Although they say it’s their top priority, workers in the U.S. aren’t preparing at all well for retirement.
That’s according to a survey from Prudential Investments, which found that although 80 percent of Americans say getting ready for retirement is their top priority, on average they only give themselves a C for their efforts to do so.
And 12 percent give themselves a failing grade.
They offered plenty of reasons for their lackluster performance, too—not just obstacles presented by the workplace or the economy, but those standing in their way from their own minds or their own abilities (or lack thereof).
Here are 10 obstacles respondents gave as reasons for their poor retirement preparation.
10. They don’t understand investing.
According to respondents, investing just isn’t their thing. In fact, 63 percent said that investing is complex and confusing—and, as we all know, it’s human nature to ignore things we don’t understand.
In addition, 59 percent of respondents say they’re not experienced investors, with 53 percent saying they’re not knowledgeable about investment products. Just 10 percent said they were very experienced or very knowledgeable.
9. They don’t understand their plans and allocations.
Well, if you don’t understand investing overall, it’s going to be tough to figure out how to choose the right assets within a plan.
So tough, in fact, that 42 percent of investors are not knowledgeable on how their assets are allocated within a portfolio, and 43 percent are not knowledgeable of which types of products they’ve invested in.
8. They don’t know how much to save.
It stands to reason that if people don’t understand their retirement plans, they’re not going to have a good idea of how much money they’re going to need to make it through retirement.
While 24 percent of workers estimate they’ll need $1 million or more to see themselves through, that’s a far cry from the reality of what they’ve saved: 54 percent of preretirees have less than $150,000 saved in their employer-sponsored plans. And 54 percent say they have no idea how much money they’ll actually need.
7. They’re paralyzed by their ignorance.
Seventy-four percent of preretirees said they should be doing more to ready themselves for retirement, but 40 percent simply don’t know how to get started.
Considering how many of them don’t like investing anyway, it’s hardly surprising that they hesitate to take action. Only 44 percent of those who have financial investments say they enjoy investing (preretirees, 46 percent; retirees, 34 percent). And 14 percent say they haven’t started saving because they just don’t know what to do.
6. They’re overwhelmed.
Sometimes they’re just not equal to the task; 64 percent of respondents are overwhelmed by the number of financial product choices, 29 percent say they’re not prepared to make financial decisions and 53 percent say they don’t have time to be actively involved in the day-to-day management of their investments.
And millennials are far less likely to invest in equities than other generations, allocating 32 percent to equities compared to 48ercent for GenXers and 45 percent for boomers. That could cost them big-time via low yields.
5. They find it harder to save than previous generations.
Respondents view health care costs (48 percent), illness or disability (43 percent) and changes to Social Security (43 percent) as the top threats to their retirement.
Most retirees (75 percent) think that people who have not yet retired will have a more difficult time saving for retirement compared to their generation, and preretirees agree with them; 57 percent of workers believe that their generation will have a more difficult time saving for retirement than their parents or grandparents did.
4. They know they haven’t saved enough.
Overall, 35 percent of preretirees say they’ll never be able to save enough to retire, so it doesn’t matter when they actually start to save. On average, preretirees expect to retire later (age 65), with 20 percent saying they may never be able to retire.
GenXers say saving for retirement (65 percent) and financially supporting immediate family (45 percent) are their top financial priorities—but among those who prioritize not running out of money in retirement, only a slight majority are confident they can achieve this goal.
3. They’re afraid of making the wrong decisions.
When faced with choices they don’t understand, workers allow fear to paralyze them and keep them from taking action on their investments.
Even when they do make choices, they may not be the right ones. Although 56 percent of preretirees say they’re willing to take significant or some risks, their portfolio allocations often indicate otherwise.
2. They retired earlier than planned.
Among retiree respondents, 51 percent retired earlier than they intended to, and of those, 50 percent retired 5 or more years earlier than they expected to—and nearly half of those (46 percent) had to retire because of health problems.
That sent them off without as much money as they needed—or, at least, as much as they could have saved had they been able to work longer.
1. Their priorities aren’t in order.
They may say their top priority is saving for retirement, but if they’re not saving much, or at all, other factors have intruded.
While many of those factors are valid (62 percent said they didn’t have enough money to save for retirement; 33 percent said that paying down debt was a higher priority; 23 percent said that immediate needs always seem to intrude on savings; and 15 percent said they’d rather use the money for other purposes), that’s not going to get them comfortably retired.