A survey just released by the AARP and Siena College Research Institute suggests most Erie County residents from the Generation X and Baby Boomer generations are not financially prepared for retirement. Nor are they confident in the future of their Social Security benefits.
Only about a quarter of the 611 people questioned in Erie County, whose ages range from 35 to 70, say they've got a basic retirement savings plan in place. About 63 percent say they're worried whether they've saved enough.
One of the reasons why participants are not fully prepared, suggests the survey, is because they're simply trying to keep up with the bills.
"A lot of Gen Xers and Boomers are, frankly, just getting by or they're finding it difficult to manage financially," said David McNally, the AARP's Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy in New York. "Almost half of Gen Xers in Western New York, about 47 percent, and 43 percent of Boomers told us they're just getting by or finding it difficult to manage, financially."
The survey interviewed residents of both generational sets in Erie County, Monroe County, Central New York, Capital District, New York City and Long Island.
Nearly six in every ten responding in Erie County are also worried about whether promised Social Security benefits will still be there upon retirement. There's also a noticeable trend in how the generations feel about the two major-party president candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and whether they're trusted to protect Social Security.
"The boomers say 41 percent Trump, 49 percent Clinton," McNally said. "Among Gen Xers, it's about tied."
Diane Oyler did not participate in the survey but was preparing to attend a roundtable discussion about it Monday night at Templeton Landing in Buffalo. She told WBFO that her concerns about Trump and Republicans is the idea of more reliance on the private sector in entitlement reform.
"If I have both my Social Security savings and my 401k tied into a market that's volatile, I worry about that as a strategy."
And as for Clinton and the Democrats?
"I'm just not hearing enough from them, in terms of how they will make sure Social Security is solvent," Oyler replied.
In addition to simply keeping up with everyday expenses, McNally noted that the recession several years ago hit many hard. Oyler says her household was hit, though perhaps not as roughly as other families, but she told WBFO it was because, perhaps, she and her husband were paying close attention and adjusting their plans accordingly.
One of the long-term effects of that experience, she told WBFO, was that they are more wary about taking risks in order to build their retirement savings.
"When we look at our investments, we're definitely more conservative and shy away from riskier investments," Oyler said. "You never know what's going to happen with the market."
Among the ideas McNally would like to see explored is a state-backed workplace savings program. Governor Andrew Cuomo has formed a panel to explore the idea, known as the SMART NY Commission (Saving More to Achieve a Richer Tomorrow).
"We're hoping that the governor and the legislature and create a workplace savings plan for those half of New Yorkers who work in the private sector who have none right now," McNally said.
Click here for a more detailed summary of the AARP/Siena survey results.