Your Money

Most adults' top financial priority right now is nonretirement savings, survey shows

Key Points
  • The top money goal for this year is to boost nonretirement savings, according to a survey.
  • That's followed by paying off debt.
  • Nearly half of survey respondents said they've saved less than $15,000 for their post-working years.
Israel Sebastian | Moment | Getty Images

There are some financial goals more pressing for adults right now than bulking up their nest egg.

For 2022, just 17% have made saving for retirement their top financial priority, according to First National Bank of Omaha's latest financial wellness survey. And nearly half of respondents — 46% — said they have less than $15,000 saved for retirement.

Additionally, 59% worry that they won't be able to retire by age 65.

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The survey was conducted in February among more than 1,000 U.S. adults and was weighted to reflect the population.

So what are people more focused on when it comes to their finances this year? About 40% said increasing nonretirement savings is their main goal, and an additional 30% identified paying off debt.

"While it's a key element of your financial well-being, prioritizing retirement savings depends on where you are in the cycle of thinking about retirement, what you have in savings and your personal situation regarding employment, amount of debt, etc.," said Sean Baker, executive vice president of the individual customer segment for First National Bank of Omaha.

Retirement security is a pressing issue for many workers, as research persistently shows that many people have saved little for their golden years. With fewer traditional pensions offered by companies, retirees generally must rely on Social Security and their own savings to fund a retirement that could stretch for two or three decades.

Roughly a quarter of U.S. adults have no retirement savings at all, according to a report from PwC. Among retirement savers, the median 401(k) account balance for those ages 55 to 64 — i.e., individuals who generally are nearing retiree status — is $84,714, according to Vanguard's latest How American Saves report.

Generally, it's recommended that you have 10 times your annual salary saved if you want to retire at age 67, according to Fidelity Investments.

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While balancing retirement savings with other financial priorities can be tricky, it's worth trying to save what you can, said Kathryn Hauer, a certified financial planner with Wilson David Investment Advisors in Aiken, South Carolina.

"A way to manage the demands is to commit to depositing an amount, no matter how small, in a 401(k) or [individual retirement account]," Hauer said.

If you can't do that, "start small with irregular deposits of whatever random amount you can spare," she said. "Every little bit helps."

For 401(k) plans, the 2022 contribution limit is $20,500, with the 50-and-over crowd allowed an extra $6,500 "catch-up" amount (for a total of $27,000). For IRAs, whether Roth or traditional, the contribution limit for eligible people this year is $6,000, with an extra $1,000 if you're at least age 50 ($7,000 in total).

The survey from First National Bank of Omaha also showed that 30% of respondents think their overall financial well-being is better than it was pre-pandemic, and 44% said it is about the same.

Roughly one-third (34%) say they believe their credit history gets in the way of financial wellness.