Poll: Third of Americans have less than $5,000 in retirement savings

MILWAUKEE — Anxiety over retirement and how to support oneself after calling it a career is impacting many Americans. A recent poll found that one in three adults has less than $5,000 in retirement savings.

The survey of 2,003 Americans aged 18 or older by Northwestern Mutual also showed that about one in five adults have nothing saved for their elder years at all. To get a representative sample, results were weighted to Census targets for education, age and gender, race and ethnicity, region, and household income.

Ben Franklin's eye on $100 bill
Anxiety over retirement and how to support oneself after calling it a career is impacting many Americans. A recent poll found that one in three adults has less than $5,000 in retirement savings.

Perhaps most alarmingly, 33 percent of Baby Boomers, the generation closest to retirement, have between zero and $25,000 saved.

Most Americans are worried about what the future holds: 78 percent of study participants said they feel “extremely” or “somewhat” concerned about affording a comfortable retirement. Two-thirds of respondents said they fear outliving their retirement savings, while 46 percent said they have taken no steps to prepare in the event that actually happens.

“As financial implications of retirement become increasingly complex, inertia just isn’t an option,” says Rebekah Barsch, vice president of planning for Northwestern Mutual, in a press release. “The good news is that it’s rarely too late to start. In fact, we often compare financial and physical fitness because the hardest part is taking the first step. However, once people commit to a strategy and start seeing positive results, they’re motivated to meet and even exceed their goals.”

Meanwhile, when it came to Social Security, three-quarters of respondents said they thought it was either “not at all likely” (24 percent) or “somewhat likely” (51 percent)  that those benefits will be there for them when retire.

“Continuing to work later in life should be a personal choice not a mandatory requirement for survival,” continued Barsch. “Proactive financial planning can be the difference between a desired and a default retirement lifestyle.”

The research is part of Northwestern Mutual’s 2018 Planning and Progress Study, an annual research project exploring Americans’ attitudes and behaviors toward money.


  1. Can’t save when we have to support the Federal, State, County and City government(s) that have MASSIVE pensions.

    1. Can’t save when we let every Tom, Dick and Harry into the country and provide illegal havens for criminals every where. Tell the government to stick up their azz.

    2. That is a fallacy. Government pension programs are funded mostly by the employee and you must meet stringent requirements regarding age and years of service. Even then if you put in a full career you may see only about 60% of your highest average salary over the years. Don’t blame government pension plans for your inability to save for your own retirement. That is your responsibility, no one else’s.

      1. The ’employee’ is funded by the taxpayers and the benefits are paid out far longer, as “government” employees get to retire after only 20-25 years… so we have people ‘retiring’ at age 46, who are a drain on the system for longer than they worked.

    3. PRECISELY. And not only do these leeches get absurdly inflated pension and healthcare benefits, they draw social security checks… essentially double-dipping while we pay for it.

        1. You and I have a different definition of what is ‘contributing’. Government pay, pensions and yes, even SS to government workers is a net drain on the system. It just is. All of that money comes directly from taxes collected on those who actually produce things.

  2. Don’t worry. The folks who were rolling in the mud in the 60’s and 70’s will come for the money the rest of us saved. Plan to fail? No, FAIL TO PLAN. Hands off you socialists!

  3. If true, then those that have planned and sacrificed will be robbed at the tip of a pencil by the tax man.

    1. You’re exactly right. Those of us that have scrimped, saved and planned will be robbed by the Government to support those that didn’t.

    1. When they turn 65 and out of a job without a pension, they will just look back a blame someone else for not forcing them to save for retirement when they are no longer needed, or wanted, in the workforce.

  4. In the group 18 to 25 I would be surprised if they have $500 in retirement savings. In that age group you live on your paycheck or you are paying off car payments. So, why is that group even in the counting?

    1. I started retirement savings at 22. I did not live on my paycheck but under it. How does the math work if you live on your paycheck? Try spending less!
      It doesn’t get any easier when you have kids or those kids go to college. It is never easier to save than when you are young. The $500 a year you might put away will be many times more when you retire as long as you dont’ have government spending overtaxing it or causing inflation to gut it. More to the point it is the habit that has value

    2. Exactly. Dumb study. The vast majority of people under 30 have less than $5K in savings. The boomer number is interesting though.

