Follow-Up to Landmark 1982 Study Shows Retiree Satisfaction Has
Stayed Strong and Steady 30+ Years Later
NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Headlines frequently focus on the anxiety surrounding retirement saving
and planning, but the reality for many retirees is very different. A new
study from TIAA, a leading financial services provider serving the
nonprofit sector, reveals nearly universal satisfaction in retirement
(93 percent) among its retired plan participants.
What is even more surprising is that despite the many changes that have
taken place in the U.S. over the past 30 years, satisfaction levels are
virtually unchanged from when TIAA (then TIAA-CREF) conducted its
landmark Voices of Experience study, “a realistic, even provocative
account of retired life from the personal perspectives of retirees in
the TIAA-CREF system.” Like the original 1982 study, in which more than
1,500 TIAA annuitants answered questions about a variety of retirement
issues, the 2016 follow-up survey1 of more than 1,500 retired
plan participants measures the evolving attitudes pertaining to life in
retirement – providing insights into all facets of retired life and the
steps taken to prepare.
“It’s remarkable that even with all the changes our country has
experienced in the past 30 years – the increase in health care costs,
the predominance of technology, the overwhelming amount of
often-conflicting information – nearly all of the retirees we surveyed
feel satisfied with their life in retirement,” said Roger W. Ferguson,
Jr., president and CEO at TIAA. “It’s a vastly different world today
than 1982, but our findings show that a happy, fulfilling retirement is
In fact, the intensity of satisfaction among TIAA retirees has
increased: 65 percent of today’s retirees say they are very satisfied
with retirement, up from 51 percent in 1982.
“I was excited for retirement. Twelve years later, I am still
excited, feel healthy and have big plans!”
The 2016 survey results reflect another trend first identified in 1982:
retiring earlier. In 1982, 39 percent of TIAA plan participants retired
before age 65. Among the retirees surveyed in 2016, more than half (54
percent) retired before age 65. And many individuals are retiring ahead
of their own schedule: 71 percent of today’s retirees say they had
expected to work until age 65 or older, but only 47 percent did.
Survey respondents also are more optimistic than pessimistic toward the
prospect of retiring. Three-quarters of today’s retirees said they had
looked forward to retirement. This could be due in part to the fact that
the majority are retiring on their own terms: 76 percent of those
surveyed in 2016 report that they retired by choice, an increase from 67
percent in 1982.
“What’s especially interesting about the 2016 Voices of Experience study
is that it contradicts today’s common narrative about retirement and
shows that many more retirees approached retirement with excitement and
optimism than apprehension,” said Ferguson. “The study reinforces what
we have known for years – that our participants can benefit from
outcome-oriented retirement plans that help them feel secure about their
What Makes Retirement Fulfilling?
Staying busy and engaged during retirement is key to these feelings of
contentment. Seventy-six percent of today’s retirees who are engaged in
10 or more activities report being very satisfied with their retirement,
while only 52 percent of those who are engaged in 1-4 activities say the
same. Seventy-four percent are using their time in retirement to connect
with and spend time with family, and 64 percent socialize with friends
on a regular basis. More than half engage in other hobbies like
gardening or home improvement (56 percent) and/or travel (51 percent).
“I had a list of things I would do in retirement, like take piano
lessons, learn a language. But I’ve found I’m very busy every day –
every day is full! I love being able to do whatever I want whenever I
want with no obligations.”
And though recent industry
research has shown that many of today’s workers plan to work for pay
during retirement, more than eight in 10 of today’s TIAA retirees report
they are not working for compensation. This largely tracks with the
findings from 1982, which revealed that 79 percent of retired TIAA
participants were not working for pay. Instead, they have the freedom to
spend time participating in voluntary or charitable activities or
providing care for their families.
