A new company by the name Money Tips had an idea to survey 500 “successful” retirees to get an idea of what works. Like any survey, the results are a pile of statistics. I love statistics… enough so that I’ve been in baseball fantasy leagues of fake computer generated players playing with statistics. If that sounds weird, it is because it is weird.
So when I Money Tips contacted me about this I heard, “Stats, Stats, stats…” A couple of emails later later and it seems that I agreed to write an article on a book that I haven’t read. No matter. I’ve got the goods… all those juicy stats.
The last time I wrote about a pile of statistics it was in college after reading a book on poverty and how to fight. The 11th page of the paper that had to be 20 pages was some form of the following, “I beg for mercy, Mr. [Whatever His Name Was]. As a computer science major, I simply don’t write 20 page papers. I know we discussed that this book on statistics would fit my mathematical mindset, but there’s only so much one can write about statistics before it doesn’t make sense to stretch it any further.”
In truth it probably wasn’t that coherent of an plea, as it was 16 years ago when my writing skills were in the class as Tarzan’s.
My point? Let’s hope I can do a better with more time, an informal publishing place, and in a quantity that is around 20,000 fewer words. And if I fail, I hope you won’t hold it against the author. You can download up the Ebook for free here until September 30th and make your own decision.
Here are some interesting statistics of the 500 people surveyed and my insight into them:
- Age – 86% of the people were between the ages of 60-80. That seems like a sweet-spot for retirement. Nothing surprising here
- Education – 93% have more than a high school degree with almost half (46%) having a graduate degree. That’s a lot more than I expected for either number. There’s much talk of whether college still has value nowadays. It’s tempting to use this data to say, “This proves it!” I want to pump the breaks on that thinking since a vast majority likely earned their education and money decades ago.
- Net Worth – A quarter of the people fell in the range of 500K – 1M. The survey grouped people who earned over 1M with people who earned less than 5M. I was surprised, because that’s a huge range. Using the rule of 4%, this is a group that could spend between 40K and 200K a year indefinitely in retirement. Perhaps it is not surprising that 29% of people fell into this huge group.
- Annual Income – Though there were 8 income ranges that people could specify, 92% of them were in the 3 groups ranging from 25K to 250K of annual income. Surprised? Not really. Some 40% earn between 50K and 100K with close to 25% on either side of that, those earning between 25K and 50K and those earning between 100K and 250K. There a few more people on that higher end, which may be expected because it is a pretty large range.
- Spending – 65% said they live comfortably and 35% said they live frugally. I honestly don’t know how I would answer this question myself. I would probably write in, “I live comfortably by living frugally.” That is to say that I save money in so many areas of my life that I can afford many comforts.
- Financial Concerns – Half those people surveyed have financial concerns. Those concerns were mostly outliving their savings and current standards of living. Healthcare costs were the single highest concern.
- Careers – Most everyone were employed by someone, with large companies beating out small companies significantly (35% to 14%). Surprising to me was that only 14% were self-employed (me) and 2% were military (my wife).
- Do They Budget? – 62% stuck to a budget, while 38% did not. Most everyone’s budget was a monthly one, not a daily, weekly or annual one.
- How Much Did they Save for Retirement – I’ll just cover the most popular options. In their 20s and 30s, 51% did not save for retirement. In their 40s, 34% of people saved 6-10%. In their 50s, 58% saved 6-20%. In their 60s, 42% did not save for retirement. If I were to take a message away from this, it seems like it is never too late to start to save for retirement. To make it personal, I still have 2 years before I have to start to save 6-10% of my money for retirement.
- Investment Advice – 76% of people frequently or primarily made their own investment decisions. 62% consulted professionals some of the time.
- Big Risk, Big Reward (Part 1) – Stocks were cited as the best performing asset class by the retirees, but they were also the most-cited regret. Why? Looking into the regrets timing played a role… such as getting out of the market after a crash and not investing more.
- Big Risk, Big Reward (Part 2) – Real estate seemed next on the list after stocks. The mistakes went both ways. Some stated that they bought too much house. Others said they should have invested more in real estate. Foreclosures were mentioned as well as selling inexpensive properties with rental potential
There’s a lot to digest here. As much as I love information, I don’t come away from this thinking, “Well now I am a whole lot smarter.”
The timing of stock buying and selling is not a surprise. The real estate regrets are common as well. It is notable that mistakes, even foreclosures doesn’t doom your financial well-being forever.
It is also notable that many people don’t seem to save nearly as much as I thought they did and seem to be relatively okay. I’m nervous about spreading that kind of message though… seems dangerous and irresponsible. Thus I’ll balance it by saying, “Save. Save. Save.” That should do it.
Finally, practice responsible spending and get the best education you can. It seems that these are two of the biggest takeaways.
Good point about the spending. I’m not sure why the authors seem to think living frugally and comfortably are mutually exclusive. I think a better question would be to the effect of “do I worry about being able to afford my current lifestyle”
I’m also a little curious about the retirement question. Even though people listed themselves as not saving in their 20s,30s, and 40s, I’ll bet they were even if they weren’t actively saving. These people are young enough that social security would’ve been withdrawn from their paychecks, and many likely had pensions. This may change your conclusion that its never to late to start saving.
What definition did they use for “successful retiree?”
Lazy Man says
Here’s a quote: ” We defined successfully retired as retired or semi-retired men and women who reported they are living comfortably in retirement. MoneyTips declined to use any specific financial metrics to define success, as the cost of living varies dramatically by geography and lifestyle, and because each retirement journey is so unique.”
How do you define income as part of this? Earned, Unearned, etc.
Some of the things I would like to see is what % they had living on pension alone, or what % was pension income (ss being a form of pension). What % being annuities? What % being retirement account income.