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Married households with 401(k) accounts are faring well in retirement, survey shows

A new survey conducted by financial-services company T.

A new survey conducted by financial-services company T. Rowe Price found that retirees and those nearing retirement who have 401(k) accounts are “faring well” — and that are married households faring far better. Credit: iStock

Feeling nervous about your retirement? If you've been dutifully putting money away in a 401(k), you can probably relax a little, especially if you're married.

A new survey conducted by financial-services company T. Rowe Price found that retirees and those nearing retirement who have 401(k) accounts are "faring well." Retirees had median household assets of $473,000, which included savings, investments and the value of their home minus debt. But married households fared far better: They had median household assets of $731,000 compared to $248,000 for single households. Perhaps most encouraging, 89 percent of recent retirees -- whether single or married -- said they had little trouble adjusting their spending to lower post-retirement incomes, and 85 percent learned that "to be satisfied," they didn't need to spend as much as they did before they retired.

"For these retirees, it's quite a positive picture," says Anne Coveney, an executive at T. Rowe Price who designed the survey. "They're taking the income and the assets they have and saying it's working."

To be sure, the study is of a very narrow segment of people because it looked at only those with 401(k) plans, which meant they had some retirement savings. In fact, a survey from the Federal Reserve released last month found that nearly 20 percent of Americans ages 55-64 had no retirement savings at all, and a study last year from the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that nearly 60 percent of U.S. workers have less than $25,000 in retirement savings.

On average, the retirees in the T. Rowe Price survey said they are getting by on income that is 66 percent of what they earned when they were working. Yet more than half the retirees said they are living as well as or better than when they were employed. The largest share of retiree income came from Social Security.

There were a few red flags in the results. The level of anxiety among still-working adults was higher than the retirees because of worries about their job situation. "Thirty percent said they were somewhat or very concerned about losing their job in the next 12 months," Coveney says. And because retirees were, on average, only three years into their retirement, they may face higher costs for health care as they hit their 70s and beyond.

This "reality check," as Coveney puts it, could have a larger effect on single households, which are predominately headed by women. "When you look at the single households, that's where you see some real challenges," Coveney says.

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