The Early Bird Gets a Satisfying Retirement
Eighty-two percent of today’s TIAA retirees feel satisfied with the
preparations they made for retirement, including 37 percent who feel
very satisfied. These numbers have remained largely unchanged since
1982, when 87 percent reported feeling satisfied with their preparations
and 36 percent said they felt very satisfied.
Is there a secret to this achievement? Getting an early start to
retirement planning can allow retirees to “choose their own retirement
adventure” and enjoy their retirement lifestyle. Among today’s retirees,
those who began retirement planning before age 30 are more likely to
retire before age 60. Not surprisingly, the majority (75 percent) of
these early planners say they are very satisfied with their retirement.
“I started saving when I was 19, investing by age 21. At retirement,
I was very well-positioned for an early retirement. Sticking to my
financial goals has resulted in my having more money now than when I
retired, so I know that I did something right.”
The survey also found the younger that people are when they retire, the
easier they find the transition to be. Seventy-six percent of
respondents who retired before age 65 say the transition was easy, while
69 percent of respondents who retired between the ages of 65 and 70 say
the same. The figure drops to 61 percent among respondents who retired
at age 71 or older.
Additionally, incorporating lifetime income solutions into retirement
plans can strengthen retirement confidence. Seventy percent of the
retirees surveyed have a fixed or variable annuity, and 92 percent are
satisfied with their decision to annuitize. Having a steady stream of
monthly income could be one reason why a majority (54 percent) of
retirees in the survey have not needed to make any financial adjustments
to their lifestyle in retirement. And with more than half of respondents
planning for their retirement funds to last 20 or more years, a source
of lifetime income can mitigate the risk of outliving their savings.
“With many people retiring earlier than they had originally expected,
retirees will need to plan for a comfortable life that will last 20 or
30 years – or even more – after leaving the workforce. In fact, TIAA
delivered monthly payments to 30,000 people older than age 90 in 2015,”
said Ferguson. “Incorporating lifetime income solutions into their
retirement plans can help retirees live comfortably for a lifetime.”
For more information about the TIAA Voices of Experience survey, see
the executive summary or the full report.
is a unique financial partner. With an award-winning track record for
consistent investment performance, TIAA is the leading provider of
financial services in the academic, research, medical, cultural and
government fields. TIAA has $854 billion in assets under management (as
of 12/31/2015) and offers a wide range of financial solutions, including
investing, banking, advice and guidance, and retirement services.
The 2016 Voices of Experience survey was conducted by GfK Custom
Research North America among a total of 1,583 TIAA retirees between May
28 and August 27, 2015. To qualify, all respondents had to indicate that
they are retired. Respondents were mailed the survey questionnaire and
had the option to return the survey by mail or to complete the survey
online. Respondents completed 104 surveys online and 1,479 by mail. The
sample was provided by TIAA, and data were weighted by gender, age,
region, engagement, and industry sector.
This document contains edited excerpts from a survey and interviews that
describe the circumstances, opinions and experiences of specific retired
participants from one or more of the companies in the TIAA organization
(“TIAA”). The circumstances, opinions and experiences depicted may not
be representative of the circumstances, opinions and experiences of
other TIAA customers and are not indicative of future performance or
success. Individual results and experiences will vary.
You should consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and
expenses carefully before investing. Please call 877-518-9161 for
current product and fund prospectuses that contain this and other
information. Please read the prospectuses carefully before investing.
The TIAA group of companies does not provide legal or tax advice. Please
consult your legal or tax advisor.
Investment, insurance and annuity products are not FDIC insured, are not
bank guaranteed, are not deposits, are not insured by any federal
government agency, are not a condition to any banking service or
activity, and may lose value.
TIAA-CREF Individual & Institutional Services, LLC, Teachers Personal
Investors Services, Inc., and Nuveen Securities, LLC, Members FINRA and
SIPC, distribute securities products.
© 2016 Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America-College
Retirement Equities Fund, 730 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017
1 The second Voices of Experience study was conducted in
2015, and the findings are being released for the first time in 2016.