Reluctant Spenders

John Yeigh

A 2021 SURVEY by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that three-quarters of retirees said the value of their financial assets was the same or higher than when they first retired. This finding was consistent from the poorest respondents to those with the most wealth. The typical time in retirement for the respondents was seven to 10 years.

One implication: Retirees may be underspending their accumulated wealth. EBRI examined five reasons for this possible underspending:

  • Saving assets for unforeseen costs later in retirement
  • Don’t feel spending down assets is necessary
  • Want to leave as much as possible to heirs
  • Feel better if account balances remain high
  • Fear of running out of money

The first two reasons—”saving for tomorrow” and “no current need to spend”—were reported by almost half of respondents. By contrast, a “fear of running out of money” was mentioned by only a fifth of those surveyed.

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