Survey: Retirement Is for New Beginnings

Most retirees say they want to keep working.

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Retirement is no longer a time to kick back in front of daytime television. People are increasingly seeing their post-work years as a time to start something new—or go back to work in the field of their dreams, according to a new survey from Charles Schwab.

"The whole concept is changing," says Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist for Schwab. Seven out of 10 pre-retiree respondents said they wanted to continue working in retirement, and most would prefer a different field. In fact, respondents were twice as likely to say retirement was for starting a new, exciting stage of their life, rather than for relaxing. The desire to challenge their minds, not money, was the driving factor.

People are saying, "Let me reinvent myself," says Sonders. The factors behind the shift include longer life expectancies and better health, she adds. People are able to start new things, so they want to.

That is one reason Sonders characterizes the overall mood among all generations as optimistic. People are willing to tackle the challenge of preparing for retirement with a spirit of self-reliance and eagerness to take on new challenges, she says.

That optimism prevailed despite the fact that young people expect to be increasingly in charge of their own retirement (as opposed to being dependent on Social Security or pensions). Generation Y respondents estimated that 61 percent of their retirement funds would come from money they saved and invested on their own. That number was slightly lower, at 53 percent, for generation X, and boomers reported an even lower figure of 42 percent. Social Security and employee pensions made up the difference.

"There's a real realization that self-reliance is going to be a key factor," says Sonders.

Another source of strain is the anticipation of funding parents and siblings. Two in five respondents expect to provide financial support to their parents, and 1 in 4 anticipates needing to give money to siblings. Concerns about supporting family members were stronger among the younger respondents.

Participants also expressed a desire for more financial education, from employers, schools, and parents. Almost 8 in 10 respondents said their parents didn't know enough about personal finance to teach them how to save and invest, and 6 out of 10 said the biggest barrier to passing on financial lessons from one generation to the next was that children have no interest in learning.

Other sources of information didn't score much better; financial services providers, the media, employers, and schools were all given poor ratings as sources of trustworthy information. Ninety-five percent of those surveyed said they want basic financial skills to be taught in high school.

Respondents were split over whether retirement was for focusing on themselves or on giving back to family and community, with about half selecting each option.