Nearly 30% of households need to reassess retirement income needs

Most U.S. households understand where they stand in terms of retirement readiness and preparation, but just under half are either too worried or not worried enough about shoring up their finances, according to the National Retirement Risk Index (NRRI), an annual data set based on research conducted and compiled by the Boston College Center for Retirement Research (CRR).

“Despite research showing households have large gaps in financial knowledge, nearly three out of five have a good gut sense of their financial situation,” the NRRI conclusion said. “This share has remained relatively constant despite a 2016 change in the [Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF)] survey.”

While this information is encouraging, categorizing households based on financial awareness does not necessarily correlate to the households taking action, the study found.

“Households that are ‘not worried enough’ are the least likely to change their saving or retirement plans,” the report states. “This group accounts for 28% of households, so a significant portion of the population needs to get a better assessment of their retirement income needs. The additional one-fifth of households that do understand their plight may need less convincing to act, but they still must act.”

The assets households have access to before retirement can have a big impact on misperceptions of readiness for those either “too worried” or “not worried enough,” the study shows.

“[O]verconfidence may lead them to underestimate possible risks,” the report states regarding those “not worried enough.”

“Therefore, it is not surprising that households with higher housing debt-to-asset ratios, relatively low asset balances in 401Ks and other defined contribution plans, and two earners but only one saver were more likely to be ‘not worried enough,’” it states.

On the other hand, those classified as “too worried” share a lack of confidence in the strength of capital markets.

“Characteristics that capture these factors – such as risk aversion, married one-earner households, homeowner, and low self-assessed financial knowledge – predicted households’ likelihood of being ‘too worried,’” according to the study.