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: The closer people are to retirement, the less ready they feel, survey finds

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The older the American, the farther behind they feel in saving for their retirement, according to a new Bankrate survey.

Among baby boomers, 71% feel they are behind in saving for retirement, and just 7% say they are ahead of where they need to be, the survey found. For members of Gen X, 65% feel behind and just 9% feel ahead. And although they still have many years to go until retirement, even millennials and members of Gen Z say they are behind, at 46% and 30%, respectively.

“Americans feel highly unprepared for retirement. The older you get, the more unprepared you feel,” said James Royal, a Bankrate analyst. “Nobody feels prepared.”

And not everyone is actively saving for retirement.

Bankrate found that 24% of Americans didn’t contribute to their retirement savings this year or last year. The people most likely not to have contributed in either year were those age 25 or younger (Gen Z), those who have not attended college and those who earn less than $50,000 per year.

Even higher earners as a whole do not feel ready, even though they feel better about their savings than the average American. Among higher-income groups, those earning an annual income of $100,000 or more are the only group in which fewer than 50% say they are behind on savings, Bankrate said.

One-third of baby boomers have said their top regret is not saving enough for retirement, according to a different Bankrate survey.

So what can younger generations learn from this? Start saving now.

Bankrate found that 31% of Gen Z workers have not contributed to retirement savings in at least the last two years. For those workers, time is their biggest advantage, and putting off saving could ultimately cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

For a worker who starts investing at age 22, invests $5,000 per year and earns an 8% return over a 40-year period, those contributions would amount to about $1.295 million at age 62. For a worker who waits until age 32, that same contribution would result in a total of about $566,000 — a difference of more than $728,000. That’s the cost of waiting only a decade, thanks to compounding interest, Bankrate said.

What if you weren’t able to start saving and investing at a young age and only got started at 32? How much more would you need to save to make up for that lost time? Assuming a return of 8%, you would need to invest $11,434 a year for 30 years to catch up to the person who saved $5,000 annually starting at age 22. That means you’d need to save 129% more each year to get to the same place.

“You can’t ignore this problem of retirement as a young person,” Royal said. “It does not go away. The important thing is to start as soon as possible.”

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