Mack Salviejo-Rivas is thinking about retiring in the next couple of years. But after a historic stock market decline and the poky economic recovery, he's nervous, even though his financial planner said he's good to go.
"I've got some trepidation," said the 66-year-old who works in 3M's dental products division. "I'm wondering: Is it really going to be enough?"
That's a question on most every retiree's mind these days.
But it wasn't a front-burner issue five years ago, when Minneapolis-based Ameriprise Financial first conducted its Retirement Mindscape study. In 2005, the housing market was on a tear, stocks were on the rise, and the economy was chugging along. When asked about retirement, 75 percent of workers a few years away from leaving the workforce expected to greatly enjoy that life stage. The vast majority -- 91 percent -- had set money aside for when they stopped earning a paycheck.
Fast forward to today, and 64 percent of near-retirees expect to greatly enjoy retirement and 74 percent have money set aside for that purpose.
"These folks getting ready for retirement are coming in a little more somber, a little more realistic," said Craig Brimhall, vice president of retirement wealth strategies at Ameriprise Financial.
But the real sentiment shift occurs after turning in the employee ID. Fifty-six percent of retirees who left the workforce within the past year said they are enjoying retirement "a great deal" compared with 78 percent who answered this way in 2005. (The surveys each sampled about 2,000 U.S. adults from ages 40 to 75 and included an oversample of people who were within a year or two of their anticipated or actual retirement day.)
Financial planners say the Great Recession has changed the way their clients are thinking about retirement, and consequently, the conversations they're having.
Todd Terhorst, president of Diversified Wealth Management in St. Louis Park, said his clients have shifted from overly optimistic to overly pessimistic.
"A lot of people's attitude has been that the market is never going to help them," he said.
The same people who asked if the assumption that stocks earn 10 percent over time was too conservative are now wondering if a projected return of 6 to 8 percent is too high.
In good times, Ameriprise's planning strategy revolved around the theme of making dreams come true in retirement.
"All this planning was to get people to a higher lifestyle, to enjoy things they couldn't in the past," said Greg Anderson, an Ameriprise adviser in Shakopee. Remember the Dennis Hopper commercials urging baby boomers to follow their dreams?
Today, the focus is on peace of mind and preserving a client's core lifestyle. To that end, Anderson's retirement stage clients tend to have two to four years of income stashed away in the event the market freezes over, as it did in the winter of 2009. There's renewed interest in guaranteed income products such as annuities, structured notes and CDs.
Last week, Americans for Secure Retirement, a coalition of insurance groups and others that promote a steady stream of income through annuities, released the results of a poll that says voters care deeply about retirement security, no matter their political leanings.
According to the poll, which was conducted by a Democratic polling firm and a Republican polling firm, 62 percent of voters believe creating retirement options that help savings last in retirement should be one of Congress' top priorities. Half of the respondents said they were "very concerned" about maintaining a comfortable standard of living after leaving the workforce.
"We're seeing that Republican voters, like Democratic voters, are focusing on pocketbook issues and certainly on retirement future," said Republican pollster Rob Autry, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies.
Also last week, Retirement USA, a left-leaning group of unions, think tanks and others, released the retirement income deficit figure. According to this figure, which was calculated by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, there is a $6.6 trillion gap between the pensions and retirement savings that American households, ages 32 to 64, have today and what they should have to keep the same lifestyle in retirement.
So what are we to do? Save more, obviously. But that's easy to say and tough to do, especially with the employment and housing markets we are stuck with. Let elected officials know we care deeply about this issue as we head into midterm elections. And start spending less money today.
As Brimhall likes to say: "We found the secret to living within your means in retirement, and that's living within your means before retirement."