Few Americans are prepared for retirement, according to a national survey that finds nearly half of all workers with less than $10,000 in savings. Sixty percent of respondents to the 2012 Retirement Confidence Survey reported less than $25,000 in savings and investment (excluding their home and defined benefit plans) and 30 percent were living paycheck to paycheck with less than $1,000 in the bank.
The survey also showed a widening gap between the retirement readiness of high- and low-income households. Of the 1,003 workers and 259 retirees surveyed, those with low incomes were the least prepared for retirement and the most likely to have dipped into their savings to pay for basic expenses. While 93 percent of workers with income above $75,000 said they had saved money in 2012—the same percentage as in 2009—the number of low-income workers reporting savings declined sharply to just 35 percent.
It is difficult to estimate how much the average middle-class household needs to save for retirement, but it can generally be assumed that a worker with a median income of $50,000 will spend at least half that amount annually during retirement. That puts the conservative pricetag of a ten-year retirement at $250,000—an amount just one in ten Americans have saved—and a twenty-year retirement at half a million. Numbers like those help explain why 87 percent of respondents worried they will not be able to afford medical expenses during retirement, with 37 percent expecting to work past age 65 to make ends meet. Seven percent said they will “never retire.”