomers (24%). In contrast, Gen Xers were the generation most likely to say the election will have a negative economic impact (20%), followed by millennials (18%) and baby boomers (15%).

Our survey also revealed how people think the stock market will react to a President Trump re-election. Overall, 31% of respondents think that the stock market will fall if Trump is re-elected, 26% think the market would rise, 28% are unsure of how the market would react and 16% think it won’t change. Not surprisingly, 50% of Democrats think the stock market will fall with a Trump re-election, while 52% of Republicans think it will rise.

How could the election impact investor confidence?

Everything from a CEO’s tweets to global trade deals has the potential to rattle an investor’s confidence — and our survey found that the 2020 election is no exception.

Interestingly, we found that overall, 37% of people avoid investing their money during election years. That includes 41% of Democrats and 39% of Republicans, as well as a whopping 56% of millennials, 29% of Gen Xers and 13% of baby boomers.

One reason for the lack of investment during election years could be chalked up to overall uneasiness about the state of the economy in general. When looking at the 2020 election in particular, many respondents aren’t too confident in many metrics that measure the health of the economy.

Overall, 28% of those surveyed are at least somewhat unconfident that the stock market will continue to rise, 30% are at least somewhat unconfident that the U.S. will continue adding jobs in the next 12 months and 29% are at least somewhat unconfident that the overall U.S. economy will continue to grow over the next 12 months.

When looking at confidence levels regarding the overall future of the economy, our survey found that Democrats are much more pessimistic than their Republican counterparts: 38% of Democrats were at least somewhat unconfident that the overall U.S. economy will continue to grow over the next 12 months, compared to just 19% of Republicans who feel the same way.

When looking at how the economy is now versus how it was on the night of the election in 2016, different political parties have very different viewpoints. Only 16% of Democrats think that the economy is in a better position now, compared to a whopping 68% of Republicans.

When asked which presidential candidate made them the most optimistic about the future U.S. economy and which one made them the most pessimistic, the most popular candidate was the same for both: Donald Trump. Overall, 33% of respondents said that Trump was the candidate that made them the most optimistic about the economic future, followed by Joe Biden (17%), Bernie Sanders (14%) and Elizabeth Warren (12%).

Meanwhile, 35% of respondents said that Trump was the candidate that made them the most pessimistic about the future of the U.S. economy, followed by Sanders and Biden (both at 14%) and then Warren (11%).

Methodology

MagnifyMoney commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,048 Americans, with the sample base proportioned to represent the general population. The survey was fielded October 1-3, 2019.

In the survey, generations are defined as:

  • Millennials are ages 23 to 38
  • Generation Xers are ages 39 to 54
  • Baby boomers are ages 55 to 73

Members of Generation Z (ages 18 to 22) and the Silent Generation (ages 74 and older) were also surveyed, and their responses are included within the total percentages among all respondents. However, their responses are excluded from the charts and age breakdowns due to the smaller population size among our survey sample.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.