    3. My daughter and her husband are not yet 25. They have fully funded retirement accounts this year along with personal savings. They worked to get through school debt free. They drive beater cars instead of driving a payment, they shop sales for groceries…they live below their means. I hope they are able one day to live and give generously and retire in financial peace!!

  5. Big Leftist states are facing a public employee pension fund time bomb.
    California’s CALPERS has gone from a $400 billion shortfall to $1 trillion, just under Gov. Moonbeam’s watch.
    Illinois is currently moving legislation to impose an additional 1% annual property tax for 30 years…and, that’s just for starters.
    The Leftists’ plan is to tax your property (and retirement funds) to pay for their bankrupt Ponzi schemes…but, even that will never be enough.
    More takers than makers never works.

    1. And yet, if you dare to confront ANYONE about their FAT pensions, they get all “haughty” and claim THEY WORKED for their retirement! (Like, the rest of us were just working to pass the time?) WE ALL WORKED but those of us in private industry had NO FAT GUARANTEED RETIREMENT PLANS that GO UP AUTOMATICALLY EVERY YEAR!

      A guy put in 20 years in the military and retired at $4,600 a month; he then went to work for a government agency for a few months (mostly drinking coffee and complaining) and got another $1,800 a month pension. His wife gets $3,200 a month from HER government pension program.

      So, they are receiving $9,600 a month and claim they are “just barely scraping by.” They live in a fabulous golf course community, go on cruises, belong to a country club, drive a luxury car, she shops at Nordstrom’s, and they go out to eat whenever they like.

  6. There must be huge differences in communities, because my friends and family always mention their IRA accounts or other retirement plans. Pretty much everyone on my Dad’s side, they are ethnic Chinese, maxes out their IRA contribution every year. I’m always getting lectured for choosing a standard IRA rather than a Roth IRA. Personally I don’t trust the promise it will be tax free in the 30 or so years until I retire. I’d rather take it now and not trust they won’t change the rules later.

      1. Congratulations on being an advisor. What’s the next career step after fogging up a mirror?

  7. Americans are taxed to death to support public pensions…they have little left after paying a tax on their every move

  8. Dont forget to factor in that most men get crushed by divorce and child support during their peak earning years

        1. No, I’m not bashing men. I said “either way.” Both genders. Only two there as well.

  9. A survey of Americans “18 and older”….Uh, how about you only poll Americans 40 or older to get a more accurate view of the “crisis?” Most people under 30 have very little savings for retirement, because they’re too busy paying off their excessive student loans, paying off their wedding or buying a house. Not to mention buying cars, electronics ($1000 iPhones) and vacations they can’t afford. But that wouldn’t make news then, would it? Jeez, when I was 24, I maybe had $1000 saved for retirement….MAYBE. More like when I was 27. But once I paid off the student loans, and made a better living, now I have kids in college and we have about

    1. the survey breaks it down by age cohorts as well.
      1/3 of baby boomers, roughly people from 58-73 have between 0-$25k which is really bad

      1. Break it down by race and then you see why race is more than just skin color and why demographics matter. You also see why they are incapable of running their own nations in a serious way. Ah yes, those hateful things called facts.

  10. These are Millennials who are being told by Bernie and Hillary that everything is going to be free.

    1. Same folks who spend $60/week at Starbucks, but can’t save $10/wk for retirement. I guess it shows their priorities.

      1. where did your $10/wk figure come from? did you mean $100/wk which loosely translates into $5,000?

        1. But they think nothing of spending $240/month at Starbucks for coffee, $100/month on their cell phone, $80 jeans, and on and on. But they can’t save for retirement.

  11. As an advisor since 1997, I am completely prepared for retirement. I have yet to meet anyone under 75 that is. A real tragic scenario is about to unfold in the next 10 years and it is truly sad. Keep your debt, keep your “left VS right” politics, keep your facebook and twitter, keep your NFL/NBA/MLB, and keep doing what you are doing. Me, well, don’t worry about me. I was on Wall Street and, well, the rest goes without saying. Donald Trump is the least of Americas problems. Matter of fact, it’s a manifestation. If you don’t like your America, look in the mirror. You’re probably in debt, vote for one of the two controlling parties, have a “fave” sports team, hold a smartphone like a security blanket, most likely obese or close to it, and guaranteed to be in debt. You. Are. America.

