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With good reason, Americans stressed about affording retirement

Americans are anxious about their ability to live out their Golden Years with a measure of financial security. Those fears, unfortunately, are more than justified.

With about 10,000 Americans retiring each day, a growing number are leaving the workforce without pensions, with modest Social Security benefits or inadequate individual account balances. Factor in skyrocketing health care costs and the picture becomes even more alarming.

"It doesn't take an actuary to see that the numbers for many just don't add up," Diane Oakley, executive director of the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) and Kelly Kenneally, its communications advisor, wrote in a report released Tuesday.

The findings are part of a growing body of evidence that point to troubled times ahead for many Americans approaching retirement. The report tracks with other data showing a shocking number of people without any retirement savings, and even those trying to save falling behind.

Survey: Americans' worst retirement fears 02:07

Medical expenses are a major and realistic worry, with Fidelity estimating a couple who retired in 2014 needing an estimated $220,000 to cover future medical costs.

Eighty-six percent of Americans believe the nation faces a retirement crisis, and nearly 75 percent are concerned about their ability to afford retirement, according to a survey released by the non-profit, non-partisan NIRS. Surprisingly, the sentiment was highest, at 92 percent, among those with annual incomes exceeding $75,000, a group more likely to have a retirement plan and financially able to save on a regular basis.

Sixty-seven percent of Americans said they would be willing to take less of a wage increase in exchange for guaranteed income in retirement, with retirement benefits nearly as important as salary in worker satisfaction with a job.

In 2014, just 65 percent of private-sector workers had access to a retirement plan through their employer, and just 48 percent participated, according to NIRS. For full-time employees, more than a quarter lack access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, and more than 40 percent did not participate in one.

How to save for retirement when work doesn't have a plan 01:54

In 1975, 88 percent of private sector workers with a workplace retirement plan had pension coverage. In 2013, among households covered by workplace retirement benefits, 57 percent of older households age 55-65 were still covered by a defined benefit pension, while younger households were half as likely to have a defined benefit pension.

About three-quarters said they would cut back on spending in retirement or continue working as long as possible.

In years past, middle class Americans maintained their standard of living in retirement through three major sources of income: Social Security, defined benefit pension plans and defined contribution individual savings accounts such 401(k) plans.

These days, however, a large portion of the workforce lacks access to, or is not participating in, retirement plans, making future retirement security prospects "challenging at best," said Oakley and Kenneally.

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