Three generations of U.S. investors accept that they are largely responsible for funding their own retirements. But many of them harbor unrealistic hopes of receiving a sizable inheritance as part of their funding plan.

These were among the conclusions drawn by a recent survey of 750 individual investors with a minimum of $100,000 in investable assets—including 223 millennials, 251 Gen Xers and 236 baby boomers.

The 2017 study was conducted by the U.S. research arm of Natixis Global Asset Management, a French company that is one of the 20 largest asset managers in the world. It found that 78% of investors recognize that more of the retirement funding burden is falling on their shoulders, since their employers have begun offering defined contribution retirement plans in lieu of defined benefit pension plans. And many also believe that Social Security won’t be available to them by the time they retire. But a significant percentage (43%) hope to receive an inheritance that will help them compensate for any savings shortfall.

This is especially true of millennials, who are twice as likely as baby boomers to expect that a financial windfall from their parents or grandparents will play an important role in meeting their retirement needs. Per the survey, 62% of millennials, compared to only 31% of boomers, anticipate receiving an inheritance that will help fund their retirement.

That’s a major disconnect, says Dave Goodsell, executive director of the Natixis Durable Portfolio Construction Research Center, which carried out the research. He points to findings that 40% of baby boomers don’t plan to leave an inheritance and 57% don’t think they will have anything left to pass down to their children or grandchildren. Only 56% even have a will in place.

Further exacerbating the situation, many of the investors surveyed underestimate the amount of savings they will need for retirement. They assume that they will only need replace 63% of their pre-retirement income, according to Goodsell, which is at odds with the retirement industry’s more conservative target of 75% to 85%.

Looking to the kids

Apart from an inheritance, many of the investors surveyed also believe they can count on their children for some sort of support when they retire, either through shared living arrangements or some type of stipend or allowance. “Retirement has become a multigenerational question,” Goodsell observes.

On the other hand, only 37% of the respondents say they expect Social Security to be an important source of income for their retirement. “There’s a great deal of skepticism,” notes Goodsell, “which should serve as a motivation to plan ahead for retirement and set realistic savings and spending goals.” Unfortunately, he adds, many investors’ decision making is clouded by unrealistic expectations.

Workplace 401(k) plans encourage savings discipline, since they make it easy for employees to save automatically. But in and of themselves they are insufficient, says the Natixis researcher, and employers need to help their employees make better financial determinations by providing them with retirement planning tools, including access to a financial adviser.

“Access is critically important,” he says. “Because responsibility is being shifted off to individuals, we need to make sure they have access to the right resources and understand how to use them.”

Key topics that need to be addressed, according to the survey, include financial planning basics, such as budgeting; how to manage and plan for required minimum distributions; tax, estate and long-term care planning, as well as managing debt and credit cards and understanding investment risk.

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