    1. What type of “advisor” ? What firm, Wal-Mart? Can’t believe you have yet to meet anyone prepared unless you’re hanging out at the Dollar General. I am. Know others who are too.

    2. Well, aren’t YOU just the special one??? Look down your nose much? Some folks live to travel; some live for books, art, and music; some live for sports; some live to support a hobby; some live to support their family members; some live to the best of their ability, but there are odds against them (like being handicapped, or chronically ill)! But, YOU live to gaze down your nasty nose!

      Wow, are you a snot! Calling others fat, and stupid, and in debt, and worrying about their country is STUPID? You are a real piece of work!

  12. I have heard that if you have $10 in your pocket and no debt you are richer than 25% of all Americans. Not sure that’s accurate but I wouldn’t doubt it.

    1. Between student loans, car loans, mortgages, credit cards, and so on, it’s more than likely to be true. And that $10 will swiftly be spent on something frivolous, like a large froufrou “coffee” beverage, if you give it to most people these days.

    1. Why? The problem doesn’t start at 65, 50, 40…it starts with the first paycheck when one decides other stuff is more important than savings. It starts, as others here have described, when one chooses to take on excessive student loans, car payments, weddings that cost so much they have to be paid off over years, cars payments, thinking credit is your friend, etc. It’s pretty easy at any age to find excuses not to save…those under 30 who don’t manage to save are the same ones at 65 who are not prepared for retirement.

    2. My brother-in-law is a CPA and said that you need to start saving for retirement when you get your first paycheck (which at the time he first said that was about age 16) but today that means age 30 or 35 once you get kicked out of your parents home and have to pay for your own existence, food and shelter.

      1. Non whites don’t plan ahead like this. They just spend everything and live hand to mouth, because they know that whitey can always be guilted into paying.

    3. Neither should blacks and hispanics, which is what accounts for most of this “one third”. Just send them all back where they belong.

  13. I have ZERO sympathy!
    These undisciplined dimwits deserve anything they get, and no, I won ‘t be paying a dime for others to retire.
    My own retirement began at age 47, and I set that goal when I was age 14: retire before 50.
    You live beneath your means, save, invest and grow your wealth slowly. It’s simple but hard.

    1. I’m with you. My wife and I both came up in very meager circumstances. My mother was a single parent with 2 boys, one of whom was retarded. We ended up with her parents. My wife was a coal miner’s daughter, sometimes wondering where their next meal would come from.

      I worked 3 jobs in the summer during college, worked in the dining hall during sessions and graduated with zero debt.

      We lived in a very modest home even when we could afford better. We owned 1 new car in 50 years and paid cash. We took a modest vacation about every 5 years. We saved every penny we could get our hands on and continue to do so in our 70’s. My last 10 years of work (until age 70) I was putting away 27% of my gross salary, including employer matching. We invested wisely.

      We just sold our very nice home and purchased a nice home in an upscale retirement community – for cash. We have zero debt.

      As far as taxes, we had a good financial advisor who helped us deal with them as best as possible – and we have paid more than our “fair share” – $239,000 just after retirement.

      So don’t give that crap about not being able to do this. If we could do it, anyone can. Its called DISCIPLINE and PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY,

      1. Amen, brother and congratulations on reaching the promised land, the land with no alarm clocks.. I just retired this year and I am in a similar situation. Like I always say, YOU are responsible for your retirement, no one else.

    2. Oh no no no, you see. What they are doing is using the word “American” to make you think about white people. But what they are really talking about is blacks, hispanics and others that no one actually considers to be “american”. Go to any serious country and throw a non-white american in front of them and tell them it’s an american. They’ll laugh. And rightly so. Yes, there is white poverty, but the rate is only around 10% of the white population historically. And that’s something we can afford as we are a very charitable race. The problem is that our charity has been taken advantage of and it is now stretched to breaking. It is being thrown away and wasted on the trash of the third world, all the while ignoring the fact that these “people” ruined their own nations and will only do the same here. IQ is genetic, it does not change. It cannot be taught. Culture and values are an expression of race. IQ and race are linked. This is just nature.

      White crime rates are so low because for centuries we had a culture which emphasized a DEATH PENALTY for even mundane offenses. Every single year, 1-2% of the population was culled and executed. Violence was bred out of us. We became a very tolerant, cohesive society. We are now under assault by primitives and barbarians that want nothing more than “free stuff” and to live off the fat of the land. We have been brainwashed and conditioned into accepting that this is “normal”.

