A significant shift has occurred in the financial concerns of American workers and their employers in recent years. Traditionally, retirement readiness held the top spot on the list of financial worries. However, a new contender has emerged, overshadowing even the critical aspect of retirement planning: the escalating cost of living. This change in priority, highlighted by a survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), reflects the economic upheavals experienced since 2020.
The EBRI Study’s Eye-Opening Findings
The EBRI’s study, which has been tracking employer concerns for six years, reveals a notable trend. Employers offering financial wellness programs are now observing a shift in focus among their employees. Concerns about healthcare costs, budgeting, money management, and daily living expenses are increasingly taking precedence over retirement preparation. This is the first time in the survey’s history that cost of living issues have topped retirement readiness as the primary financial concern.
A Nationwide Concern: The Cost of Living Crisis
This trend isn’t isolated. A study by the CFP Board earlier this year found that 90% of Americans are worried about the cost of living. Inflation and price increases are significant concerns for 89% and 87% of respondents. Interestingly, 34% reported saving more for retirement in the past year despite these worries.
Bank of America’s 13th annual Workplace Benefits Report echoes these findings. It revealed that 67% of employees feel the increase in living expenses overshadows any salary or wage increases, a significant jump from 58% in early 2022. Even with inflation at its lowest in nearly two years, the prices continue to rise, albeit slower.
Balancing Inflation and Retirement Goals
A sustainable inflation rate is between 2% and 3%, with the Federal Reserve aiming for 2%. While Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has not dismissed further interest rate hikes to combat inflation, individuals must reassess their retirement savings strategies in light of these economic fluctuations.
Fidelity suggests saving milestones based on age:
- A year’s salary by 30
- Three years’ salary by 40
- Six years’ salary by 50
- Eight years’ salary by 60
- Ten years’ salary by 67
These are, however, general guidelines and may vary based on individual circumstances.
Revisiting Retirement Planning in Today’s Economy
The surge in living costs over the past two years has strained budgets for many Americans, leading some to reduce or halt their retirement savings. As the situation stabilizes, it’s vital to refocus on retirement planning, ensuring adequate savings for the future.
Retirement Planning Tips in a High-Cost Era
Consulting a financial advisor can be instrumental in developing a comprehensive retirement plan tailored to the current economic climate. Additionally, understanding the tax implications of your retirement plan can significantly impact your long-term financial health.
While the cost of living has recently overshadowed retirement preparedness as a top financial concern, it’s crucial not to lose sight of the long-term goal: a secure and comfortable retirement. By adapting your financial strategies to the current economic landscape and seeking professional advice, you can navigate these challenging times while keeping your retirement aspirations on track.