Americans Have High Hopes for Retiring Early

Americans on average expect to retire two years sooner than they did five years ago and many more say they intend to retire before age 60, potentially reflecting a spike in 401(k) balances, according to research from Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. (MassMutual). At the same time, fewer people have figured out how much income they need to retire.

The retirement findings from the 2018 MassMutual State of the American Family Study show that respondents on average expect to retire at age 62 compared to age 64 when the study was last conducted in 20131. Four in 10 (40 percent) intend to retire before age 60, up from 32 percent five years ago, while only 22 percent of respondents now expect to retire after age 65, down from 30 percent in 2013, according to the study.

Yet, fewer people indicate they have calculated how much income they need to retire. In 2018, 56 percent of respondents had done the math compared to 61 percent in 2013, according to the study.

“There is greater optimism about retirement and people’s ability to retire sooner rather than later, which may be attributed to the growth in the financial markets and a spike in Americans’ retirement savings during the past five years,” said Tom Foster, national spokesperson for MassMutual’s Workplace Solutions unit, which includes retirement plans. “However, many Americans may have a false sense of security when it comes to being ready to retire.”

For trending purposes, the retirement study measured responses from a subset of 2018 SOAF respondents with household incomes of $75,000 plus and compared the responses to a similar survey conducted in 2013. Ownership of retirement savings products such as an IRA or a 401(k), 403(b) or 457 plan was up slightly at 84 percent in 2018 compared to 82 percent in 2013 and investments in stocks, bonds or mutual funds held separately from a retirement account was flat, the study found.

A brighter financial picture

America’s financial picture seems to have become increasingly brighter since MassMutual conducted its last State of the American Family study in 2013:


  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 25,115 on Oct. 31, 2018 and 25,131 on March 1, 20182 when MassMutual conducted its research2. In 2013, the Dow Jones finished at 15,618 on Oct. 31 and at 14,054 on March 12.
  • The unemployment rate was 3.7 percent in October 2018, down from 7.2 percent in October 20133.
  • The average 401(k) balance was $75,385 in 2016 compared to $72,383 in 2013, according to the latest data available from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, Consistent 401(k) Participation Leads to Higher Account report4.  EBRI reports that “consistent savers,” those who continued to save throughout the period as measured, had average balances of $167,330 in 2016 compared to $121,152 in 20134.Confidence about being ready to retire at a given age has risen slightly, to 47 percent in 2018 from 45 percent in 2013, according to MassMutual’s study. Conversely, confidence in having enough money to last throughout retirement has slipped. Thirty-five percent of respondents in 2018 said they worry about outliving their retirement savings compared to 33 percent in 2013, the study found.
  • “We urge pre-retirees to calculate their projected income and expenses in retirement before taking the plunge to ensure they are financially prepared for retirement,” Foster cautioned.  “While 401(k) balances are healthier than they were five years ago, they may not necessarily be sufficient to support the income needed for so many early retirements.
  • Look before you leap.”The State of the American Family survey was conducted for MassMutual by Isobar between January 19 and February 7, 2018, via an online questionnaire. The survey comprised 3,235 total interviews with Americans. The vast majority of these interviews (2,730) were conducted with men and women aged 25-64, with household incomes equal to or greater than $50,000 and with dependents under age 26 for whom they are financially responsible.
  • For more information, visit
  • .1MassMutual 2018 State of the American Family Study Fact Sheet on Retirement,
  • 2Zacks, Stock Market News for Oct. 31, 2013,,
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey, Unemployment Rate,
  • 4Consistent 401(k) Participation Leads to Higher Account Balances, Employee Benefit Research Institute, Nov. 6, 2018,