Judging from this year's results, it's clear a still-recovering economy has not only hindered Americans' ability to plan for the future, but has done a number on their confidence in retiring at all.
"Consumers are feeling much less prepared than they have in the prior three years [that we've conducted the study], down from 75 percent to 70 percent this year," Suzanna de Baca, vice president of wealth strategies, told Business Insider. "When you look at our sample size, that's a statistically significant change."
For the most part, it comes down to basic dollars and cents. More Americans are struggling to save for retirement and fewer have decided exactly how much they'll need to survive their golden years.
"It's not just enough to be thinking about retirement," de Baca said. "Short-term economic swings can have a big impact on confidence. You really need to take some positive steps [towards retirement planning], regardless of the environment."
From the list of 30 metros, we've highlighted the seven lowest ranking.
The 7 Cities Where Americans Are Least Prepared For Retirement
Chalk Cleveland's lower ranking up to anxiety over future healthcare costs (31%) and potential changes to Social Security (24%). They cited these two reasons as the most likely road blocks to their retirement goals. The region also lives up to its reputation as a litmus test for national voter sentiment. Its scores on positive and negative sentiments were right on par with national averages, the report found.
Baltimore residents can't seem to get on a steady retirement track. Just 73 percent have begun retirement preparations, down 7 points from last year and a full 13 points lower than 2010. "In particular, locals are less likely than people across the U.S. to say they're making plans to spend more time with family (30% vs. 40%) or determining how they'll rest and relax (17% vs. 24%)," the report found. What's more, the 23 percent of locals who've delayed retirement blame job loss or setback (37%), health (33%), lack of savings (27%) and loss of equity in their home (13%).
New York City is no stranger to the bottom five, and its inhabitants are even further behind in their retirement plans this year. They're eight points behind the 70 percent of Americans who've started retirement planning, and a full 12 percent fewer New Yorkers have started saving. The number of residents taking advantage of employer-sponsored retirement plans also dropped, from more than half to just 40 percent. A bright spot: Fewer people feel negatively about retirement than last year, 30 percent vs. 41 percent.
Some dire findings from the report: Fewer Chicagoans say they are setting aside money for retirement (65% vs. 70%) or contributing to an employer-sponsored plan (47% vs. 53%) compared to 2011. But where Ameriprise says they're truly failing is estimating how much they'll need to get by in retirement. Just 16 percent have a figure in mind, versus 29 percent last year. Planning appears to be the issue. They've seen a 10 percent drop in the number of residents seeking professional financial planning assistance over last year and their confidence levels have dropped as a result––just 10 percent feel ready to retire.
Indianapolis locals may be more likely than the average American to set aside money for retirement (69% vs. 63%), but student loan debt is a thorn in their side. "They are more likely ... to say student loans are impacting their current financial situation (21% vs. 14%)," the report says, and "one-third of those who share this concern say it's because they've assumed payments on loans they co-signed for a child or grandchild who is currently unable to make payments." They are also more unsure of where they'll retire than the rest of the nation (18% vs. 24%).
Falling behind big metro neighbors like Atlanta, Nashville, and Raleigh, Charlotte's high unemployment rate has done a number on the locals' retirement confidence. Per the report: "Compared to previous years, the number of metro area residents who say they are setting aside money in an employer sponsored plan (53%), determining the income they'll need for retirement (21%) or consulting with a financial advisor (22%) have all declined since 2010." They've also seen a 12-point drop in those who feel optimistic about their retirement plans, from 42 percent last year to 30 percent in 2012.
Time has done a lot to change the retirement plans of D.C. residents. Eight in 10 said they were preparing for retirement in 2010, which has fallen to just 68 percent this year. "Those who report setting aside money in their own savings in investments (50%), determining how much they need to save for retirement (17%) and consulting with a financial advisor (22%) also declined during this period," the report says. The result? A near 50 percent loss in confidence, which dropped from 21 percent to 12 percent and earned them the top spot as least prepared for retirement.