Survey: Most Americans Already Raiding Their Retirement Accounts

NEW YORK — Preparing for retirement is an undeniably important part of “adulting,” as younger generations call it. Sure, it isn’t exactly glamorous, but enrolling in a 401k or opening up an IRA is sure to pay off down the road when retirement is creeping up. That is, of course, if that money isn’t spent beforehand. A surprising new online survey of more than 1,000 Americans has found that 52% have already started spending their retirement accounts.

The survey was funded by MagnifyMoney, and proportioned to equally represent American millennials, baby boomers, and generation Xers.

Of that 52% who already started spending, 23% say they tapped their retirement fund to pay off outstanding debt, 17% said they needed extra money for a down payment on a new home, 11% needed to pay for college tuition, 9% had medical bills to pay, and another 3% listed “other reasons.”

Despite the common notion that it is always irresponsible to take money out of a retirement account early, 29% of respondents said they believe there are certain scenarios where it is a “good idea” to remove funds early.

Additionally, a surprising 60% of all those surveyed said they aren’t even sure just how much money they have stashed away in a retirement fund, and 15% said they have no idea at all.

Perhaps many Americans are spending their retirement money early because they feel it just isn’t enough to actually help them retire; 25% of respondents said they are unhappy with their current retirement funds, and 27% said they have never actually thought about how much they will need once they are retired.

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The survey’s findings are especially disturbing when one takes the time to consider the main reasons why so many Americans are dipping into their savings — buying a home and paying off debt. Well, taking out a mortgage for a home or accumulating at least a little bit of debt over the course of establishing a stable life are unavoidable expenses for most adults. These are economic realities for the average American, and it is clear that an alarming number of people simply aren’t making enough money to support themselves without compromising their retirement savings.

As far as age groups, millennials (54%) have dipped into their savings the most, followed by generation X (50%), and baby boomers (43%). Millennials were also the most likely to say that taking money from a retirement account early can be justified under the right circumstances.

The survey also revealed a few more bad financial habits Americans seem to be engaging in more and more. A total of 35% of respondents said they aren’t saving for retirement, at all. And even among those who are saving, 37% said they only started around the age of 30, and 12% said they started saving at 40 years old.

Also, an astounding 42% of respondents admitted to making the mistake of withdrawing all the funds from an employer sponsored 401k retirement fund when switching jobs, instead of just rolling it over. More than 47% of millennial respondents admitted to this mistake — a sign that younger generations may be in serious need of more financial education.

The survey of 1,029 adults was conducted by Qualtrics.

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