22 Percent of Americans Would ‘Rather Die’ Than Retire Poor


A recent study conducted by Wells Fargo illustrates just how nervous—and unprepared—the everyday American is for retirement.

In the Wells Fargo Middle Class Retirement Survey, some 22 percent of middle-class Americans indicated that they would prefer to ‘die early’ over living well into retirement without the means to preserve their standard of living. Moreover, almost half of respondents said they won’t have enough money to live on should they stop working.

For the purposes of this survey, ‘middle-class’ was defined as households with incomes between $50,000 and $100,000. There is no single statistical definition of middle class in the United States, but most economists agree that a household earning $100,000 would be, at the very least, the high end of middle class. According to the Huffington Post, the current United States median household income is $51,900.

Given the difficulty of defining middle class—and the fact that the figures used in this survey are high estimates—the following statistics carry even more weight:

  • 19 percent of middle-class Americans have no retirement savings whatsoever
  • 30 percent think that Social Security will be their primary source of retirement income
  • 34 percent say they are not currently saving for retirement
  • Perhaps the scariest figure of all—41 percent of Americans between ages 50-59 are not saving for retirement

Based on these numbers, it’s easy to conclude that most middle-class retirees will be unable to match their current standard of living in retirement—if they retire at all. The median amount of money saved for retirement across all age groups was around $20,000.

The numbers get worse, however, when you narrow your focus to people between the ages of 50-59. People in that age bracket reported saving a median amount of $78 monthly for retirement—that’s less than $1,000 per year. This is despite the fact that they clearly realize this amount won’t be nearly enough—the median response to “how much money do you expect to need in retirement?” was $250,000.

Additionally, while 48 percent of respondents said they would not have enough money to live the lifestyle they prefer in retirement, that number jumps to 71 percent of people between ages 50-59. One in three people ages 40 and older replied that they ‘get depressed’ when thinking about the reality of their lives in retirement.

Add it all up, and your result is almost one-quarter of Americans saying they would prefer death to a lower standard of living in their golden years. Hopefully, future generations will heed these warnings and start saving earlier in life—but for now, it’s apparent that middle-aged people in this country are in the midst of a legitimate retirement crisis.


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