Northwestern Mutual
Planning & Progress Study 2018
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The 2018 Planning & Progress Study seeks to provide unique insights into U.S. adults’ attitudes and behaviors toward money, financial decision-making, and the broader landscape issues impacting people’s long-term financial security. The study is based on an online survey of 2,003 U.S. adults age 18+ conducted from March 7-19, 2018 (and an oversample of 601 interviews with U.S. Millennials age 18-34 which has been combined with the general population of those age 18-34 when featuring this group). Data were weighted to be representative of the U.S. population (age 18+) based on Census targets for education, age/gender, race/ethnicity, region and household income.

Living Long and Working Longer


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Americans feel underprepared for the financial realities of retirement, according to new data from Northwestern Mutual. Nearly eight in 10 (78%) Americans are “extremely” or “somewhat” concerned about affording a comfortable retirement while two thirds believe there is some likelihood of outliving retirement savings.

These fears are substantiated by further data highlighting dramatic savings shortfalls and ebbing confidence in social safety nets.

  • One in five Americans (21%) have NO retirement savings at all
  • One in three Baby Boomers (33%), the generation closest to retirement age, only have between $0-$25,000 in retirement savings
  • Three quarters of Americans believe it is “not at all likely” (24%) or only “somewhat likely” (51%) that Social Security will be available when they retire
  • Nearly half (46%) of adults have taken no steps to prepare for the likelihood that they could outlive their savings


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This is the initial set of findings from the 2018 Planning & Progress Study, an annual research project commissioned by Northwestern Mutual that explores Americans’ attitudes and behaviors toward money, financial decision making, and the broader landscape issues impacting long-term financial security.

Living Long…and Working Longer

Concerns about financial security in retirement are leading people to work longer. In fact, more working Americans anticipate retiring at 70 years or older (38%) than in the more traditional 65-69 age range (33%).

Among the more than half (55%) of Americans who believe they will have to work past age 65 from necessity, 73% cited “not enough money to retire comfortably” as the dominant driver.

Other reasons mentioned include:


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  • Social Security not being sufficient to take care of their needs (61%)
  • Concerns over rising costs like healthcare (52%)

For those who plan to work past 65 by choice, disposable income (55%) and professional satisfaction (54%) were near equal motivators. This is a notable contrast to 2015 Planning & Progress Study findings where career enjoyment was the leading driver (66%) followed by interest in additional income (60%).   

Download the 2018 Planning and Progress Study – Living Long and Working Longer