Millennials expect more than half of their retirement money to come from personal means — but 42% haven’t even started saving yet

Young people work laptop
Working through retirement could become the norm for millennials. Stock Rocket/Shutterstock

A retirement crisis has been looming in the US for some time. As more Americans grow older and live longer, the prospect of a traditionally secure retirement plan funded primarily by employers and the government has become something of folklore to younger generations.

In fact, a new report from Merrill Lynch and Age Wave found that 52% of millennials (US adults aged 25 to 39) believe the nation’s mounting financial inequality has rendered a secure retirement a luxury afforded to only a select few. By contrast, 47% of Gen Xers and just 30% of baby boomers, the parents’ of millennials, consider a secure retirement unattainable.

The report, which surveyed nearly 5,000 people age 25 and above, revealed that aside from the nation’s current retirees — primarily the silent generation (those older than 70) — every other generation anticipates relying significantly on personal means to fund their retirement, and each one at a higher clip than the previous generation.

While millennials, the youngest generation surveyed, expect 65% of their retirement funding to come from personal means, 42% haven’t yet started squirrelling away money. Moreover, they plan to continue working into retirement, anticipating income from a job will make up nearly one-fourth (24%) of their overall retirement fund. The remainder, they presume, will come from savings and investments (29%), government programs (21%), employers (14%), and family (12%).

“Changing financial realities, combined with new life trajectories that emphasise longer careers, will make working in retirement the new norm for many,” Kirstin Hill, head of personal retirement solutions at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told Business Insider.

“To best prepare, there are steps millennials can be taking now to position themselves for an ideal work situation in the future, such as mapping out longer-term career goals, planning ahead for any investments in education or training, and learning as much as possible about flexible career options and new paths,” she said.

Meanwhile, boomers are planning on 40% of their retirement money coming from personal sources — about the same amount they expect to get from government funding — while Gen X expects 55% will come from personal means and 29% from the government.

With the average cost of retirement now up to $US738,400 — more than the combined cost of a college education, raising a child from birth to age 18, and buying a home, according to the study — it’s likely the most expensive purchase most Americans will ever make.

And though all generations surveyed say they should be earmarking about 25% of their after-tax, disposable income for retirement, the average annual savings rate is just 5.7%, according to the Federal Reserve. Survey respondents overwhelmingly attribute their paltry savings to not having enough money left after covering basic expenses and paying down debt.

In total, 56% of the US adult population has less than $US10,000, or nothing at all, saved for retirement.

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