Retirement Statistics: Hopes, Fears and Reality

Author: MassMutual Retirement Services
Published: 2014/12/12 - Updated: 2020/11/08
Contents: Summary - Introduction - Main - Related

Synopsis: New MassMutual study finds pre-retiree fears unfounded and most retirees well adjusted both emotionally and financially. Retirees demonstrate an ability to adapt to changing circumstances, indicating increased satisfaction, improved ability to manage spending, and greater feelings of financial security as their tenure in retirement grows. Overall, retirees report lives that are quite positive, including enjoying themselves (82 percent), having more free time (80 percent), and having new experiences (69 percent).


Nearly one in two Americans retire earlier than expected, yet retirees overwhelmingly report that they are enjoying themselves and discovering that pre-retirement fears of boredom, financial insecurity and lacking purpose are largely unfounded, according to a new study released today by MassMutual Retirement Services. The biggest lesson for retirement success: plan as soon as possible for both your emotional and financial well-being, as you are likely to retire sooner than planned.

Main Digest

"MassMutual's research on retirees and pre-retirees tells us that retirement can be and should be an extraordinarily happy time in our lives as long as we start to strengthen our emotional bonds and exercise financial planning discipline well before we plan to retire," said Elaine Sarsynski, Executive Vice President, MassMutual Retirement Services. "The happiest retirees provide us with a roadmap for success, which is especially instructive for those who are close to embarking on the journey."

The 2014 study of retirees and pre-retirees, Hopes, Fears and Reality - What Workers Expect in Retirement and What Steps Help Them Achieve the Retirement They Want ( - was conducted by Greenwald & Associates on behalf of MassMutual. The study finds that retirees indicate high levels of emotional well-being, enjoyment and financial security. For instance:

Few characterize themselves as stressed, frustrated, lonely or distressed.

"Retirees express positive sentiments about their lives despite that nearly half (45%) retire earlier than planned," said Mathew Greenwald, President and CEO, Greenwald & Associates. "The most frequently cited reasons for earlier-than-planned retirement are changes at work (44%) and being able to afford to retire sooner rather than later (39%). On a positive note, the majority (79%) of those who retired early have no regrets about their decision."

Lessons Learned

The study finds a strong relationship between happiness and planning as retirees who express the highest levels of satisfaction are also those who took concrete steps to put both their emotional and financial lives in order at least five years or more before retirement:

Retirement Surprises

Despite planning, many retirees report positive or negative surprises once they retired. The biggest positive surprises were:

Negative surprises included:

The fact that one in six has unexpected financial problems indicates that more efforts at financial planning are needed.


Retirees demonstrate an ability to adapt to changing circumstances, indicating increased satisfaction, improved ability to manage spending, and greater feelings of financial security as their tenure in retirement grows, the study found. Although unexpected life events can occur, focus groups found that retirees adapt financially by finding creative ways to cut expenses without giving up activities they enjoy.

Positive Experience

Overall, retirees report:

In some instances, the expectations of pre-retirees about retirement fall short of the actual experience, such as 79% of pre-retirees anticipating new experiences. Few (6%) made plans to start a new career.

Fear and Anxiety

Although pre-retirees express fears they will be anxious about:

Few retirees find this to be the case (31%, 14% and 19% respectively), according to the study.

Concerns about retirement decrease as pre-retirees approach retirement. For example, 31% of pre-retirees who are 11-15 years away from retirement say they are looking forward to the experience with very few or no concerns compared to 43% less than five years away - 46% of those within one year of retirement had very few or no concerns.

Feelings of financial security build as pre-retirees get closer to retirement and continue to rise through retirement. Only 63% of pre-retirees 11-15 years out feel they are financially on track, compared to 82% of those retiring in less than five years.

Emotional Well-Being

Positive emotions increase and negative emotions decrease for retirees. The study finds that retirees are happier, more relaxed and less stressed than pre-retirees:

Still, pre-retirees overestimated the extent to which retirement would have a positive emotional impact, with 86% of pre-retirees expecting a least moderate excitement in retirement compared to 71% of retirees who say they feel this way.

Study Methodology

The study presents the results of research conducted by Greenwald & Associates, on behalf of MassMutual, examining pre-retirees' expectations and preparations for retirement, and how those plans and visions compare to the actual experiences that people have after they retire. The research was conducted in two parts:

The study surveyed 1,817 pre-retirees and retirees who were either one to 15 years into retirement or one to 15 years away from retirement.

Respondents were required to be at least 40 years old, have at least $50,000 in savings and investments, and at least share a role in the household's financial decision-making.

The margin of error is plus or minus 2%.


This quality-reviewed publication titled Retirement Statistics: Hopes, Fears and Reality was selected for publishing by Disabled World's editors due to its relevance to the disability community. While the content may have been edited for style, clarity, or brevity, it was originally authored by MassMutual Retirement Services and published 2014/12/12 (Edit Update: 2020/11/08). For further details or clarifications, you can contact MassMutual Retirement Services directly at Disabled World does not provide any warranties or endorsements related to this article.

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Cite This Page (APA): MassMutual Retirement Services. (2014, December 12 - Last revised: 2020, November 8). Retirement Statistics: Hopes, Fears and Reality. Disabled World. Retrieved June 24, 2024 from

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