The giant baby boomer generation now is at the front lines of retirement. The youngest boomers are 57 years old today, and the oldest have hit 75. A recent survey by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies reveals what it finds to be the biggest fears of this group, as well as the concerns younger generations.
To create the report, Transamerica employed the Harris Poll, which conducted 25-minute online surveys of a nationally representative group of more than 10,000 American workers, including boomers, in late 2020.
We used the report, which focuses on a subset of workers employed at for-profit companies, for the following look at baby boomers’ 10 greatest retirement fears. (Note: If the numbering in this list looks odd, it’s because boomers’ responses resulted in ties in a couple of instances.)
10. Feeling isolated and alone
The pollsters found that 17% of the baby boomers (Americans born in 1946 through 1964) worry that they’ll be socially marginalized and alone at the end of their lives.
Interestingly, older workers appeared to worry less about the prospect of loneliness than younger ones.
Asked “What are your greatest fears about retirement,” the proportions of the other generations who chose “feeling isolated and alone” were:
- Generation X (1965 to 1980): 24%
- Millennials (1981 to 1996): 31%
- Generation Z (1997 to 2012): 38%
8. Finding meaningful ways to spend time and stay involved (tie)
About 21% of the boomers surveyed worried they might not be able to find meaningful ways to spend their time and remain involved during retirement.
Perhaps they understood instinctively what another, earlier study had found: Adults over age 50 who did not have a strong sense of purpose were more than twice as likely to die during a study conducted between 2006 and 2010. The research was published on JAMA Network Open. JAMA is an international peer-reviewed general medical journal.
8. Not meeting my family’s financial needs (tie)
Another 21% of boomers surveyed were afraid of being unable to meet their own and their family’s basic financial needs, Transamerica found.
Guesswork and a lack of information may cause at least some of that fear, since many respondents did not have a good idea how much money they’d need for retirement.
Only 10% of baby boomers said they based the estimate of their retirement financial needs on information from a financial adviser. That compared with 19% of the millennials, 14% of Gen Xers and 8% of Generation Z.
Overall, 43% of everyone surveyed had just guessed at how much money they will need; 38% estimated their required retirement income based on current spending.
7. Lack of access to adequate, affordable health care
Comparatively speaking, the oldest group in the survey, baby boomers (25%), along with those from the youngest cohort, Generation Z (25%), were the least concerned over whether adequate, affordable health care will be available to them.
Millennials (30%) and members of Generation X (32%) were more worried about access to health care.
6. Losing my independence
The prospect of losing one’s independence looms large for everyone. But, again, this is a fear that seems to diminish for older workers.
Facing a loss of independence was a concern for 27% of boomers and 28% of Gen Xers in the Transamerica survey.
But a greater share of younger people — 35% of Generation Z and 30% of millennials — were worried about becoming dependent in their old age.
5. Cognitive decline
Roughly a third (32%) of all workers said they worry they’ll face a decline in their cognitive abilities — whether from Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia.
Baby boomers (36%) and members of Generation Z (38%) were most concerned about the issue.
4. Possible long-term care costs
A big chunk of the baby boom generation worries about long-term care costs, the survey indicates. More boomers (39%) than members of other generations put this issue front and center.
Is long-term care insurance the answer? That depends on your particular situation, says Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson, in “Should I Buy Long-Term Care Insurance?”
If you do choose to buy long-term care insurance, know this: Your age when you purchase the product matters a great deal. If you wait too long, there’s a chance you could be denied coverage.
3. Social Security cutbacks
Many baby boomers (42%) said they worry that their Social Security retirement benefits will be cut or that the program could even be eliminated, according to Transamerica.
While that’s a legitimate concern, baby boomers and others may not realize that their own mistakes and ignorance can deprive them of hard-earned income from Social Security in retirement. Knowing the best time to claim Social Security is important, as is understanding the rules for working while you are collecting benefits.
1. Declining health are requires long-term care (tie)
The fear of needing long-term care due to declining health was one of baby boomers’ two biggest fears, the pollsters found.
Nearly half — 46% — of boomers told Transamerica that they worry about this issue.
If you do need care in a nursing home or other facility, doing your research puts more control in your hands. You can find good care by identifying nursing homes that earn high marks.
1. Outliving my money (tie)
The prospect of outliving their money is the only concern that scares baby boomers as much as the possible need for long-term care.
Among both boomers and Generation X members surveyed, 46% said they worry their finances will expire before their life does.
But there’s plenty that can be done to cut costs and beef up savings. Debt, for example, is the top reason why Americans have trouble saving for retirement. You can strengthen your nest egg, even late in life. Many retirees rely on professional financial help to cut debt, trim bills, beef up retirement income and form a financial plan for their retirement years.
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