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3 top retirement regrets to banish

August 30, 2019

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With the possibility of new rules on retirement funds, business reporters should tackle the topic. ("Look left, look right" image by Franck Michel via Flickr, CC BY 2.0)
Business reporters can help their readers find ways to be proactive to save for the future by asking these two questions. (“Look left, look right” image by Franck Michel via Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

The three “legs” on the traditional retirement planning model—Social Security, pensions, and personal savings—have been wobbly for awhile. The future stability of Social Security benefits is challenged, pensions aren’t being offered to most U.S. workers today, and savings for many retirees isn’t sufficient. 

What to do? Correct your retirement planning mistakes now—don’t have regrets later.

Not surprisingly, more than half, or 55%, of retirees surveyed in a recent online poll have big regrets when it comes to retirement planning.Global Atlantic surveyed about 4,200 Americans 40 and over in their December 2018 “Retirement Spending Study,” and found that the biggest regret for retirees was not having saved enough. Two in every four (39%) of retirees admitted they are spending more than expected in retirement, and more women (62%) than men (47%) admitted they had regrets.  

Business writers can help their readers—even those already in retirement—by reporting on how to banish one or more of the top three regrets in retirement now.

Not saving enough for retirement

The older you are when you start saving for retirement, the more you’ll need to save. The rule of thumb for older workers to save is up to 20% of your salary, according to this report from the Stanford Center on Longevity. If you’re over 50, you can save up to $24,000 in a 401(k) plan, and another $6,500.

That number is in the ozone for most workers, but the point is to get started if you haven’t. Ask a financial planner and a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a personal finance designation to crunch the target number for pre-retirees in five-year increments starting at 25.  Assemble a panel of readers 40 and over, and include both retirees and pre-retirees.

Ask how much they are saving, and how, to develop this story. What options are those already in retirement considering to close their savings shortfall?  

Relying too much on Social Security

The drum keeps beating on delaying Social Security benefits beyond the full retirement age, but most retirees start tapping benefits at 62; only 4% wait until 70. Ask the retirees on your panel when they started benefits—and when they wish they had—and ask those still working when they plan to start. 

The SSA faces a long-term financing challenge, according to their 2019 annual report. Have your panel’s financial planner or CPA run the numbers by various ages.  

Not paying down debt before retiring

How can pre-retirees make retirement more comfortable? By paying down debt before they retire. The median debt of retirees is $52,000 in mortgage debt and $4,000 in non-mortgage debt, according to the most recent numbers from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.

But if you’re in one of the 10 most populous states where Global Atlantic conducted an oversample (California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, Michigan, and New Jersey), your readers are likely carrying a heavier debt burden because of the higher cost of living.  


  • Dorianne Perrucci

    Since 2001, Dorianne's freelance bylines have appeared in leading print and digital news outlets, including The New York Times, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, TheStreet.com, The Star-Ledger and NJ Biz. During the financial crisis of 2007-2009, Do...

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