Don’t bank on it: Quarter of Americans admit they’ve never saved money for retirement

NEW YORK — People look forward to retirement because it allows them to enjoy the fruits of their labor, spend more time with loved ones, pursue hobbies, and travel. Seven in 10 (69%) Americans plan to retire, but of those who don’t think they will, 42 percent believe that they will never have enough savings to do so.

That’s according to a new survey of 2,000 adults split evenly by generation, where 22 percent of Gen Z, 19 percent of millennials and 18 percent of Gen X don’t believe retirement is in their future. 

Most Americans struggling to accomplish life goals

Despite approaching their 60s, 37 percent of Gen Xers say they won’t be retiring within the next 10 years. In addition to their savings concerns, respondents plan to keep working in fear that they need their income to support their family (21%) or because they started planning too late (22%). 

About one-quarter (26%) of the participants admit the fact that they never started planning for retirement will likely deter them entirely. Additionally, seven in 10 (71%) of respondents feel they are behind on certain life goals they thought they’d reach by now. These goals include their living situation (51%), career path (47%) and starting a family (41%).

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Prudential, results found 52 percent also admit they’ve fallen short of the amount of retirement savings they planned to have by now. And the retirement planning mindset varies greatly by generation. Forty-five percent of Gen Zers started thinking about retirement before the age of 20 and another 33 percent had it top of mind in their 20s. 

Woman worried about money, finances, bills
(© Kittiphan –

On the flip side, one in 10 Gen Xers admit they still haven’t started thinking about it, more than any other generation. In fact, almost one-third (29%) of Gen Z think about retirement “always”, while 50 percent of baby boomers say it crosses their mind “often.”

However, if respondents were hypothetically to retire tomorrow, millennials feel the most prepared (71%), compared to 66 percent of Gen Z and 62 percent of Gen Xers.

“The survey data show that many Americans need help when it comes to reaching their retirement and other financial goals,” says head of Prudential Financial’s Direct-to-Consumer business, Michelle Samuel. “Many people have been saving, but they want a better handle on where they are. Others aren’t confident they’ll be able to stop working, and they need guidance to show them a path to retirement.”     

How to plan for retirement

Almost one third of Americans (28%) said that they do not have a strong understanding of what to do to plan for retirement. This was not a surprising finding when many aren’t familiar with the most common financial products used in retirement planning.

More than half of Americans (59%) don’t have a 401(k), one of the primary savings vehicles for retirement. Of those who do, 21 percent don’t know how much money they have. On top of that, the majority of respondents either don’t have or don’t know what IRAs (65%) or annuities (72%) are. Similarly, two in five (42%) don’t have life insurance and another 11 percent don’t know what it is. 

 Retirement is not the only area where people aren’t planning in advance. Three-quarters (75%) of respondents spend less than a year planning for major financial decisions, with 15 percent of Gen Zers spending one week or less.

“The good news is that there are places people can turn to for help. Consumers can tap into online tools to get a better read on where they stand and some next steps,” says Samuel. “They can also find a trusted advisor, including virtual advisors who make it easy to get people started from the comfort of their home.”

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 Americans split evenly by generation (500 Gen Z, 500 millennials, 500 Gen X and 500 baby boomers) was commissioned by Prudential between March 23 and March 28, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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About the Author

Sophia Naughton

Meet StudyFinds’ Associate Editor, Sophia Naughton. Sophia graduated Magna Cum Laude from Towson University with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication directly focused in journalism and advertising. She is also a freelance writer for Baltimore Magazine. Outside of writing, her best buddy is her spotted Pit Bull, Terrance.

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