Workers Struggling Against Inflation to Save and Invest for Retirement

Inflation is now the top obstacle to saving for a comfortable retirement, according to a new survey from Schwab Retirement Plan Services. The annual nationwide survey of 401(k) plan participants finds that workers rank inflation (45%) ahead of other obstacles including keeping up with monthly expenses (35%), stock market volatility (33%), and unexpected expenses (33%).

“Workers have been through a lot over the past two years and it’s only natural that recent economic and geopolitical turbulence has continued to fuel financial concerns,” said Catherine Golladay, Head of Schwab Workplace Financial Services. “While plan participants can’t control inflation or the markets, the good news is they are taking steps to manage their finances with an eye to the future.”

Workers believe they’ll need to save an average of $1.7 million for retirement, down from $1.9 million reported in last year’s survey, and just under half (47%) feel they are very likely to reach their retirement savings goal. They expect the 401(k) to be their primary financial resource in retirement, providing 37% of income, followed by Social Security (17% of income).

Workers change how they save, spend and invest – In response to rising costs and market volatility, 79% of workers are changing their saving and spending habits, while 44% have altered their 401(k) investments.

Workers are cutting spending by reducing the number of purchases they make (34%), buying cheaper products (32%), and paying off debt more slowly (21%). Despite the belt tightening, workers are still saving less (33%) and spending more in general (30%). They are saving less for emergencies (20%), investing less outside their 401(k)s (18%) and contributing less to their 401(k)s (15%).

Almost one quarter of workers say they plan to retire later as a result of the pandemic. One third of plan participants do not know how long their savings are likely to last in retirement, and the two thirds who offered an estimate say they expect their retirement savings to last 23 years on average.