This shift is coupled with their growing frustration that they're not saving enough, and the reality that many haven't created a detailed retirement plan.
One of the striking results of the survey released Wednesday is that 25 per cent of the respondents said they'll need to work until at least age 80 because they will not have enough money to retire comfortably.
Even those who plan on retiring expect they may continue working in some capacity and for various reasons:
— about 75 per cent said they expect to work in their retirement years;
— about 39 per cent said they will need to work to afford things they want or to maintain their lifestyle; and
— another 35 per cent say they'll work because they want to.
It seems the old expectations of working until one's 60s and then taking it easy have been cast aside.
In the survey, 76 per cent of the workers interviewed said it's more important to have a specific amount saved before retirement, regardless of age. Only 20 per cent said it is more important to retire at a specific age, regardless of savings.
This change in attitude of working to save a specific dollar amount is grounded in reality, said Joe Ready, a director of Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement and Trust. But he notes that it raises a lot of larger issues for the workplace and the economy that have yet to play out. For instance, evaluating the potential impact on advancement opportunities for younger workers if their older peers stay on the job.
The survey focused on 1,500 respondents in their 20s through their 70s with household income of $25,000 to $99,999, and household investable assets of $99,999 or less. The intent was to centre in on middle-class workers and retirees. The telephone interviews were completed between early August and late September.
These findings come at a time when a volatile stock market continues to create anxiety over 401(k) balances, and political leaders are discussing cuts to future Social Security and Medicare benefits.
About half of those surveyed between the ages of 25 and 49 say they are willing to accept future reductions in Social Security and Medicare benefits to help lower the nation's total debt. For those aged 50 to 59 that drops to 28 per cent, and only 19 per cent of those over 60 agree with such program cuts.
That signifies a shift in the expectations of government support in retirement, said Laurie Nordquist, another Wells Fargo retirement director.
More than a quarter of people in their 20s and 30s don't expect any income at all from Social Security during their retirement years. On average, people in this age group who expect to receive some Social Security payments predict that they will cover only 20 per cent of their income. Currently, the Social Security Administration says benefits replace about 40 per cent of the average worker's income in retirement.
The survey also shows workers are coming to terms with the fact that they aren't saving enough.
The median saving goal for retirement among survey respondents was $350,000, while their median savings was just $25,000, about 7 per cent of the goal.
Nordquist said it has been clear for several years that workers haven't been saving enough. That's due in part to a lack of trust in the stock market — 68 per cent surveyed said they aren't confident in the stock market as a place to invest for retirement.
Retirement planning is still something that most workers haven't focused on. The survey shows 69 per cent of respondents do not have a written financial plan. A majority — 60 per cent — said they were overwhelmed or that it was pointless because they're too far behind to catch up.
That means that they don't expect to have much money to leave behind. About 43 per cent said they don't expect to leave an inheritance to their children. Even among households surveyed with more than $100,000 in income, 29 per cent don't expect to leave any savings behind.