31 Big Retirement Trends of 2019

Big Retirement Trends


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Big Retirement Trends

Retirement Recap

Retirement plans evolve with your needs, which means the planning as a whole shifts consistently based on the needs of retirees. In 2019, retirement didn't necessarily entail owning a home, spending a lot of time on land, or even taking it particularly easy and spending the money accumulated over decades. We took a look back and found a number of examples of how retirement and retirement planning that have changed, and what those changes might mean for you. 

Related: How to Protect Yourself from Financial Ruin in Retirement

The FIRE Movement

The FIRE Movement

Vicki Robin wrote “Your Money or Your Life” in 1992, but the 72-year-old gained new notoriety a generation later for touting the merits of living beneath your means. Called FIRE — an acronym for “financial independence, retire early” — it challenges adherents to track down to the penny where their money goes. If the return doesn't outperform a low-cost mutual fund, exchange-traded fund, or real estate, they're encouraged to reconsider. Buying a three-bedroom home can bring enough rental income from two units to cover mortgage costs, for instance, which ideally leaves more to invest and shortens a retirement timetable

Related: 18 Things You Should Do If You Want to Retire Early

Regrets, We Have a Few

Regrets, We Have a Few

FIRE's extreme frugality many not work for everyone, but people planning for retirement often wish they'd saved a bit more. Charles Schwab surveyed 401(k) participants nationwide and found saving is still the top source of financial stress, well ahead of paying off credit card debt and keeping up with monthly expenses. In fact, two-thirds of participants (64%) wish they’d spent less in the past to save more for retirement, especially on short-term pleasures such as meals out, expensive clothing, new cars, and vacations.

Dragon Images/shutterstock
Backbone of the Industry

Backbone of the Industry

Management occupations remain the safest of bets for Americans aged 65 and older, employing the most seniors of any sector and jumping 31% from 2006 to the time the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported data in 2016. (Still, seniors make up just 8.2% of that giant sector, while at just 293,000 people, roughly 30% of farmers are over age 65.)

Delayed Retirement

Delayed Retirement

Full-time senior workers are part of a trend that's been steady for nearly 30 years. The percentage of workers expecting to delay retirement to after 65 more than tripled to 37% in 2016 from from 11% in 1991, according to data from the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Within a generation, the likelihood of retiring late has nearly doubled.

Employer-Plan Embrace

Employer-Plan Embrace

Participation in employer-offered defined contribution retirement plans — 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and the like — has jumped to 69.5% from 64.2% since 2007. But you can thank retirement plans with automatic enrollment: Among employers who don't offer auto-enrollment, participation has dropped to just 50.2% from 57.8% over the past decade, according to Fidelity Investments. 

Related: How to Sock Away $50 a Month Into an IRA

Don't Put Off Saving for Retirement

Super Savers

Those who haven't opted out of an employer's 401(k) or other defined contribution plan are saving more than ever. Since 2010, Fidelity says the contribution rate (including employer matching contributions) has increased to 13.2% from 11.8% of employee salaries. That's still beneath the ideal rate of 15%, but it's closer. 

Related: 11 Ways to Jump-Start Your Retirement Savings If You've Been Procrastinating 

Senior Living At Sea

Cruise Retirement

Retire at sea? While the cost of retiring on land can be $1,500 to $10,000 monthly, or anywhere from $27,000 to $120,000 annually, cruises that cost less than $100 nightly can come out to about $2,800 a month. Programs including Holland America's Senior Living at Sea and the luxurious World Residences at Sea can help, but cramped cabins, limited health care options, storage fees, and the cost of managing affairs on land (including taxes and real estate) present downsides. It's more expensive than a retirement community, but it's tougher to see the world from Shady Pines.

Renewed Confidence in Savings

Renewed Confidence in Savings

These days, some 54% of U.S. workers have enough faith in their savings to start making plans to retire, human resources site Workforce says. That represents something of a recovery: Back in 2002, that figure was 59% of workers, but during the recession in 2009 that percentage dipped to 41% before bottoming out at 38% in 2012. 

Related: 20 Ways to Cut Costs in Retirement

New York City

Urban Retirement

Nearly one-third of tenant applications in cities are for tenants older than 60, says AARP, with data from property management software company DataCloud. In downtown Detroit, Boston, and Portland, Oregon, you're far more likely to find retirees going from their doorman building to a restaurant or theater than you are to find a graphic designer on a motorized scooter heading to a coffee shop. The draw of dense, walkable neighborhoods isn't universal, but there's a large brood of baby boomers who get it. 

Related: The Most Luxurious Retirement Communities in America

They're Less Likely to Talk About It

Marital Discord

Couples have distinct ideas about retirement and haven't been communicating them. More than 4 in 10 disagree about when to retire and more than half argue how much they need to save, according to Fidelity Investments.  

Related: 13 Smart Retirement Moves for Women


Outdoor Living

Golf and shuffleboard don't make the Top 10 activities for people 65 and older put out by the Physical Activity Council, though birdwatching, wildlife viewing, and fishing are at the top of the list with working out, swimming, bicycling, and hiking, and camping and fitness classes are not far behind. In fact, 60% of baby boomers participated in fitness activities, with 39% active in outdoor sports. 

What if the RV Breaks Down

RV Retirement

Some 1 million Americans have chosen to spend part or all of their retirement on the road in an RV. Though small motor homes can cost $40,000 to $60,000, bus-sized models with apartment-style space can range from $250,000 to $1 million. A travel trailer can cost $10,000 or less, but consider if you still have stuff to store or a home to maintain and gas costs, living expenses, and income concerns. Do your homework, plot your route, see if you'll need to take extra work, and be prepared to pump out your own waste. You can always rent an RV and do a test run before making a decision. 

