The Top 5 Retirement Concerns

What Are Your Top Retirement Concerns?

Do you have retirement concerns?  If you’re like most Americans, the answer is yes. 85% of Americans have financial anxiety, according to this study from Northwestern Mutual.   We all have concerns.  It’s natural, and an expected part of our mental make up.  Concerns can escalate as folks approach retirement, and that’s ok, too.  What’s important is to think about those things that worry you the most, and determine if there are steps you can take to reduce your anxiety.

Today’s article will highlight the top retirement concerns, and share some ideas to reduce your anxiety.  One thing is clear, most of us need to reduce our anxiety:


Northwestern Mutual just published a fascinating study, based on 2,646 individuals surveyed earlier this year. That study forms the basis of this article.  Anxiety Is Increasing according to the study, with 36% saying anxiety has gone up in the last 3 years.  That’s long after the last “market crash” in 2008, so something else is going on.  Demographics are shifting older, and folks are starting to worry more.

The Negative Impact Of Anxiety

This increasing anxiety is impacting folk’s well-being, as demonstrated by these responses from the study:


Stop for a minute and re-read that list, slowly.

Moods  –  Happiness  –  Ability to Pursue Dreams  –  Health  –  Home Life  –   Social Life  –  Career.

All negatively impacted by financial anxiety.

Aren’t those the things that life is about?


Moods  –  Happiness  –  Ability to Pursue Dreams  –  Health  –  Home Life  –   Social Life  –  Career.

How concerning should it be that 2 out of every 3 Americans feel their anxiety is negatively impacting so many areas of their LIFE?  Those are fundamental cornerstones of a well rounded and enjoyable life.  It should be concerning, but folks just don’t seem to talk about it.  I’m concerned about it, so I’ve decided to do something about it.

The Top Retirement Concerns

I’ve decide to write about something that folks seem hesitant to talk about, and will use this article to write about the Top Retirement Concerns that many of us have.  It’s a topic we should all talk about.  We should work together to share ideas and approaches to these common problem areas.  Along with each concern, I’ll share a few ideas on steps you can take now to minimize the anxiety.

This article will talk about the things folks aren't talking about - your financial anxieties. Share on X

Here, then, are the top retirement concerns from the previously mentioned Northwestern study:


The Top 5 Concerns Folks Have About Retirement, & What You Can Do About Them. Share on X

The Top 5 Retirement Concerns


1. Fear Of The Unexpected

Having an unexpected medical expense, or other financial emergencies, is a common retirement concern among ~35% of respondents.   Major unplanned expenses can be devastating to your financial situation, and folks worry about it. The reality is that there is no way to know the future, and the uncertainty of retirement spending is one of the things that makes it so difficult.

To Minimize The Anxiety:  Prioritize the building of your Emergency Savings, with a target to build 6 months of living expenses in a safe, liquid account.  If you’re already in retirement, increase your Emergency Savings to 12-36 months of spending, depending on your risk tolerance. I know you’ve heard that before, but have you done anything about it?


2. Insufficient Savings For Retirement

The second highest response was worry about saving for retirement, with 32% of respondents citing this retirement conern.  I’m surprised it’s not higher, to be transparent.  Any and all working Americans should be focused on saving for retirement.  It’s a huge challenge, and it must be taken seriously.

To Minimize The Anxiety:  Don’t just worry about it, do something about it.  Increase your automated savings into a retirement account by 1% this month.  If you don’t have an automated savings structure in place, then set one up this month.  Increase the amount of your automated savings by 80% of your next raise.  Do it for the next three years. Make it a priority to save, while you still have time.


3. Outliving My Retirement Savings

None of us know how long we will live (“longevity risk“).  This makes the anxiety of “Outliving My Retirement Savings” an entirely reasonable retirement concern.   None of us want to run out of money before we run out of life, but how can we know for sure?  In reality, we can’t.  There are, however, logical steps we can take to minimize this risk.

To Minimize The Anxiety:  For starters, use a conservative “Withdrawal Rate”.  (note to self – write a future article on withdrawal strategies).  In our retirement planning, we’re targeting a 3% withdrawal rate, which is down from the “historically” safe 4% rate.  I’m concerned with today’s low interest rates (I think they’ll be here a while), and I’m also a bit bearish on my outlook for investment returns.  If outliving your money is a major concern of yours, consider a longevity annuity (give an insurance company money now, in return for guaranteed income later).  Study them fully before investing, but they are a tool that could reduce your anxiety in this area.  (Note:  if I were to begin investing in longevity annuities, I’d likely stagger the investments over the next 5-10 years given the low current interest rates, which reduce future payout guarantees.)


4. Becoming A Financial Burden

None of us want to become a burden to our children.  In my view, a “failed retirement” is one in which a person had a lifetime to prepare for retirement, but chose to ignore their responsibility and ended up being a burden to their children.  I’m compassionate, and realize some folks simply have no choice.  However, I also suspect if you’re reading these words, you’re part of the population that wants to do the right thing.  Take the steps you must take now, and make the necessary sacrifices to prioritize your retirement savings.

