The Retirement Spectrum

Ethnicity and Culture Influence Views on Retirement

MassMutual survey underscores different diverse consumers’ attitudes about retirement, including timing, proclivity to plan, expectations and sources of income

April 02, 2019 — SPRINGFIELD, Mass.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–One size does not fit all for today’s diverse consumers when it comes to retirement. In fact, it is increasingly becoming a very personalized journey, as underscored by the latest research from Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. (MassMutual).

The MassMutual State of the American Family (SOAF) study1 highlights differences between diverse communities for retirement planning, including the age that people plan to retire, the length of anticipated retirement, sources of income and other related issues. Diverse consumer groups surveyed were African American, Hispanic, Caucasian and Asian American including Chinese, Korean and Asian Indian.

Differences In Expectations

“While we see many similarities among multicultural families when it comes to retirement planning, there remain important differences in how people view their retirement,” said Wonhong Lee, Head of MassMutual’s Multicultural Markets. “Most communities have undertaken retirement planning at about the same rate, although we see differences in expectations for timing, sources of income and confidence.”

Approximately half of the participants surveyed had calculated how much savings they needed to retire, with about a third actually creating a formal plan, according to the SOAF survey multicultural findings. However, there were outliers. While 61 percent of Asian Indians calculated how much savings they needed to retire, the most of any group surveyed, just 35 percent of Indian families have an actual retirement plan in place. Korean respondents were the least likely to both calculate how much they need to retire (39 percent) as well as to create a clear plan for retirement saving (20 percent), the survey showed.

Age is Relative

Nearly half (45 percent) of all respondents — with the exception of Koreans– plan to retire by age 65 or sooner, according to the survey, with 22 percent intending to retire at age 60 or before. The most common response for an intended retirement age was, “I don’t know,” with 26 percent saying they are unsure.

Again, a few groups had different expectations. Twenty-five percent of African Americans and 26 percent of Chinese respondents plan to retire at age 60 or younger – more than any other groups – and only 10 percent of Koreans said the same, the least of any group. Koreans were more than twice as likely as any group to plan to retire later than age 70 or to say they don’t ever expect to fully retire.

Not everyone is as confident in their ability to retire as planned. One in five survey respondents overall indicated they were “extremely confident” in their projected retirement age, with African Americans (30 percent) and Hispanics (24 percent) expressing the most confidence. Asian Indians (12 percent), Chinese (13 percent) and Koreans (14 percent) were the least confident.

Follow the Money

“Expectations for retiring early and being confident about doing so reflect the greater prevalence of having a guaranteed income in retirement,” Lee explained. “For instance, African American and Hispanic and Asian Indian households are more likely to have a pension to help support their retirement. Anecdotally, many Asian American households own businesses and may not have a pension to rely upon. Instead, if suitable, they might consider placing some of their savings into an annuity product to create a guaranteed income in retirement.”

Overall, 54 percent of survey respondents indicated they expect to receive income in retirement from a pension. That compares to 63 percent of African Americans, 63 percent of Asian Indians, and 59 percent of Hispanics on the high side and 10 percent of Chinese respondents on the low end.

The biggest source of retirement income overall is tax-favored retirement savings vehicles such as 401(k) and 403(b) plans and IRAs (33 percent), the survey found. Hispanic respondents (28 percent) were least likely to depend upon such sources of income. Social Security (22 percent) was the next largest source of anticipated retirement income overall, with the differences between most cultural groups being a percentage point or two. Asian Indian (18 percent) respondents had the lowest expectations for Social Security as an income source, according to the survey.

Living in Retirement

“Expectations for retiring early and being confident about doing so reflect the greater prevalence of having a guaranteed income in retirement...

The Social Security Administration reports that a male reaching age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 84.3 while a female turning age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 86.72. Meanwhile, today’s 65-year-olds have a one in four chance of living past age 90 and a one in 10 chance of living past age 95. That means many people will live 20, 30 or more years in retirement.

MassMutual’s survey reflected those findings, with 65 percent of respondents saying they expect to live two decades or more in retirement and 42 percent saying they expect to live 20-29 years after retiring.

African American and Chinese communities were most likely to plan to retire at earlier ages also had the highest expectations for living longer in retirement. According to the survey, 75 percent of African American and 68 percent of Chinese respondents indicated they expected to live 20 years or more once retired. Thirty-six percent of African Americans expect to live 30 years or more in retirement, the longest of any group by far.

“Expectations for longer retirements are very realistic and in line with trends tracked by government organizations,” Lee said. “The important factor for retirement planning is to start early and sit down with a financial professional or utilize resources such as a retirement calculator to take steps to help ensure that your retirement income will last as long as you do, no matter what financial markets or unexpected life events may bring. It’s clear that people are taking steps to help secure their financial future to position themselves for an enjoyable retirement as part of their American Dream.”

The State of the American Family survey was conducted for MassMutual by Isobar between Jan. 19 and Feb. 7, 2018 via a 20-minute online questionnaire. The survey comprised 3,235 total interviews with Americans. The vast majority of these interviews (2,730) were conducted with men and women aged 25-64, with household incomes equal to or greater than $50,000 and with dependents under age 26 for whom they are financially responsible. Oversampling was conducted for specific ethnic groups, including African Americans (482), Hispanics (562), Asian Indians (152), Chinese (202) and Koreans (98). Respondents had to contribute at least 40 percent to decisions regarding financial matters in their household to qualify. Results were weighted to the March 2017 Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) of the Current Population Survey for age, income, gender, ethnicity, region, and weighted to the 2016 American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample for same sex married/partnered couples, to be representative of American families in this age and income bracket. The sampling margin of error for the 2018 study is +/- 1.88 percentage points at the 95% confidence level when looking at the results for the 2,730 interviews at a total level. For more information, contact Isobar Marketing Intelligence at For more information about the MassMutual State of the American Family Survey, please go to



About MassMutual
MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policyowners. MassMutual offers a wide range of financial products and services, including life insurance, disability income insurance, long term care insurance, annuities, retirement plans and other employee benefits. For more information, visit
1MassMutual State of the American Family, Multicultural Retirement Fact Sheet,
2Social Security Administration,