      Ask any surviving WW2 vet if this is the world they fought for. The answer will be universal. The wrong side won WW2.

      1. Look up the Cloward-Pivin strategy and you will see that their suggested plan is happening to America today. Basically, they suggested opening up all manner of welfare and social programs to the point that the economy could no longer sustain them through taxation. That opens the door for socialism to take over.

    3. We’re in our 30’s, with a house full of young kids. Neither of us identifies as “millennial”, although I think I am technically considered one. The shame of being lumped up with those entitled snowflakes burns!

      We have some debt because of our mortgage and vehicles, but our house is approaching the point of more equity than we owe for it already, and we’ve refinanced to take advantage of this fact, because we bought in an up and coming area before it was up and coming (I used my brain and available resources and made an educated guess on the location), and we don’t do Disney World or Hawaii annually, nor do we visit relatives on the east coast for every holiday like most people in a similar life situation to ours that we know, and our vacations are “staycations” for a long weekend.

      We would rather help pay air fare for one or two grandparents to come stay in our guest room in stead of flying our big family over the other way with car rentals and hotel fare and so on adding up, because dollars all add up fast. I’m my car’s third owner, and could have afforded paying for it in cash, but as a recent immigrant, need to keep a nominal monthly payment running to build a credit score, so I spend a little of my personal budget on my car. My husband’s commuter is a lease, as he can expense it. If we needed to downsize expenses fast, we’d keep and pay off my car and get rid of the lease. Spare cash and possible bonuses go into the mortgage principal, stock portfolio, or 401k, per a ratio we agreed on together, based on return of investment, and its impact on our long term financial stability.

      The difference our attitude to money compared to our peers makes is we will own our home and cars within 3 years from now (saving us almost $400k in interest payments) rather than 30 years, and we have enough savings to keep us going for several months if we have a loss of employment or health crisis and don’t get back into the workforce overnight. Our goal is to be able to afford to retire “before 50”, but we’ll probably keep on working on something until we’re old and rickety, because we’re the type of people who get really bored just being idle.

  14. Why is it my concern that non-whites are incapable of planning ahead or exhibiting low-time preference? Because let’s stop pretending that we’re not talking about blacks and hispanics. Because that’s what we are talking about.


    Everybody says there is this RACE problem. Everybody says this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY white country and ONLY into white countries.

    The Netherlands and Belgium are just as crowded as Japan or Taiwan, but nobody says Japan or Taiwan will solve this RACE problem by bringing in millions of third worlders and quote assimilating unquote with them.

    Everybody says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY white country and ONLY white countries to “assimilate,” i.e., intermarry, with all those non-whites.

    What if I said there was this RACE problem and this RACE problem would be solved only if hundreds of millions of non-blacks were brought into EVERY black country and ONLY into black countries?

    How long would it take anyone to realize I’m not talking about a RACE problem. I am talking about the final solution to the BLACK problem?

    And how long would it take any sane black man to notice this and what kind of psycho black man wouldn’t object to this?

    But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the white race, Liberals and respectable conservatives agree that I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.

    They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-white.

    Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.

  16. 1 in 3 Americans are under 24 years old. Is it really so shocking that 1/3 of Americans would have less that $5k in retirement savings? Would you expect, say, a 10 year old to have any retirement savings? This is just a dumb click-bait article.

    1. Yeah my mom would have said that too a few short years ago….shes not so happy in the medicaid nursing home now. She made a lot of choices through her life to avoid accumulating any savings/wealth (and to actively alienate family who otherwise would have been willing to help care for her). Choices have consequences. Good luck with yours.

  17. For the last 30 years…American politicians, both Dems and Rep, have purposely signed trade deals that have all but gutted manufacturing jobs in this country….killing the middle class and transferring their wealth to China and other third world countries. The wealthy elite in this country do not want a powerful middle class to challenge their grip on political power and influence.

  18. Are they just looking at 401K or net worth? I have zero in a 401K but significant savings plus other assets of value.

  19. Bill Clinton and the Democrats wanted to tax every personal 401k account 15 percent to give to to those who did not save for retirement and punish those who did save.

  20. The left wants to get to your 401ks, it started being discussed about 2 1/2 years ago and got hushed up. Just wait and see – a move will be made.

