Retirement Survey: Market Volatility Changing Americans’ Retirement Behaviors and Outlooks [2022 Survey]

FinanceBuzz conducted a survey to uncover sentiments on the current state of the economy and whether people believe they’ll be able to retire by their desired age.
Last updated Aug. 4, 2022 | By Maya Siman | Edited By Melinda Sineriz
Jar of coins labeled for retirement

FinanceBuzz is reader-supported. We may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

With an increase in inflation, rising interest rates, and downturns in some sectors of the stock market, the summer of 2022 has been marked with volatility and uncertainty for Americans.

With the cost of living more than 9% higher than a year ago and the fastest pace for rising inflation since 1981, individuals are making tough choices about where their current dollars should go. Increased prices may mean people will need to work longer to ensure they can retire with the lifestyle they want once they leave the workforce.

To get a handle on how people are planning for retirement in the face of uncertainty, FinanceBuzz surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults on their financial habits when it comes to their retirement accounts and their outlook on their financial futures.

In this article

Key Findings

  • Only 16% of Americans think they will be able to retire when they want to.
  • 13% of people with retirement accounts report decreasing their monthly contributions as a result of current market conditions.
  • 83% of Americans think a recession is likely in the next year.
  • 66% of people who held crypto in their retirement portfolio have reduced or abandoned their holdings.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 (24%) Americans believe it will take more than 2 years for the financial markets to feel normal again.

83% of Americans think a recession is likely in the next year

Given the high inflation and increasing interest rates, it’s no surprise that a majority of the people we surveyed (83%) believed a recession is likely in the next year.

Even expert economists agree with these Americans’ predictions. According to Fortune, two-thirds of economic experts believe a recession will happen at some point in 2023. While the 2020 pandemic-induced recession was short-lived at just two months, recessions typically last anywhere from one to two years.

Additionally, many Americans aren’t hopeful about their personal financial situation. 44% of Americans report that their current financial situation is worse than a year ago. Older Americans were most likely to report this, with 51% of baby boomers reporting that their financial situation is worse now than last year.

Graphic showing answers to the question "How does your current financial situation compare to a year ago?"


How are people changing their finances as a result of the economy?

With the economy in its current state, many Americans have had to step out of their personal finance routines to stay afloat. So what measures have they been taking?

Graphic showing answers to the question "Which of the following have you done in the last 6 months with your finances?"


For starters, nearly 1 in 5 Americans (19%) report pulling money out of savings more often due to recent market conditions.

Additionally, many Americans are looking for ways to increase their incomes. 24% say they’ve sold personal items for extra income, and 22% report starting a side hustle or second job.

Credit cards have also played a role in managing finances for many Americans. 12% reported opening new credit card account(s), 11% have increased the unpaid balance on their credit card(s), and 9% reported missing a credit card or loan payments. High credit utilization and missed payments could both negatively impact credit scores.

How have recent market conditions affected retirement strategies?

In response to recent market conditions, 15% of Americans surveyed have already withdrawn from their retirement accounts. 13% of people say they have decreased their retirement contributions. Both of these could negatively impact Americans’ timeline for retirement.

Graphic showing answers to the question "Which of the following have you done in the last 6 months in regards to your retirement account(s)?"


16% of those surveyed have considered professional investment advice. Additionally, 12% of Americans with retirement accounts have made changes to their investment risk management strategy for their portfolios.

Crypto investing for retirement is also down

While mutual funds and ETFs are traditional retirement investments, some Americans also choose to invest in alternative assets such as cryptocurrency to diversify their retirement portfolios. With the recent overall economic uncertainty and consequent volatility in the crypto markets, some respondents are now abandoning cryptocurrency.

Graphic showing answers to the question "Which of the following best describes the inclusion of cryptocurrency in your retirement strategy?"


While 34% note they still have cryptocurrency in their retirement portfolios and as part of their long-term investment plans, the majority (66%) have reduced or abandoned their holdings entirely.

How do Americans feel about their long-term retirement plans?

When do people think they will be able to retire?

Many are already concerned about their ability to retire on time. A mere 16% of Americans believe they’ll be able to retire when they want to. Baby boomers, the oldest generation surveyed, are the least likely to believe they can retire when they want to. Younger generations aren’t much more hopeful, though. Just 22% of Gen Z and 18% of millennials believe they’ll be able to retire when they want to.

Graphic showing answers to the question "Which of the following statements apply to you as it relates to your financial future and retirement?"


Perhaps more bleakly, while 16% of respondents think they will be able to retire when they want to, 23% think they will work until they die. Breaking it down by generation, baby boomers are almost evenly split when it comes to whether they’ll be able to retire when they want to or will work until they die.

About one-third of Gen X and millennials expect to work until they die. Only 15% of Gen X and 18% of millennials expect to be able to retire when they want to. In contrast, 18% of Gen Z expect to work until they die. 22% of Gen Z respondents expect to retire when they want to.

How long do people think it will take the market to stabilize?

A small portion of the Americans surveyed are on the hopeful side when it comes to financial market stability. Slightly over 10% believe the financial markets will stabilize and start to feel “normal” within the next six months.

The majority, though, aren’t as optimistic. Nearly 1 in 4 Americans believe it will take more than 2 years for the financial markets to feel normal again. 18% of Americans say the financial markets will never feel normal again.

Graphic showing answers to the question "How long do you think it will be until financial markets feel 'normal' again?"


Bottom line

Planning for retirement in volatile economic conditions can be complicated. Fortunately, there are resources to make sure you’re on track to retire when you want to with a lifestyle that works for you. As you consider your own retirement plan, think of these tips:

  • Save for retirement as soon as possible. Saving for retirement is a huge part of making sure you have what you need in the future. When you start early, you have more time for investments to pay off and more time for markets to stabilize over time. That said, every bit you can save will be helpful, even if you’re getting off to a later start.
  • Make your money work for you. Investing money is a good way to make your money work for you and build wealth for your future. Our guide to the best investment apps can help you get started.
  • Budget your money. In times when money is tight, budgeting can be helpful. Here are some of the best budgeting apps.

Methodology

FinanceBuzz surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults ages 18 or older using a survey platform. Results were stratified across age and gender to create a nationally representative sample.

Smart Asset Benefits

  • Get matched with fiduciary financial advisors
  • Advisors are vetted and certified fiduciaries
  • Take the mystery out of retirement planning
  • Their matching tool is free

Author Details

Maya Siman Maya Siman is a digital PR professional with a passion for story telling. Her own personal finance journey has inspired her to create engaging content with the rest of the FinanceBuzz team to help others build their own money knowledge. When she’s away from her desk, you can catch her at one of Atlanta’s many live music venues.