Many Americans would rather skydive than plan for retirement

Dhara Singh

Some Americans would rather jump out of a plane than plan for retirement.

One in 5 U.S. adults approaching retirement say skydiving is less intimidating than prepping for their golden years, according to a recent survey by Empower Retirement. The new findings come at a time when 61% of pre-retirees plan to continue working in retirement.

But Empower CEO Edmund Murphy said Americans should be more optimistic and that the much talked-about retirement crisis is “overstated,” he recently told The Final Round on Yahoo Finance.

“From a standing start, we have over 150 million Americans today that are enrolled in the retirement system,” he said. “And savings rates are continuing to grow.”

Murphy noted that more than 62% of American families have money saved for retirement outside of Social Security. “So we think we’re moving in the right direction,” he said. “Is the system perfect? No. But there are plenty of opportunities to improve.”

DENNIS, MA: Seth Stoffregen of Wellesley and friend Deborah Schilling, a realtor from Cotuit, worry how recent market turmoil could affect their retirement plans. (Photo: Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

He emphasized how millennials have made saving for retirement a priority. At Empower alone, which he said serves 9.3 million Americans, a third of them are millennials. More companies also are offering workplace savings plans and, in some cases, will match a portion of their workers’ contributions, Murphy noted, making it easier for employees to save for the future.

“We are seeing higher and higher savings rates among millennials and I think that’s a very, very encouraging sign,” he said.

What is retirement?

The Empower survey of over 2,000 participants not only measured how retirees and pre-retirees felt about their post-work years, but it also hinted at how the definition of retirement is evolving altogether.

Traditionally, retirement was the end to the hustle-and-bustle of working life. But for some Americans, this stage of life presents an entryway into a more flexible career.

One in 5 retirees worked in consulting, freelancing or part-time roles, drawing off their work experience, while 1 in 3 pre-retirees expect to do the same, the survey found. Eight in 10 pre-retirees and three-quarters of retirees agree that the modern economy has more employment opportunities for older people compared with 20 years ago.

SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO: A couple dressed in western clothing and accessories dance to live music on the historic Plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

“I think it’s an encouraging sign,” Murphy said. “Particularly, when we know there aren’t enough new workers coming into the economy to address the job demand.”

Most survey participants - 83% of retirees and 85% of pre-retirees - believe they will “find their identity” in retirement when they can finally focus on just themselves.

“I think the view people have about retirement is fundamentally different than it was 10..15 years ago,” Murphy said. “Many are seeing it as an opportunity to explore and do different things...that perhaps they weren’t able to do when raising a family and working 9 to 5.”

Dhara is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @dsinghx.

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