Recent research from various sources has uncovered an alarming trend in financial planning in America: As a whole, Americans nearing retirement are underprepared. An October/November 2012 survey of people ages 50–70 shows that fewer than half (46%) report feeling extremely or very confident that they’ll be able to afford the essentials in retirement. Their concerns may be valid. The same study uncovered a gap of approximately $250,000 between what respondents think they need to retire comfortably and what they’ve set aside for their time post-career.1

Less studied are the reasons why Americans are so ill-equipped to fund this major life stage. What events have transpired to make retirement financially burdensome even for those who have long planned their exit from the workplace?

The Retirement Derailers® survey conducted in February 2013 explores this question. The results identify unexpected life events, or derailers, that can be culprits in disrupting plans for retirement. The study also reveals the gravity of these events, which have cost Americans an average of $117,000 in savings, and examines how respondents view this shortfall in the context of their overall preparation for retirement. Finally, it highlights how individuals in these situations plan to get their retirement savings back on track.

1 Source: Retirement Check-In® survey released by Ameriprise Financial in February 2013. Koski research interviewed 1,000 working Americans ages 50–70 with at least $100,000 in investable assets in October and November 2012.
The Retirement Derailers® survey was created by Ameriprise Financial utilizing survey responses from 1,000 employed and retired Americans ages 50-70. All respondents have investable assets of at least $100,000 (including employer retirement plans, but not real estate). The survey was commissioned by Ameriprise Financial, Inc. and conducted via telephone interviews by Koski Research from February 21- February 28, 2013.