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What Drives People to Retire Isn´t What You Think; Fidelity Research Busts Key Myths


BOSTON— Contrary to popular belief, nearly half of American workers plan to stop working on a specific date, regardless of how much they have saved for retirement. This is one of several myths debunked in new research1from Fidelity Investments® in collaboration with the Stanford Center on Longevity.

The survey, one of the largest of its kind, is based on responses from more than 12,000 retirement savers and recent retirees, age 55 or older and uncovers the most important financial, social and emotional factors that contribute to an individual’s decision to retire or stay on the job. The survey opens a new window into the non-financial factors that influence the retirement decision, such as how employees feel about their jobs and coworkers, their desire to spend time with family and grandchildren, and their overall health and the lifestyle they want when they leave the workforce.

“Fidelity has always had unmatched financial data to illustrate retirement trends and behaviors. This research complements our analytics and provides deeper insight on how people think and feel about the transition to retirement,” said Jim MacDonald, president, Workplace Investing, Fidelity Investments. “It’s critical that employers understand these factors and design benefits to either retain or help transition pre-retirees based on their workforce strategy.”

Retirement Myths – Top Misconceptions about What/How People Think About Retirement

The research results contradict many of the commonly-held beliefs about how people view retirement and what factors contribute to their decision to retire (or not retire). Here are several of the myths and misconceptions that emerged from the research:

  1. MYTH: People won’t retire until they have enough money . One of the more surprising results from the research is that nearly half of respondents don’t link their retirement to their level of savings. When asked if time or money was more important in their decision to retire, results were surprisingly split – nearly half (49 percent) indicated that their retirement date is not tied to money or a specific level of savings, but to a specific date. They want to ensure they have enough time to enjoy their retirement, and if necessary, plan to adapt their retirement lifestyle based on how much they have saved. The remaining 51 percent of respondents indicated that their finances will determine when they retire, and that they want to have enough savings to enjoy their retirement.
  2. MYTH: Retirement means spending time with your spouse. While a healthy percentage of men want to spend time with their wives (nearly 60 percent), a greater number of women are more interested in spending time with their grandchildren (nearly 70 percent) than with their husband (43 percent).
  3. MYTH: Many retirees are struggling to get by and living with regret. Despite the misconception that today’s retirees are unhappy and forced to live a frugal lifestyle, 82 percent of recent retirees felt they retired at the right time, and 85 percent feel retirement is the most rewarding time of their lives. In addition, 79 percent indicate that it is easier than they thought to live comfortably in retirement – they were able to manage their savings and adapt their lifestyle based on their finances, if necessary. However, 36 percent admit they wished they had saved more, and 33 percent wished they had started saving earlier.
  4. MYTH : People work in retirement because they have to. When asked why they are working in retirement, 61 percent of respondents indicated that “they like what they do,” and nearly half (48 percent) added that “feeling valued” was an important reason to continue working in retirement.
  5. MYTH: Retirement is all about traveling and pursuing hobbies. While some retirees indicated that they plan to volunteer and pursue activities they couldn’t get to while they were working, almost three quarters (72 percent) said their top reason to retire was to have more leisure time – the freedom and flexibility to do whatever they wanted, even if that was nothing more than relaxing.

This research will also help inform Fidelity’s new Financial Wellness program. Our Financial Wellness program offers education and tools to help employers address a broad variety of financial needs across a multi-generational workforce, including budgeting, managing debt, saving for college or managing social security benefits.

“The myths and misconceptions exposed in this study will be especially useful to employers, as it highlights the need to add new dimensions to the guidance and benefits they provide their employees,” added MacDonald. “This study tells us that we need to address multiple aspects of an individual’s overall financial wellness as they prepare for retirement and not just look at the single dimension of retirement savings.”

This survey marks the latest collaborative effort between Fidelity and the Stanford Center on Longevity, which examines a variety of topics related to life expectancy and researches innovative ways to bring about profound advances in the quality of life from early childhood to old age. Combining Fidelity’s knowledge on retirement savings behavior with the Center’s expertise on longevity provides unique perspective on some of the major of retirement savings issues facing society today and can help employers continue to meet the evolving needs of their aging employee populations.

About Fidelity Investments

Fidelity’s goal is to make financial expertise broadly accessible and effective in helping people live the lives they want. With assets under administration of $5.0 trillion, including managed assets of $2.0 trillion as of September 30, 2015, we focus on meeting the unique needs of a diverse set of customers: helping more than 24 million people invest their own life savings, nearly 20,000 businesses manage employee benefit programs, as well as providing nearly 10,000 advisory firms with technology solutions to invest their own clients’ money. Privately held for nearly 70 years, Fidelity employ 42,000 associates who are focused on the long-term success of our customers. For more information about Fidelity Investments, visit

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