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. 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.

  1. 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.

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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”

  7. 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.

  8. 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…..

      1. To be fair, I was not addressing my comment to those without any common sense.

  9. 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!

  10. 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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