Americans are enjoying expanded access to retirement accounts—but do they know what to do with them?
While state legislatures create new 401(k)-like retirement vehicles to address the retirement crisis, a new study from Wells Fargo suggests that the people already saving for retirement have little idea what to do within those accounts—and they're looking to government, not the financial services industry, for help.
The vast majority of respondents, 82 percent of those pre-retirement and 73 percent of current retirees, said that the U.S. is in the midst of a full-fledged retirement crisis, according to the 2016 Wells Fargo Retirement Study.
The respondents were looking to national leaders, rather than state legislators, to prioritize retirement issues. Almost two-thirds of the pre-retirement respondents, 63 percent, and 73 percent of current retirees said that the incoming president needs to define a retirement policy for everyday Americans.
Wells Fargo’s respondents indicated that they may be using investment strategies that are too conservative—59 percent said that they focus more on avoiding losses within their portfolios than maximizing growth.
When broken down by age, younger generations especially appear to take a too-cautious approach to their retirement, according to the survey. Almost two-thirds of respondents in their 30s, 59 percent, said that they were more interested in downside protection than portfolio growth, while 62 percent of 40-somethings, 58 percent of 50-somethings and 52 percent of those older than 60 agreed with that approach.
All told, 58 percent of the respondents wanted more help with allocating the funds within their 401(k) plans.
The respondents also had issues with consistently saving enough to prepare for their retirement—those 30 and older reported having a median of $40,000 put away for retirement towards a $500,000 median goal. Wells Fargo said that 10 percent of the respondents reported not saving anything at all.
One-third of the respondents said that they have been able to save consistently for retirement—this cohort reported median retirement savings of $150,000, while the rest of the respondents averaged $20,000 in savings.
Respondents who were consistent savers reported starting saving at the age of 25, versus inconsistent savers who said that they started at 33. One of the key differences between consistent and inconsistent savers was access to a 401(k) plan: While 70 percent of consistent savers have had access to 401(k)s, only 51 percent of inconsistent savers said the same.