    1. Illegals, just illegals, cost us over $150b per year. And that is using the fake 11m number.
      Use the real 50m number and it’s around $680b per year lost to illegals existing in our nation.
      Hispanics as a whole are not net contributors, and that is including ONLY the “legal” ones. Meaning they too are a net burden.

      Hispanics run a net deficit on a tax contribution basis of $7,289 per capita.

      Now guess what? Blacks are even worse, it’s a deficit of $10,016 per capita.

      Whites contribute a SURPLUS of $2,795 per capita.

      So, you do the math, how long can this be sustained? Not very long. Whites have already fallen to 56% of the population. Demographics are the only thing that actually matters.

  21. Step One: Trade your expensive automobile for the least expensive (But reliable) car you can find that meets your needs. Treat transportation as you would a utility – You want to pay the least you must pay.

    I could never save money until I moved to Vietnam and sold my car and replaced it with a $4000 Honda motorbike. Gasoline expense per month: $20.00. Full coverage insurance: $100 per year. Savings go in to my retirement investment account.

    Step Two: Kill the lawyers! Americans pay much higher prices for goods and services than they need to due to the “tort premium” (i.e.lawsuit) added to the price of eveything. Quit suing McDonald’s when you find only two pickles instead of three pickles on your hamburger!

  22. I stopped reading at “The survey of 2,003 Americans aged 18 or older…” …. of course the post-millennial crowd (whatever their generation is called) hasn’t saved anything for retirement. They’re still living in Mommy & Daddy’s basement praying for socialized wages; or at least $15/hr flipping burgers until cheaper robots are “employed”

  23. The government will take care of this by taking money from those who have been saving…we’ll have a wealth tax as soon as the next Progressive Congress is elected and a Progressive President will sign the Bill.

  24. While it is a bad situation that so many people have virtually no savings, I don’t think the answer is to scrimp and act like a pauper your whole life on the chance that you’ll live a long time. I know people who live just like, that squirreling away all of their pay checks and refusing to have much fun at all in their prime years. Good luck with that. Many of these people will never be able to change their habits; they’ll die with a small fortune, which will be left to people who will squander it and have a blast doing it.

    The secret to life is balance. If you want to drive a decent car, go for it, but realize you will have to offset that cost in some other way. Same goes for nice vacations, clothes, etc. Have fun, save 10%-20% of your salary from the time you first work, don’t have babies young and out of wedlock, don’t get hooked on drugs, gambling or alcohol–you’ll be fine. Don’t listen to the coots who insist you have to live like a hermit and never spend a nickel in order to be okay.

    1. There you go thinking the average Idiot American can figure out “balance”…….. They are to busy spending money they don’t have on things they really don’t need. This is the result of being spoiled rotten and having to have “it” now, no matter what the cost. We will just buy it on credit and pay for it for the rest of our lives…..

  25. At least the have a 70″ TV, a smart phone, 800 channels of crap, a new $60K car, a huge house, $30K weddings for their daughters, gold club memberships, and a purebred dog!

  26. It’s hard to save for anything when you’re being forced to pay exorbitant health insurance premiums throughout the entirety of your working life. When you do have to utilize the health care system, it adds insult to injury to receive an enormous bill over and above those premiums, while some foreigner waltzes in and gets the same for zip, zero, nada. Not only were we prevented from saving effectively for retirement, but also college costs for our kids. We had to take out parent loans that were federally mandated through Obamacare at usurious rates, but by all means give the Dreamers a free ride. As I contemplate a dotage that may include a pet food regimen, I will thrust my gnarled, quivering middle finger in the air and with a wheeze proclaim a giant “FUCK YOU” to the pilfering malpractice lawyers, pandering politicians, rapacious insurance executives, government employee union bosses, and all manner of social justice pimps. Don’t be offended if I left you out, I’m sure I have an FU somewhere in here for you, too.

    1. No one is forced to take out those awful parent plus loans. There are other ways to get a kid through college. From the time they could understand our kids knew we would never be doing that, nor would we ever co-sign on a loan for them. Guess what happened….they are both through college completely debt free…one with a PHD. The system is ridiculous though….we know parents who are signing parent loansfor their kids but have not yet paid off their own student loans from many years ago. Stupid is as stupid does I guess.

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