If saving for retirement were graded, most Americans would want to hide their report cards.
A majority would give themselves a "C" grade or lower, and a third of those in their 40s and 50s would give themselves failing grades, according to a new study conducted by Harris Poll for TD Ameritrade.
About 53% of those in their 50s have less than $100,000 saved and just 12% of respondents ages 60 to 79 have at least $1 million stashed away, according to the study, which surveyed 2,000 adults ages 40 to 79.
The study says unforeseen events could bring on retirement sooner than expected, leaving most Americans unhappy with their preparations. Half say they retired earlier than they would have liked.
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Eighty-one percent are shifting their financial strategy to prepare for a longer lifespan. Younger groups favor 401(k) plans for retirement vehicles, the study says, while IRAs and annuities are more popular among those in their 70s.
“People are living longer, which puts pressure on their nest egg,” says Matt Sadowsky, director of retirement and annuities at TD Ameritrade. “The best retirement plans should prevent unexpected risks from impacting long-term goals.”
A number of roadblocks have hindered retirement preparation for some. Nearly half of those in their 40s have withdrawn money from their retirement accounts because of unexpected life events. Only one in three ages 50 to 79 take advantage of catch-up contributions to their 401(k) and/or IRA accounts.
Roughly 60% don’t plan to cut back on spending until they retire while nearly 70% wish they had started saving earlier.
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Younger generations are less likely to rely on Social Security benefits, the study says.
Forty-nine percent of those in their 40s say they will rely on Social Security compared with 72% of those in their 70s who do. Seventy-year-olds wish they had gotten an IRA and hadn’t gone into personal debt for their kids.
When putting together a retirement plan, "must-have" expenses should take precedence over "nice-to-haves," according to Sadowsky.
"If your 'need-to-haves' are covered by income like Social Security, pensions and annuities, then you will feel more confident about investing for your 'nice-to-haves,'" Sadowsky says.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Retirement planning: Americans give themselves 'C' or lower