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Pre-Retirees And Retirees Happy, Optimistic, New Study From The Hartford, MIT AgeLab Finds

December 6, 2011

Categories:
Wealth Management

Despite economic uncertainty, Age of Opportunity study reveals the retirement experience may be even better than expected for some

HARTFORD, Conn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Americans' trademark optimism is intact, at least in regard to retirement, despite the economic turbulence that is reportedly forcing many people to work longer and make do with less. In fact, many retirees found only one downside: They wish they could have done it sooner. That's according to a new survey from The Hartford and MIT AgeLab.

The October 2011 Age of Opportunity study, which measured the opinions and concerns of Americans both in and approaching retirement, found that most retirees are pleased with their life, and both pre-retirees and retirees have a positive attitude about retirement overall:

  • Retirees are more likely to say "I am happier now that I am retired" (77 percent) than those who have yet to retire are to say "I will be happier after I retire" (64 percent).
  • Other than wishing they could retire earlier (35 percent of pre-retirees), or could have retired earlier (42 percent of retirees), many recent and soon-to-be retirees see few negatives about retiring.
  • Twenty-six percent of those nearing retirement said they feel "hopeful" about retirement, while 27 percent of those who have recently retired say they feel "peaceful."
  • Among those who did find something less than positive about the next phase of their lives, dealing with medical or health issues was cited most often (21 percent for both pre-retirees and retirees).
  • Among retirees, the more affluent are twice as likely as others to cite giving up a fulfilling career as a negative to retirement.

The study, conducted by GfK Roper for The Hartford and the MIT AgeLab, surveyed people who are within 10 years of retiring versus those who have retired within the last 10 years, and attempted to answer the question, "Does the reality of retirement match expectations?"

"We really wanted to take a holistic look at retirement," said David Levenson, president of The Hartford's Wealth Management Division. "The study found that despite economic pressures, most people are positive, confident and very happy to be retired, although most wished they had been better prepared financially."

Better to be Healthy

Most pre-retirees and retirees cite health or medical issues as the thing they worry most about impacting their retirement. Health is definitely top of mind. Other health-related findings include:

  • If they could change one aspect of retirement, retirees say they would have saved more money or been better prepared financially (32 percent), but they also wish they'd paid more attention to the importance of health issues (13 percent).
  • When asked how long they would like to live, most said "as long as I am healthy" (80 percent of pre-retirees, 75 percent of retirees). In contrast, just 3 percent of pre-retirees and 4 percent of retirees said they would prefer to live as long as their money lasts.
  • Retirement-age Americans see themselves living a very long time. Many expect to make it into their 90s (29 percent of pre-retirees, 35 percent of retirees).
  • Although many retirees (48 percent) and most pre-retirees (63 percent) say their spouse is the person most likely to care for them if they become chronically ill, few (11 percent of pre-retirees and 10 percent of retirees) say their top concern is caring for a spouse or family member impacting their retirement.

"Today's retiree is redefining what retirement is — and isn't — and the Age of Opportunity Study suggests that people near retirement, or recently retired, have optimistic yet realistic expectations," said Joseph Coughlin, Ph.D., founder and Director of the MIT AgeLab. "These findings indicate that companies, organizations and families must redefine how they engage this next-generation retiree to help them envision and plan for the financial demands of longevity as well as all the big and little things that make up a happy, healthy and longer life.

Preparing Financially

When it comes to planning, both pre-retirees and retirees said a milestone birthday (19 percent of pre-retirees, 14 percent of retirees) or the realization that they are within 10 years of retiring (15 percent of pre-retirees, 11 percent of retirees) were the two most common triggers for serious financial planning. It also seems that early planning plays off: More affluent retirees — those with $250,000 or more of investable assets — are twice as likely to say they began serious financial planning when they got their first job.

The study also found that retirees and pre-retirees share values of what makes for a comfortable lifestyle. Both groups say they would be willing to give up some "extras" to help make ends meet in retirement, including moving to a more modest home (14 percent of retirees and 21 percent of pre-retirees), driving a less-expensive car (15 percent and 18 percent, respectively), or shopping less (17 percent for both). They were less willing to give up dining out, entertainment and recreational pursuits. Those who are more affluent are even more likely to "trade down" a home or car to preserve other aspects of their lifestyle.

What Makes Retirees Tick?

Americans' independent-mindedness also showed through as the survey found that retirees say they followed their own path, and pre-retirees hope to do the same. When asked what song they'd use to describe the retirement they have, or the one they hope to have, both groups most often chose (I Did It) "My Way."

For more information about The Hartford/MIT AgeLab Age of Opportunity study, visit TheHartford.com/retirementstudy.

Survey Methodology

From Oct. 3-16, 2011, GfK Roper conducted a total of 1,964 telephone interviews with adults 45 years and older using RDD (random digit dialing). To qualify, respondents must have retired in the past 2-10 years ("retiree") or plan to retire in the next 2-10 years ("pre-retiree"). These groups were further divided based on their household's total investable assets, with quotas for under $250,000 and $250,000 or higher.

About The Hartford

The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. (NYSE: HIG) is a leading provider of insurance and wealth management services for millions of consumers and businesses worldwide. The Hartford is consistently recognized for its superior service and as one of the world's most ethical companies. More information on the company and its financial performance is available at www.thehartford.com. Join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TheHartford. Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TheHartford.

About MIT AgeLab

The MIT AgeLab was created in 1999 to invent new ideas and creatively translate technologies into practical solutions that improve people's health and enable them to "do things" throughout the lifespan. Based within MIT's School of Engineering's Engineering Systems Division, the AgeLab has assembled a multi-disciplinary team of researchers, business partners, universities, and the aging community to design, develop and deploy innovations that touch nearly all aspects of how we will live, work and play tomorrow. The Hartford is a founding partner of the MIT AgeLab.

HIG-W

Some of the statements in this release may be considered forward-looking statements as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. We caution investors that these forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance, and actual results may differ materially. Investors should consider the important risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ. These important risks and uncertainties include those discussed in our Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, our 2010 Annual Report on Form 10-K and the other filings we make with the Securities and Exchange Commission. We assume no obligation to update this release, which speaks as of the date issued.

"The Hartford" is The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. and its subsidiaries.

The MIT AgeLab and GfK Roper are not subsidiaries or affiliates of The Hartford.

The views expressed by Dr. Joseph Coughlin are not necessarily those of The Hartford and should not be construed as investment advice. They are subject to change.

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The Hartford
David Potter, 860-843-8993
david.potter@thehartford.com
or
MM2 Public Relations
Annette Rogers, 214-379-3705
annette.rogers@mm2pr.com

Source: The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc.

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