Americans Are Freaking Out About Retirement, but it Doesn’t Have to Be Scary

Shot of a senior couple going through their finances at home and looking worried
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Americans aren’t just worried about when they’ll be able to retire. They’re nervous about if they’ll ever be able to retire.

That’s the grim story, according to a new survey from GoBankingRates that asked 2,500 adults about their biggest money fear. Twenty-two percent of those surveyed said “never being able to retire” was what they feared most of the financial options listed.

When GoBankingRates asked the same question in 2015, the biggest fear reported was living paycheck to paycheck. Fear of not being able to retire was in third place.

In the new survey. more men than women said their greatest fear was not being able to retire, while more women than men chose “always living paycheck to paycheck.”

Millennials ages 25 to 34 and adults ages 45 to 64 were mostly concerned about whether they could retire. The oldest group surveyed, those 65 and up, said their biggest fear by far was “losing all of my money in the stock market.”

Another interesting distinction in the GoBankingRates survey is its breakdown of results by region. In the western U.S., never being able to retire was the biggest concern. In the Midwest and South, respondents’ top fear was tied between retirement and living paycheck to paycheck. But in the Northeast, living in debt forever was the top fear.

Retirement Is Scary Now, So You Better Get Ready

You can wish for the days of jobs that came with pensions, but Americans should probably spend that time getting real about what it’s going to take to prepare for retirement.

While Social Security isn’t going anywhere in our lifetime, the benefit you receive depends on what you put into it over the years. Otherwise, it’s up to you to sock away the recommended six times your salary by the time you’re 50.

What can you do to calm the heck down and get ready for retirement?

Get to know your workplace’s 401(k), especially if your employer matches a portion of your investment. If you can’t get a 401(k) at work or you’re self-employed, set up an IRA and automate your contributions so saving becomes a habit. If you’re a freelancer or business owner, definitely start saving. Today.

If you’ve taken care of the basics of saving for retirement, a robo-adviser like Blooom can help you keep an eye on your investments. If you want to be conservative with your retirement accounts but still want to try your hand at investing, a tool like Stash or Acorns can help you get started with just a few bucks at a time.

Don’t wait to start preparing for retirement. It may seem far off now, but it’s better to worry about it now than later in life, right?

Lisa Rowan is a writer and producer at The Penny Hoarder.