Personal Finance

These retired boomers, they're happier than you'd think

How to reduce retirement needs
How to reduce retirement needs

If you are an older boomer who has been retired for a few years, congratulations. Chances are you're feeling pretty good about your finances.

That's the finding of a newly released survey by Ameriprise Financial, which found that 76 percent of boomers with at least $100,000 in investable assets who retired in the last five years felt "in control" of that decision. Some 57 percent say they are very satisfied with their financial situation in retirement, and 37 percent are somewhat satisfied.

"I was pleasantly surprised by how happy they are," said Marcy Keckler, vice president of financial advice strategy at Ameriprise.

Pension paradise

But dig deeper into the survey results and a key factor in the recent retirees' happy state of mind becomes clear. The subjects of this survey were ages 60 to 73, and 70 percent of them received at least some of their retirement income from a pension.

"The majority still relies on pensions to fund their retirement just as much as they rely on Social Security and income from private investments," the report found, so they had certainty about what was coming their way.

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Pensions like those are becoming scarcer every year. Just 24 percent of Fortune 500 employers offered defined benefit plans to new hires at the end of 2013, compared with 60 percent in 1998, according to a study by Towers Watson. That means current and future retirees are less likely to have predictable income streams they can fall back on after they stop working. And study after study show that Americans come up short on measures of financial literacy and knowledge about retirement finances, bringing into question their ability to create financially secure retirements for themselves.

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"The prominence of defined benefit plans is decreasing and is going to continue to decrease," Keckler said. "For subsequent waves of retirees, I think that it is important that people stay focused on saving as much as they can."

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In addition, the survey only included respondents with at least $100,000 in investable assets, so it did not measure the feelings and experiences of those with meager retirement savings.

Young and not saving

An earlier survey of retirement preparedness by Fidelity Investments found that the younger respondents were, the lower their likelihood of being on track for a financially secure retirement.

The boomers in that survey, defined as being 51 to 69 years old and still working, were on track to cover 81 percent of their estimated retirement income needs, but Generation X respondents were on track to cover 71 percent and Generation Y were on track to cover only 62 percent.

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"Generally, young people do not have access to pensions, which puts them at a disadvantage to older workers," Fidelity's John Sweeney said in a statement when the survey was released, adding that younger workers still had time to change their saving habits.

Fun in retirement

Just over half of the Ameriprise survey respondents said they retired because they wanted to enjoy life or didn't want to work, well above the 17 percent who said they retired because they had reached their savings goals, underscoring the emotional component of the decision to retire.

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Nearly a third of the retirees said there was nothing difficult about the retirement transition, but the rest had some ups and downs dealing with challenges like missing former colleagues and figuring out how to fill their days. Financial issues were not mentioned as a challenge, though, and even with those bumps in the road, 43 percent reported having more fun in retirement than they expected.

At least for some older boomers, the golden years appear to be just that.