Baby Boomers Getting Frugal, But Gen X and Millennials Should Boost Contribution to a Self-Directed IRA

Baby boomers are becoming more frugal, but most of them say they feel financially prepared for retirement. That’s the conclusion form the “New Generations Ahead” study just published by Allianz Life. 72 percent of Baby Boomers surveyed – those Americans born between 1946 and 1964 – report that they feel financially prepared for retirement. That’s a significant increase from 2010, in which only about 58 percent of them reported being financially prepared for retirement. But they’ve had an additional seven years to work, save and invest, and of course their real estate, Self-Directed IRA and equity investments have enjoyed the tailwind of a seven-year bull market in both.

About a third of them told researchers that they found economic uncertainty made it difficult for them to decide whether and when they can retire. That’s much lower than the 50 percent who reported being hamstrung by economic uncertainty during the recession year of 2010. But as long-term Self-Directed IRA investors and market watchers know, the very times when uncertainty about markets seems lowest is when actual market risks are at their highest.

There has been a major attitude change among Baby Boomers – once derided for their spendthrift ways when compared to their Greatest Generation parents who survived the Great Depression and the sacrifices of World War Two. 64 percent of Baby Boomers now regard themselves as “savers” rather than spenders, and 61 percent report that they keep careful track of their retirement account balances. Fully 25 percent of Baby Boomers characterize themselves as “penny-pinchers.”

65 percent of Baby Boomers now regard retirement savings as a necessity, along with food and housing expenses.

“The Generations Ahead Study highlights encouraging news for boomers and proves that with proper focus and engagement, anyone can turn around a poor savings situation and start building for a successful retirement,” said Paul Kelash, vice president of Consumer Insights for Allianz Life. “Whether taking lessons from the past or forging a new path, the key for each generation is to recognize that a solid retirement plan doesn’t happen by chance, but rather with a clear process and defined actions.” 

The Kids Aren’t Alright

It looks like today’s crop of Millennials won’t be maxing out contributions to their Self-Directed IRA and real estate IRA accounts anytime soon. 17 percent of them say they spend money as soon as they get it, 50 percent of them report they spend more on going to clubs, bars, restaurants and other entertainment venues than they spend on rent or mortgages, and 63 percent of them consider themselves spenders rather than savers.

To be fair, the average college graduate with student loans  is now entering the job market with over $30,000 in student loan debt and an average payment of more than $240 per month. That’s going to take a chunk out of retirement contributions by itself, and most of those folks aren’t thinking about real estate, IRAs and other retirement investments yet – though they probably should be!

That said, Millennials are doing better than their Generation X predecessors in one metric: The median retirement savings on hand for Millennials and their older Generation X forbears is roughly the same – $35,000. That’s going to be inadequate for Gen X folks, given that they are much closer to retirement than Millennials. Generation X was much harder hit by the Great Recession than Millennials, many of whom were not even in the work force when the worst of it hit.

No matter your age, though, the time to boost retirement savings and increase diversification in those savings is now.

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