More Than a Quarter of Retired Investors Continue to Pay Off Mortgage and Credit Card Debt

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Tuesday, July 9th, 2024

As perceptions of what retirement should look like continue to evolve, retirees are reevaluating their financial approaches and lifestyles.

Nearly one-third (31%) of retirees expect to be less secure in their retirement than their parents and grandparents were, according to Nationwide's ninth annual Advisor Authority study, powered by the Nationwide Retirement Institute®.

This feeling of uncertainty among retirees is compounded by the fact that everyday financial obligations remain a concern – more than one in five (22%) retired investors worry about affording their monthly bills.

Retirees Reevaluate Financial Commitments

The transition to life after retirement demands crucial shifts, including the prioritization of financial commitments. In addition to short-term financial obligations like basic living expenses, long-term debt continues to weigh on retirees, with 26% of retired investors continuing to pay off their mortgage, and 25% still paying down credit card debt.

While most American savers dream of a retirement of leisure and travel, retired investors are adjusting their priorities to make ends meet in the wake of economic constraints. Nearly four in ten (39%) retired investors are spending less on entertainment to meet financial commitments in today's economic environment, and more than a third (34%) are taking fewer trips or vacations.

To compensate further, 22% of retired investors are drawing more funds from retirement accounts, intensifying the traditional decumulation stage.

"The picture of life after retirement has changed for many people as economic stressors continue to weigh on retired investors," said Mike Morrone, Vice President of Nationwide Annuity Business Development. "Now is the time for advisors and financial professionals to check in with their clients and help them remain calm, nimble and informed in the face of continued economic headwinds, ensuring the plan they have in place continues to position them for a secure retirement."

Strategies Vary for Investors Already in Retirement

To account for financial headwinds, retirees are bolstering their plans. Nearly two in three (63%) retired investors have a strategy in place to protect their assets against market risk, up from 54% last summer.

However, these retirement plans look radically different from the plans of generations past. Some retirees (12%) are abandoning the 70-80% spending rule (i.e., ensuring they have 70-80% of their pre-retirement income per year in retirement) and 11% are casting aside the 4% rule (i.e., withdrawing 4% of their retirement portfolio each year when retired).

Retired investors are also initiating conversations about legacy planning and wealth transfer with their heirs. Nearly a third (32%) of retirees are discussing wishes for end of life (long-term care expenses, funeral preferences, etc.), and 34% are discussing financial details of their estate with heirs.

Financial Advisors Guide Clients Toward Retirement Security

Advisors are supplying their clients with the guidance needed to help achieve financial security in retirement, counseling their retired clients on how to generate guaranteed income (23%), prioritizing wants vs. needs (21%) and supplementing income out of necessity (16%).

Advisors are also helping investors plan for lingering financial commitments, such as mortgage repayments, which more than a third (34%) of advisors say their clients are planning to continue paying in retirement.

With the Great Wealth Transfer underway, advisors are helping clients – and their heirs – prepare. More than half (59%) of advisors say their clients are confirming beneficiary designations to prepare their heirs for the transfer and management of wealth. Another 54% say their clients are reviewing or creating estate planning documents, and 44% are building financial confidence and knowledge.

"Advisors are recognizing and acknowledging investors' desire to avoid making the wrong moves in retirement," Morrone said. "They can help clients feel more confident about their retirement plans by understanding their goals and anxieties, and helping them protect their savings and plan for income they won't outlive by reinforcing the value of different retirement solutions and products, like annuities."

For additional insights on this survey data, see our infographic.