A leisurely retirement is something many Americans plan for and look forward to. However, a growing number of American do not believe they will ever retire. According to a recent survey by Sun Life Financial, 20% of Americans feel that they will never be able to retire.
Sun Life conducts its survey annually in order to produce its Unretirement Index, a measurement of Americans’ confidence in their ability to retire securely. The 2011 Index was based on a survey of 1,499 Americans from ages 18 to 66.
Never Retiring: The survey asked respondents at what age they expected to be able to retire (defined as stopping work permanently). A higher percentage of workers – one in five – responded “never retire” than in any other category. Of the respondents,16% thought they would retire by age 70; 11% predicted retired between 66-69 and an additional 11% expected retirement by age 65. Many of the survey’s results demonstrated a steep drop in confidence about retirement age. The percentage of respondents who thought they would retire by age 67 declined by approximately 5% from 2008-2010, but in 2011, that number dropped precipitously by 30%.
Retirement Confidence by Age: The number of workers who believed they would retire by age 67 dropped rapidly between 2008 and 2011 for all age groups. In 2008, 45% of respondents age 62-66 thought they would achieve retirement, but by 2011, only 29% were confident of it. A similar decline happened in other age groups, even among younger workers who are far from retirement. In 2008, 58% of respondents age 30-39 had confidence in retirement by age 67, but by 2011, only 41% expressed such confidence.
Future Plans: The survey asked respondents who planned to never retire about their future plans. Of the 20% who plan to never retire, 53% never intend to slow down, but instead will work full time. Most plan to earn for the same amount of money before and after age 65, although 6.9% think they will earn slightly less money after age 65. A little less than half of those expecting to never retire (46%) plan to work part-time.
Decline in Confidence: The respondents’ pessimism about their ability to retire reflects a general drop in confidence about retirement benefits. The survey measures confidence in five retirement-related areas, all of which declined in 2011. Compared to the same time in 2010, drops in confidence occurred about employee benefits (down 31.7%), the economy (-25%), personal finances and health (-13.9 and -13.2%), and government benefits (-21.6%). Today’s workers were particularly pessimistic about their ability to enjoy government benefits like Social Security and Medicare at the same level as today’s retirees. The respondents’ confidence in receiving social security benefits comparable to today’s retirees declined from 22% in 2008 to 9% in 2011. Those confident in medicare benefits went from 20% in 2008 to 16% for both 2009 and 2010 to 8% in 2011 – a 50% drop in one year.