U.S. study finds retirees overestimate retirement income, undersave
A study by the University of Southern California, reported on by Next Avenue, has revealed some interesting findings.
It seems, according to the magazine, that retirees “were too optimistic about their retirement benefits, which led to them not saving enough during their working years.” In fact, the magazine notes, “if they could go back in time, they’d have postponed retiring, paid off debts before leaving the workforce and learned more about their personal finances.”
The study is called Subjective Expectations: Social Security Benefits and the Optimal Path to Retirement. And while the contents are aimed at a U.S. audience where retirement rules and programs are different, there is still some good information for us Canucks.
The study found that men were less optimistic about their future retirement benefits than women, which caused them to save more. Those with lower education levels also tended to believe they didn’t need to save, the article notes.
“Being mistaken in this way is costly for these groups because it makes it more difficult for them to realize they need to prepare to be appropriately ready for retirement,” states USC’s Maria Prados in the article. “Given the complexity of how benefits are determined, it is not surprising to see an educational and socioeconomic gradient in these misperceptions,” she states.
When the research looked at attitudes towards Social Security (it’s somewhat equivalent to our Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security system), it found that 20 per cent of those surveyed regretted taking their benefits early, and 21 per cent found that the benefits they did get “were substantially different than what they expected; most expected more.”
A surprising 50 per cent said they don’t have a good estimate of what their future retirement benefits will be.
The article makes several key recommendations so that you don’t find yourself short in your Golden Years.
- Expect to live a long life: A big issue, the article notes, is “forgetting you may live to be 98.” And if you do, you’ll find that taxes, healthcare costs and caregiving expenses will all be much more, due to inflation.
- Get an estimate: If you are eligible for government retirement benefits, or benefits from work (or both), be sure to get estimates of what you’ll get before you get too far along in planning. Try to get estimates that show after-tax amounts.
- You can get more if you retire later: While the article focuses on U.S. programs, be aware that CPP is reduced if you take it before age 65, but is increased if you take it after 65; the latest you can start it is age 70.
- Create a lifestyle budget: Be aware of what you plan to spend in retirement – just as you need to understand your income, you need to also understand your future spending.
- Women should take a more active role in financial planning: There are many resources available online to get you up to speed on your retirement benefits from work and the government.
The article concludes with this good advice – “plan for more income than you think you’ll need.” It’s very true that the cost of living very rarely decreases.
If you’re a member of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, you can estimate what your future retirement income will be using their Wealth Calculator. As well, you can see how your savings are doing online using MySPP. Be sure to check out these key tools soon, particularly if retirement is fast approaching!
Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.