What keeps you up at night?
A work project. A prodigal child. Car repairs. Finding the right spouse. Paying bills. Past mistakes. Future decisions. Terrorism. Climate change. Politics. If you’re reading this article, you’re probably anxious about something.
And if you’re losing sleep over retirement, you’re in good company.
What the Numbers Say
In 2016, my team commissioned a survey of more than 1,000 adults to see how they’re doing with their retirement savings, including the emotions they feel when they think about that phase of their lives. The results tell us that lots of people are worried. Here’s what we discovered:
- 56% of Americans lose sleep thinking about their retirement, and they say they’re anxious about that chapter of their lives.
- 61% of people who are actively saving for retirement lose sleep because it’s on their minds, compared to 49% of people who aren’t putting any money away.
- 80% of those who feel ashamed, guilty or embarrassed about retirement stay up thinking about it.
The research is clear: Retirement isn’t just about dollars and numbers. It affects people on an emotional level—for better or for worse. Even people who have money in their retirement fund are stressed and anxious. What’s that about?
Saving Without a Game Plan
Most people assume that if they’re saving for retirement, they won’t be stressed. But that’s not what the research shows. It turns out that saving for retirement isn’t just about saving money. It’s about knowing what you’re aiming for—how much money you want to have—and knowing how you’ll get there. Just investing a percentage of your income doesn’t make you feel confident that you’re on the right track.
- 63% of confident retirement savers say they spend time working on a plan for their financial future.
- Confident retirement savers are most likely to have a specific retirement goal.
- 73% of Americans who are confident about their retirement know what steps they need to take to reach their goal.
Did you notice the pattern? People feel confident about retirement because they have a goal in mind, know what they need to do to get there, and put a plan in place to actually reach their goal. The research makes it clear that saving toward retirement isn’t enough; you have to have a plan, or else you’re still going to be stressed and anxious about your future.
Move From Anxiety and Stress to Confidence
So how do you get rid of the anxiety and replace it with excitement? First, you need to dream. What do you want to do in retirement? Do you want to travel? Open up a small business? Volunteer with your favorite nonprofit? Envisioning what you want your golden years to look like is the best place to start. Once you’ve done that, look at how much money you already have in your investments. Then, once you’ve got a good idea of where you are and a vision for where you want to be, you can begin to close the gap. It’s in your hands!
How fast you move is up to you. If you want to speed things up, take a look at your budget, find areas where you can trim down your expenses, and throw that extra money in your retirement savings. You might even consider taking a second job for a while or downsizing your home, depending on how aggressive you want to be about meeting your goal.
Don’t feel bad if you decide to make some serious sacrifices now to get your retirement savings rolling. It might feel tough now, but when you see your 401(k) numbers climbing, your confidence will go up. You’ll sleep better at night too.
And that’s a great feeling.