Mon. Dec 4th, 2023

As a proponent of financial literacy, I am always interested in how people are doing when it comes to saving and investing for retirement.

A recent survey by Fidelity, one of the largest asset managers in the world, provides some insights that I’d like to share.

The “2021 State of Retirement Planning Study” highlighted some challenges when it came to financial knowledge.

Far too many of those surveyed (28 percent) believed that financial professionals would recommend a withdrawal rate from retirement savings of 10 percent to 15 percent a year.

Those of you who are longtime readers of this column would not fall into that cohort. But those who do would find themselves in jeopardy of running out of money unless they had very short retirement horizons. If you would like more information about safe withdrawal rates for retirement, I cover the topic in detail in “The Retirement Survival Guide,” along with tools to use to help you run your own numbers.

Another area of concern is Social Security’s “full retirement age” (FRA). Only 17 percent of the respondents knew their correct number.

While you can start getting Social Security retirement benefits at 62, that means you’ll receive a permanent reduction in your monthly payments. Forty-four percent of Generation X, the age group between 41 and 56 years old, underestimated their FRA — that doesn’t help when you’re trying to plan for the future.

According to the Social Security Administration (, the FRA for people born between 1943 and 1954 is 66. For those born between 1955 and 1959, it’s between 66 and 67, depending on the year. If born in 1960 and later, the FRA is 67.

Another misconception had to do with stock market returns. Seventy-two percent of respondents said they believed the stock market had seen negative returns more frequently than positive ones over the past 35 years. Not so. As Fidelity reported, the stock market has had a positive annual return for 26 of the past 35 years.

What about how much money you need to have saved before retiring? Based on the last year of working income, half of the respondents said the figure should be five times or less the final year’s income. Not enough. Only 25 percent selected the ideal recommendation of having 10-12 times your last full year of working income saved by the time you reach retirement.

Only 33 percent of respondents have a plan in place to achieve their retirement goals. I can tell you that’s not good enough. Retirement can last 20, 30 or even 40 years. Just think of retirement as a business that needs to thrive for decades. Without a plan on how you will do that, you’re deciding to roll the dice. Why would you want to do that? Do you think of yourself as a gambler?

Another 31 percent of respondents thought “in great detail” about how they would afford retirement. Well, that’s a start. But again, not good enough.

We have to face the fact that you, only you, can secure your retirement — you can get help, of course, but it’s up to you to seek it out. That’s why I’m such a believer in financial literacy education. It’s no longer merely a good thing to have. It’s mandatory for anyone of any age who wants to retire someday.

Fidelity’s national online survey, conducted in February, consisted of 1,204 “adult financial decision makers” who were not retired and had at least one investment account. You can see more about the study at

If you want to engage in a dialogue about how to handle the planning process, write to me at

On another note, if you are interested in the basics of retirement planning, join me for a virtual presentation, “Plan for Retirement Account Withdrawals.” It will be held on Wednesday, April 21, at 1 p.m. EDT, and is sponsored by the Greenwich (Connecticut) Library. To register, go to or contact Yang Wang, 203-622-7924,

Julie Jason, JD, LLM, a personal money manager (Jackson, Grant of Stamford) and author, welcomes your questions/comments ( Her awards include the 2020 Clarion Award, symbolizing excellence in clear, concise communications. Her latest book, a curated collection of Julie’s columns, is “Retire Securely: Insights on Money Management From an Award-Winning Financial Columnist.” To hear Julie speak, visit

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