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Retire Better: This is the most common fear among retirees

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“You can be young without money,” Tennessee Williams once said, “but you can’t be old without it.”

Actually, the famed playwright was only partially correct. You can be old without money—just not easily, and not without a lot of anxiety. And such fears, it seems, are more acute among Americans than retirees elsewhere.  

Such is the gist of a survey of more than 1,000 American and foreign retirees by MedicareAdvantage.com, a website that helps seniors compare Medicare insurance options.        

The results, from an American standpoint, are hardly encouraging. The study says U.S. retirees are “less financially prepared for retirement than those in other countries,” and that “international retirees were better prepared for life after work and were better off financially in retirement as a result.”

Read: Not sure where you want to retire? Our tool will help you narrow down the options

By “less financially prepared,” the survey reveals that only 25% of American retirees left the workforce with “more (money) than expected;” 33% “with what I expected,” while the biggest group, 42% retired with “less than expected.” 

This comes as no surprise, given data from other sources that shows how lean the retirement accounts of millions of Americans are. When asked “How much do you currently have saved for retirement?” a 2020 TD Ameritrade survey said that 53% of those aged 50 to 59 have $99,000 or less, 38% of those aged 60-69 do, and even a third of those in their 70s—33%—said that’s all they have.  

There are lots of reasons why Americans have less than they figured they’d have in their 50s, 60s and beyond: One, says Medicare Advantage, is that they retired too soon. That’s what two-in-five said, which leads to another not-too-surprising finding: “U.S. retirees were 20 times more likely than international retirees to return to work for financial reasons.” 

Read MarketWatch’s Help Me Retire column

That’s if they can find a job, of course. Older Americans seeking to re-enter the work force often find age discrimination to be a huge hurdle. Yes, it’s supposed to be illegal, but get a load of these AARP stats: 

  • Nearly 1 in 4 workers age 45 and older have been subjected to negative comments about their age from supervisors or coworkers.
  • About 3 in 5 older workers have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace.
  • 76% of these older workers see age discrimination as a hurdle to finding a new job; another report found that more than half of these older workers are prematurely pushed out of longtime jobs and 90% of them never earn as much again.

One way to avoid the struggle of having to reenter the workforce at an older age is by not leaving it in the first place. Financial advisers will generally tell you to keep working for as long as you can, not just for the steady paycheck it brings, but for the health insurance, which can be a huge financial drain.

Here’s another stat you might have missed: Two weeks ago, Fidelity, the asset management giant, said that the average couple retiring at age 65 will spend some $300,000 out of pocket over the rest of their lives—beyond whatever Medicare covers. That’s not a typo: $300K for a couple on healthcare. Think about that in light of what I said earlier, about millions of retirees having less than $99,000 saved for retirement. 

On the other hand, moving to a less expensive country could, possibly, help you avoid such monstrous costs. It’s just one reason why more than 431,000 retired U.S. retirees are living overseas, according to the Social Security Administration, which tracks where its recipients live. The numbers are current as of December 2019, the latest figures available. The top three destinations? Canada, Japan (a bit of a surprise) and Germany. 

Those Americans abroad may be getting some company. Some 30% of retirees, says Medicare Advantage, have considered moving to another country as well. If that’s you, check out this piece we ran a few weeks ago on 10 foreign destinations to consider. 

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