About a quarter of Americans don’t think they will ever be able to retire comfortably

Jamie BallardData Journalist
September 13, 2021, 2:45 PM UTC

Many Americans across generations and industries now believe they will not have the financial means to retire comfortably.  

A new YouGov poll of more than 15,000 Americans finds that more than one in four (27%) US adults don’t believe they will ever save enough to retire comfortably – a number that is 10 percentage points higher, 37%, among members of Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1981).  

Among Millennials, born between 1982 and 1999, 27% don’t think they’ll ever be in a financial position to retire comfortably. About one-quarter (23%) of Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, and 16% of the adult members of Generation Z, born in 2000 or later, share this opinion.  

Among adult members of Generation Z, who presumably have decades before they would be retiring, 31% say they don’t know at what age they expect they could retire comfortably.  
 
When – if ever – do Americans think they’ll be able to retire comfortably?  

 
One in five Americans (20%) think they’ll retire between the ages of 60 and 65, with 9% of these anticipating they’ll retire at age 65. Another 9% believe they’ll retire between the ages of 66 and 70, while 4% don’t think they’ll retire until they’re in their 70s or older.  

Members of Generation Z (41%) and Millennials (41%) are more optimistic than Gen X’ers (31%) that they’ll retire before turning 66.  

At least one-third of employees in retail, medical and hospitality industries don’t think they will ever be able to retire comfortably 

Employees across different industries tend to view their retirement prospects differently.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially challenging for the retail industry. Record numbers of retail workers have quit their jobs in recent months, citing issues like pay cuts, understaffed stores, and difficult customers. Those who remain tend not to be optimistic about their retirement prospects. Close to two in five (38%) retail workers say they don’t think they will ever be able to retire comfortably.  

Medical and health services employees have also experienced significant challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, including burnoutstaff shortages, and increasing COVID-19 cases as new variants spread throughout the US. An additional challenge may be that 34% also don’t see themselves being able to retire comfortably. 

Employees of other industries are less likely to share this concern. Those who work in the financial services industry are among the least likely to say they don’t expect to be able to retire comfortably, at 18%. A similar percentage of those who work in media / marketing / advertising / PR (21%), IT & telecommunications (21%), and manufacturing (22%) also don’t anticipate they’ll be able to retire comfortably at any age.  

Methodology: 15,570 US adults were surveyed August 18 – 25, 2021. The responding samples are weighted to be representative of the US population.   

Image: Getty