Most investors approaching their retirement years say that a traditional retirement won’t be possible for them.

That’s according to a survey of 2,000 investors polled in January by Nationwide Mutual’s retirement research institute, which found that a majority of investors between 55 and 65 years old said they won’t be able to stop working at 65. Most also said they expect to face more challenges in retirement than past generations.

Rethinking retirement

Traditionally, 65 is the target age for retirement, but that’s becoming an increasingly ambitious goal for the average American. People are living a lot longer nowadays, and with the cost of living increasing, workers are struggling to save enough to comfortably live out their golden years.

That’s becoming a major problem in a landscape where personal savings have all but replaced employer-run pensions, which provide guaranteed lifetime income. More than half of U.S. adults overall are concerned they won’t be able to achieve financial security in retirement, according to a report published this year by the National Institute on Retirement Security.

Even pre-retiree investors with at least $10,000 in assets are worried. Nearly 70% of these investors between 55 and 65 said retiring at 65 isn’t realistic for them, according to the Nationwide Mutual survey. A similar share (67%) said they expect to face more challenges in retirement than previous generations.

The pre-retiree investors weren’t very confident about their future Social Security benefits, either. More than a quarter said they expect to receive less Social Security income than previously expected.

“Many of us watched our parents and grandparents enjoy a smooth transition to a secure retirement powered by traditional pension benefits,” Eric Henderson, president of Nationwide Annuity, said in a news release. “Today’s investors are having a tougher time picturing that for themselves as they grapple with inflation and concerns about running out of money in retirement.”

Change of (retirement) plans

As a result of the mounting obstacles to a secure retirement, more than 40% of the pre-retiree investors polled said they would keep working in retirement out of necessity. They also reported that their retirement plans have changed within the past year, with 22% saying they now expect to retire later than planned.

That tracks with 2023 research from Pew Research Center, which found that that 19% of Americans 65 and older were participating in the workforce compared to 11% a few decades ago. A September study from investment management firm T. Rowe Price similarly found that 20% of retirees have returned to work either full- or part-time.

That’s not all older adults are doing to pad their retirement income, though. More than a quarter of the pre-retiree investors polled by Nationwide said they plan to live frugally to bankroll their retirement goals, with 41% reporting that they’re avoiding nonessentials like vacations, jewelry and shopping sprees to save more.

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