Retirement insecurity ranks near the top ofAmericans’ financial concerns, behind only the inability to coverthe costs of unexpected emergencies, according to PwC’s 2016Employee Financial Wellness Survey.

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Overall retirement confidence stayed flat among the generationsthis year, but still shows massive gaps in the workforce’s preparedness for thefuture, as 45 percent of all employees surveyed fear running out ofmoney in retirement.

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Fear of exhausting savings in retirement was the worst among millennials andGen Xers, 53 and 50 percent of whom, respectively, are expecting tooutlive savings. Only 33 percent of Baby Boomers fear running outof money when they retire.

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This year, 73 percent of respondents said they are saving forretirement, down from 77 percent last year: 60 percent ofmillennials, 76 percent of Gen Xers and 79 percent of Boomersreport saving.

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Across the generations, 47 percent have less than $50,000 inretirement savings. Among baby boomers, 37 percent said they haveless than that amount in savings.

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More than a quarter of those surveyed are not saving forretirement at all, citing “too many other expenses” as the primaryreason, and 28 percent are saving less than they did last year.

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For millennials, student loans are diverting money that couldotherwise go to 401(k) accounts; 42 percent of millennials say theycarry student debt, and eight in 10 of them say those loanobligations are impacting their financial goals.

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PwC’s data shows a clear correlation between loan debt andretirement savings strategy. Those with student debt are morelikely to have less than $50,000 in savings, and about 50 percentmore likely to borrow from retirement assets compared to workerswithout student debt.

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Overall financial stress is on the rise for all workers, but thestudy shows millennials are bearing the brunt of it, as 64 percentsaid they are stressed about their finances, amarked increase from 2015.

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“Many employees aren’t feeling confident about their finances,”said Kent E. Allison, leader of PwC’s Employee Financial Educationand Wellness practice, in a statement.

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“Salaries are barely keeping pace with the rise in cost ofliving, causing an additional strain on employee budgets that werealready stretched thin,” added Allison. “The housing market hasonly moderately improved and in many places home values stillremain far below pre-recession prices despite interest ratesbeing at historic lows. Couple that with the recent volatility inthe stock market and it is no wonder employee confidence iswaning.”

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Only 26 percent of millennials think Social Security will beavailable when they leave the workforce.

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Overwhelmingly, employees across the age spectrum long for thedays when defined benefit pensions were the norm, as 72 percentsaid they prefer a monthly income guaranteed payment for life, asopposed to a lump sum of savings.

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Only half of employees said they feel comfortable selecting theright investments for themselves. That lack of confidence, alongwith chronically low savings, underscores the need for morefinancial education, says Allison.

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“With retirement savings worryingly low, now is the time foremployers to put effective financial wellness programs into placethat focus holistically on the financial well-being of employeesand drive behavioral change,” he said.

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Nick Thornton

Nick Thornton is a financial writer covering retirement and health care issues for BenefitsPRO and ALM Media. He greatly enjoys learning from the vast minds in the legal, academic, advisory and money management communities when covering the retirement space. He's also written on international marketing trends, financial institution risk management, defense and energy issues, the restaurant industry in New York City, surfing, cigars, rum, travel, and fishing. When not writing, he's pushing into some land or water.