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From cryptocurrency to COVID-19, retirement investors adapt to changing times

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(Photo: immimagery/Adobe Stock)

Investors saving for retirement face a brave new world of COVID-19, rising health care costs and even the option of investing in cryptocurrency. FinanceBuzz recently asked 1,000 U.S. adults how they are faring in this changing environment. This is what they found:

Cryptocurrency is going mainstream. Although cryptocurrency may have begun its life as a fringe investment, it undoubtedly has moved into the mainstream. Forty-four percent of U.S. adults who have started saving for their retirement have added at least some cryptocurrency to their retirement investment portfolios, with half of those crypto investors indicating that virtual coins make up a “big part” of their retirement savings.

Despite the cryptocurrency market’s volatility and the challenges some Americans face in determining how to buy it, it is likely that putting retirement funds into crypto will continue to become a growing trend. In fact, an additional 14 percent of retirement savers indicated they would like to add cryptocurrency to their portfolios. 

Many investors are getting a late start. Americans consistently have delayed retirement investing, with 21 percent of survey respondents indicating they haven’t begun putting aside money yet. This is similar to the 19 percent of Americans who said in 2020 that they hadn’t started saving, as well as to the 20 percent who hadn’t yet begun retirement investing in 2019.

Delaying retirement savings can make it more difficult to amass a large enough nest egg because of the lost opportunity for compound growth. As soon as money is invested, it can begin earning returns that may be reinvested. The more years Americans wait, the less they benefit from this ability to make their money work for them.

Many investors don’t know how much to save. Unfortunately, many Americans don’t have a clear idea of how large their retirement nest egg will actually need to be. Just 30 percent of survey respondents have a strong understanding of the amount necessary to retire at their target age. Although 35 percent of people have a vague idea of the amount they will need, 35 percent have no idea how much they should save to be prepared for their future.

The good news is that most people are consistent with saving once they begin, with just 7 percent of people who started saving for retirement indicating they are not currently contributing to their accounts. Close to a majority of savers are investing more than 10 percent of their income for retirement. This is a promising sign that a substantial number of Americans will end up with a nest egg sufficient to support themselves in the future.

COVID-19 continues to have an impact. COVID-19 has changed many aspects of American life, including how people are approaching retirement savings. Surprisingly, the impact has not been entirely negative.

Although 12 percent of people reduced retirement investing in 2021 and the same percentage stopped contributing because of pandemic-related hardships, 28 percent of people actually have been able to increase the amount they’re saving, possibly because of stimulus funds or reduced expenditures in other areas such as travel and dining out.

Investors are willing to make tradeoffs. Retirement preparedness is a top financial priority for Americans, despite many not yet saving for the future and others not yet saving enough. In fact, survey responses made clear that people are willing to make substantial sacrifices to retire 10 years earlier than anticipated.

More than one-quarter of Americans said they would embrace a lifestyle of extreme frugality if it meant retiring 10 years earlier. These survey respondents said they would go two years without purchasing anything new except groceries and other essentials.

Many investors don’t have access to employer plans. More than one-third of survey respondents said they had never participated in an employer-sponsored plan such as a 401(k). Forty-one percent of them it was because their employer didn’t offer a plan

“Although there have been substantial changes to retirement savings over three years, including growing interest in cryptocurrency investments, Americans continue to face many of the same obstacles to retirement saving,” the research report concluded.

“Still, with so many survey respondents indicating they are willing to make big sacrifices to ensure retirement readiness, there are hopeful signs that more people will soon begin investing for their future.”