Your Retirement Readiness Rx: Plan Early and Get Help

Survey shows that people who start saving earlier and also seek professional advice online and/or in person feel more confident about their retirement planning.

A doctor smiles as he hands a patient a prescription.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Do you feel you’re behind in achieving your financial goals?

You’re not alone. In a recent Prudential survey, nearly three of every four respondents said they felt that way, with overall savings levels and retirement savings the two biggest concerns.

It’s not surprising that those who started planning for retirement at younger ages generally feel more confident. In addition, the survey suggests people who’ve received any type of professional financial advice feel better about their outlook for retirement.

Subscribe to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Be a smarter, better informed investor.

Save up to 74%

Sign up for Kiplinger’s Free E-Newsletters

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice on investing, taxes, retirement, personal finance and more - straight to your e-mail.

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice - straight to your e-mail.

Sign up

In other words, what appears to matter most is getting some form of professional financial help — whether that’s an automated online tool, in person, hybrid or something else — and to start saving as early as possible. Those two factors are key to getting on track for retirement success.

A closer look at the numbers

To better understand American perceptions of retirement and savings, Prudential contracted with OnePoll for an online survey consisting of 2,000 respondents. The survey was conducted from March 23-28 with a broad representation of generational groups (e.g., the respondents were evenly split by generation, so 500 each from Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers).

The survey focused on a variety of issues, and we were specifically interested in how the age a respondent starts preparing for retirement, in conjunction with using a financial professional, relates to overall retirement readiness.

We found that respondents who started planning at earlier ages are in better shape than those who start later in life, which is not surprising. For example, 58% of respondents who start thinking seriously or planning for retirement between the ages of 31 and 40 would describe themselves as somewhat or very prepared for retirement, compared to just 48% of respondents who started thinking seriously or planning for retirement between the ages of 51 and 60.

The differences in retirement readiness for those engaging with a financial professional, even among those who start planning at an early age, were more startling. Among respondents who reported using a financial professional and who started saving between the ages of 31 and 40, 78% said they are somewhat or very prepared for retirement — vs. just 44% for those who had started saving at the same age, but who had never spoken to a financial adviser.

What’s also interesting is that while only around 69% of all respondents said they were somewhat or very prepared for retirement, there is little difference in the noted level of preparation across the different advice options, whether it be in person, online or even through an employer-sponsored defined contribution plan (e.g., a 401(k) or 403(b)).

In other words, the key to preparing for retirement is getting financial help — not the specific type of help. While there are likely nuanced differences within certain groups (e.g., responses to other questions suggest the comfort of working with different types of financial advice solutions varies by demographic factors such as age and income), overall results suggest working with a financial advice solution (as early as possible) is more important than using a specific type (e.g., the notion that everyone must work with an in-person financial adviser).

Your key takeaways

Households typically have myriad competing financial priorities and an even greater number of products and solutions available to fund their respective goals. This complexity can often lead to choice overload and indecision. Prudential’s survey suggests that preparing for financial goals at younger ages, and in particular getting professional financial advice, is a key to significantly improving household financial health, such as retirement readiness.

The specific type of financial advice doesn’t appear to be materially related to confidence levels. This finding is potentially especially important for younger investors who may not have the assets, resources or interest to engage in person with a financial adviser and could potentially start by using some type of online (i.e., a robo adviser) or largely virtual financial advice solution.

At some point, it may be worth engaging with an adviser (or more robust toolset) as the situation evolves, but getting some form of professional guidance early is the most important factor in feeling confident about your journey to a fulfilling retirement.

The Prudential Insurance Company of America, Newark, NJ. 1071641-00001-00

PGIM DC Solutions is an SEC-registered investment adviser, a Delaware limited liability company and is a direct wholly owned subsidiary of PGIM Quantitative Solutions LLC, and an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of PGIM, Inc., the principal asset management business of Prudential Financial, Inc. of the United States of America. PFI of the United States is not affiliated in any manner with Prudential plc incorporated in the United Kingdom or with Prudential Assurance Company, a subsidiary of M&G plc, incorporated in the United Kingdom. Registration with the SEC does not imply a certain level of skill or training.  

These materials are for informational, illustrative and educational purposes only.  This document may contain confidential information and the recipient hereof agrees to maintain the confidentiality of such information.  Distribution of this information to any person other than the person to whom it was originally delivered is unauthorized, and any reproduction of these materials, in whole or in part, or the divulgence of any of its contents, is prohibited. The information presented herein was obtained from sources that PGIM DC Solutions believes to be reliable as of the date presented; however, PGIM DC Solutions cannot guarantee the accuracy of such information, assure its completeness, or warrant such information will not be changed.  The information contained herein is current as of the date of issuance (or such earlier date as referenced herein) and is subject to change without notice.  

These materials do not provide any legal, tax or accounting advice. These materials are not intended for distribution in any jurisdiction where such distribution would be unlawful. Certain information contained herein may constitute "forward-looking statements," (including observations about markets and industry and regulatory trends as of the original date of this document). Due to various risks and uncertainties, actual events or results may differ materially from those reflected or contemplated in such forward-looking statements. As a result, you should not rely on such forward-looking statements in making any decisions.  


This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

David Blanchett, PhD, CFA, CFP®
Head of Retirement Research, PGIM

David Blanchett, PhD, CFA, CFP®, is Managing Director and Head of Retirement Research for PGIM DC Solutions. PGIM is the global investment management business of Prudential Financial, Inc. In this role he develops research and innovative solutions to help improve retirement outcomes for investors with a focus on defined contribution plans. Prior to joining PGIM he was the Head of Retirement Research for Morningstar Investment Management. He is currently an Adjunct Professor of Wealth Management at The American College of Financial Services and Research Fellow for the Alliance for Lifetime Income. David has published over 100 papers in a variety of industry and academic journals that have received awards from the CFP Board, the Financial Analysts Journal, the Journal of Financial Planning, and the International Centre for Pension Management. In 2014 InvestmentNews included him in their inaugural 40 under 40 list as a “visionary” for the financial planning industry, and in 2021 ThinkAdvisor included him in the IA25+. When David isn’t working, he’s probably out for a jog, playing with his four kids, or rooting for the Kentucky Wildcats.