How to Create a Stable, Satisfying Retirement

Emotions are involved when thinking about retirement goals, according to a PNC Survey, but it’s important to balance that with solid goal setting and active planning.

By Rich Ramassini

The headlines seem to blare at us every day: Americans are not financially prepared for retirement. While it is true that many are not, there is a group of savers identified in a recent PNC survey who know exactly what they want and how they want to get there.

The PNC Perspectives of Retirement survey identified key priorities of those in the workforce who are planning for general life goals in retirement.

We understand that emotions often shape decision-making about major purchases, such as buying a new car, a first home, or many other products. Similarly, we believe – and our survey confirms – emotions also are in play when people think about retirement. So we know it is critical that people set goals and track progress against those goals in order to balance the emotions involved with planning for retirement.

Most of those survey respondents we consider to be “successful savers” feel they are taking the steps they need to make their goals achievable. In fact, our survey shows that 77 percent actively monitor their retirement plans, while 72 percent are confident they will achieve their life goals. Those are good signs and good steps.

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Strong Preparation Ahead of Retirement is Essential

The survey also tells us that among respondents currently participating in a retirement plan, 70 percent are saving with investment firms, banks and brokerage firms, or in mutual funds; while 53 percent are investing in employer-sponsored retirement plans. In addition, almost half (45 percent) have been saving for at least 20 years. Participation is the key.

There are other practical steps people can take as they think ahead to the day they walk away from the working world. Consider what expenses you can pay down today that you will not need to worry about later. Many successful savers in our survey are thinking that way. Almost a third (31 percent) are attempting to pay off their mortgage, and 10 percent are paying down credit card debt.

Our survey also helped us understand how those who aren’t yet retired believe they will spend their money in retirement. These individuals expect basic living expenses such as food and housing to account for 40 percent of their spending in retirement. They also anticipate that 19 percent of their spending will be dedicated to travel, and that healthcare expenses will comprise 18 percent of their spending.

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Financial Security and Travel are Top Priorities

The survey also found that sentiment plays a role in thinking about life goals.

When asked about their retirement goals, three quarters (77 percent) of those not yet retired listed having peace of mind and living comfortably as most important, 70 percent wanted to travel and 56 percent envisioned spending more time with family.

The fact is, emotions can influence retirement decisions. But to become a successful saver you must set goals, make a plan and monitor that plan with an advisor for greater confidence as you look toward the golden years.

How you prioritize spending during retirement is a personal choice that depends on your own situation. What remains consistent, however, is the value of setting goals and creating a plan to achieve those goals so you can successfully save for the retirement of your dreams.             

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Rich Ramassini, CFP® is Director of Strategy and Sales Performance for PNC Investments.

Learn more about PNC’s retirement planning services »



Successful Savers

47% list financial stability and security as a top goal

72% are confident their life goals are achieveable

70% invest savings in investment firms, banks, brokerage or mutual funds

77% regularly monitor their retirement plan against their goals


Top 5 Retirement Goals for Those Not Retired

20% Financial Security/Get Out of Debt

77% Live Comfortably

70% Travel

56% Spend More Time with Family


Check-ups and Check-outs

How those not retired expect to spend retirement funds*

2% Other

7% Charity

13% Children/Grandchildren

18% Healthcare

19% Travel

40% Basic Living Expenses (e.g. food, housing)

Gus Faucher
Rich Ramassini says emotions play a role in both big purchases and retirement planning

Goals for Retirement:

  • 72 percent of non-retirees see travel as a retirement goal
  • 83 percent of retirees see peace of mind and living comfortably as top goal

PNC Point of View
Real People. Real Perspective. Real Insights.
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