To Minimize The Anxiety:  Prioritize your retirement savings over college savings for your children.  While your children can take loans to pay for college, you can’t take out a loan for retirement.  It’s a difficult trade-off, but you’re ultimately giving your children a gift if you’re able to avoid becoming a financial burden.  If you’re coming up short on retirement savings, plan to work longer.  Just realize, there’s a 60% chance you Will Be Forced To Retire Early, so don’t use that as an excuse to avoid taking the steps you should be taking today.

obamacare sickness

5.  An Inability To Afford Healthcare

A justifiable concern, as I noted in Obamacare Is Falling Apart.  18% of respondents cited this retirement concern, and I suspect more folks would be concerned if they knew the realities of the private insurance industry.  This is among the highest concerns my wife and I have as we plan for retirement.  The current rate of insurance premium increases is clearly unsustainable, and no one really knows what’s going to happen.  One thing is for sure, costs are going to go up, and they’re already extremely expensive.

To Minimize The Anxiety:  If you have access to an Health Savings Account (HSA), consider maxing out your annual contributions and paying for your current health expenses “out of pocket”.  This will allow you to build a tax-free buffer to pay for future health care expenses.  Beyond that, make sure your retirement planning has realistic projections about health care cost inflation, and reduce your other spending as necessary to cover this critical element of retirement. Bottom Line:  you need to save more, and spend less in other areas.


My goal with this article is to educate you on the retirement concerns most of us have, and provide a few steps to reduce some of your personal anxiety.  Life is too short to allow financial concerns to reduce the enjoyment you get during the brief time you have on this marble we call Earth.  It’s time that we begin talking more openly about our concerns, and begin taking actions now to reduce the risks and concerns.

What About You?

Do you relate to the concerns outlined above?  Are there other concerns you have?  What are you doing about it? What’s the best advice you’ve received on how we should handle our concerns?  Let’s talk – I look forward to your comments.



  1. Thank you for this article.i worry about this things.since i am retiring early 55y/o.i think i have enough.and also to make my funds last longer decided to retire in the home country.

    Take care

  2. Honestly, health is a huge worry. I am healthy now and try not to worry about the unknowable. I dropped 50-lbs and eat a whole lot better. Hopefully, have reduced some risk factors. We have been working on paying down debt and at least contributing up to the matching point for our retirement. At this point the house will be paid off in about 17-years, I will have a decent SS payment, and with our retirement we should be okay as long as we don’t have a major hiccup.

    Great article and great points. Do what you can with what you can. Do your best. That is all you can do.
    cd :O)

    1. Chris, CONGRATS on losing 50 pounds – impressive! You’re doing what you can do, which is the main point of the article. It sounds like you’re doing the right things, and now all you need is time (compounding) and continued good fortune. Thanks for providing a “living example”, and congratulations again on the weight loss!

  3. The real answer for all of these is you need to take action early in life by building the emergency fund, preparing for your retirement decades before you need it and communicating with your family so they know what to expect. Unfortunately with health care if we don’t take actions now we’ll pay even more in the future – some will pay financially and others will pay with lack of access to quality health care.

    1. Bert, a clean and concise summary, well written. The earlier you start, the better your chances. I started my next article today (The 4 Keys To Building Wealth), and there’s no doubt that the earlier you start, the easier it is. I agree with the health care concerns. Unfortunately, there’s no much any one of us can do to influence the health care industry. We can all learn from Chris and do what we can do within our own lives to make ourselves as healthy as possible. Thanks for your comment, and the reminder on starting early and communicating the plan with loved ones!

  4. That I won’t live at least 30 years in retirement. I don’t believe retirement income will be an issue; I simply want as much time as possible to enjoy it.

  5. Good points.

    My personal fear for retirement is the fear for the unknown. As is, What will I do all day long, how will I make my days meaningful.

  6. Fear of the unknown, especially without us having children, is a big concern. Not that having children provides any guarantee but it does offer a potential safety net for knowing at least one younger person who will look out for you.

    Championing for my mother (now gone) and my aunt (her twin, still with us), has been extremely complicated. If you don’t have a mouthpiece, who will fight for you? Social security, medicare, and everything surrounding health insurance is a never-ending maze. Dealing with issues of dementia, on top, opens up a different Pandora’s box. My brother and I fear inheriting that from both parents. You know how your Dad started giving his heirlooms to you? When Mr. Groovy and I reach a yet-to-be-determined age, if our nest egg holds up, we want to start divesting it away to the nieces and nephews (and other charities). I’d rather get the enjoyment while I’m alive (or while I still have my marbles) than preserve it.

    1. Touching comments, Mrs. Groovy. I can imagine your concerns, esp without having children. It sounds like you’re fortunate to have good relations with Nieces and Nephews, foster that. Great idea to follow my Dad’s example on the heirlooms, give while you have the pleasure of giving.

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