Related: Fabulous RV Vacation Spots Where Only Seniors Are Allowed

Panarea, Italy
Optimize Retirement Contributions

Less Loaning

Fewer retirement-plan participants are taking loans from their 401(k) or other plans, Fidelity notes. In recent years, enrollees with outstanding loans against their plan has dropped. A booming stock market and extremely low unemployment are possible reasons for that.  

Early Distribution from 401k

Cashing Out

It's a terrible trend, but a trend nonetheless: 35% of retirement plan participants cash out their accounts when switching jobs, according to Fidelity. Among 20- to 29-year-olds, the cash-out rate is 41% despite taxes and an early withdrawal penalty that will reduce $20,000 to $13,600 — and that's only if you're in the 22% bracket and your state has no income tax. “If you were to leave the $20,000 invested,” Frankel says, “It could grow to more than $213,000 by the time you're 65 and ready to retire.”

Unhealthy Retirement

Unhealthy Retirement

Between 1992 and 2010, the percentage of adults ages 51 to 54 who reported fair or poor health grew to 22% from 17%. That's a big step back from the previous generation, in which adults ages 80 and older in fair or poor health dropped to 34% from 43% from 1998 and 2012, the Urban Institute says. What’s to blame? More people diagnosed with diabetes, thanks largely to high-fat, junk-food-heavy diets and rising obesity rates. 

Related: 12 Health Goals for Seniors in 2020

Ocean View House, Isumi, Japan


We aren't saying that  retirement downsizing isn't still a trend. More than half of retirees who move still move into homes smaller than the one they owned, Merrill Lynch and Age Wave have reported. But more retirees (30%) actually upsize their home after retirement than live in a home the same size as the one they owned before (19%). The big homes encourage family members to visit and transform a house from an “empty nest” to a “welcome home.”

Be Careful Not to Spend it All
Pop Paul-Catalin/shutterstock


Nearly two in five (39%) U.S. retirees spend more than they expected to, Global Atlantic Financial Group found. This is somewhat surprising, as the typical non-retired U.S. consumer over 40 spends nearly $3,000 a month and the typical retiree spends 32% less ($2,008). The most common areas where retirees spend less include expenses such as entertainment (29% less), dining out or restaurant takeout (24% less), traveling (18% less), and housing (23% less on mortgage payments, and 22% less on rent). Those cuts may not be by choice: More than half (55%) of retirees have retirement planning regrets including not saving enough (36%), relying too much on Social Security (20%), and not paying down debt before retiring (12%).

Related: 12 Ways Grandparents Waste Money on Their Grandkids

Raising the Kids

Raising the Kids

Parents now spend $500 billion annually on adult children — twice the amount they contribute each year to their own retirement accounts, Merrill Lynch and Age Wave find. Roughly 72 percent of parents say they’ve put their children’s interests ahead of their own need to save for retirement and 63% report having sacrificed their financial security for the sake of their children. The 79% of parents who give at least some financial support to adult children pay for food (60%), phone service (54%), car expenses (47%), school (44%), vacations (44%), rent (36%), and student loans (27%). Of the 82% willing to make a financial sacrifice for an adult child, 25% would pull money out of a retirement account for them.

Taking It With You

Taking It With You

Well, kids, don't hold out for an inheritance. A 2015 HSBC survey of workers in 15 countries found that 21% of workers would spend their savings rather than leave any to their children. Just 9% intend to save as much as possible and pass the money on. That isn't great, as 1 in 3 people with investable assets was relying on an inheritance for their financial security, according to a Merrill Edge survey cited by AARP. That includes 20% of baby boomers and 32% of millennials. For boomers, at least, the expectation is realistic, as they are in line to inherit trillions.

Raleigh, North Carolina


Did you retire to Florida, only to find that everyone who annoyed you up north just followed you there? Well, instead of going back, a lot of people have settled in Appalachian country in Georgia, Tennessee, or North Carolina. It's called the “halfback” movement— for moving halfway back to northern towns — and has seen certain retirement-destination counties surge 169% from 2010 to 2017, the Wall Street Journal says. That’s the same percentage of growth for retirement destinations in Florida.

Moon Dragon House
Zyl Vardos

Granny Pods

No self-respecting retiree loves the name, but “granny pods” are tied to the tiny-house trend and desire to downsize. They aren't all that much cheaper than houses at $100,000 to $250,000, but they're easy to put in a relative's backyard or a small lot, are easier to take care of, and are often beautiful. Weigh the pros and cons — and check with local authorities— before planting one. 

Related: 30 Amazing Tiny Houses

Staying Put

Staying Put

More than 3 in 4 people over 50 want to stay in their community for as long as possible (77%), and nearly the same number in their current house, according to an AARP survey. But despite 36% planning to modify their homes so they can stay as they age, only 46% think they’ll be able to stay put. “We know that most people want to stay in their own homes, and the fact that many won’t be able to says that we need to do more to ensure that people age the way they want to,” says Joanne Binette, senior research adviser for AARP policy research and international affairs.



It isn't all cheesecake and sassy Floridian banter, but home sharing has taken off among retirees who remember splitting their first place with a bunch of roommates. Services such as Silvernest and Senior Homeshare are there to help, as 32% of retirees would take in a roommate if it meant keeping their own house.

Make Sure You Are an IRA Beneficiary

Increasing Wealth

The median retiree had spent down between 11.8% and 27.2% of their assets during the first two decades off work, with the lowest percentage of spending belonging to those with the highest level of pre-retirement assets, according to an Employee Benefit Research Institute survey. But about one-third of all sampled retirees had actually increased assets over that period, despite retirement sort of being about spending accumulated assets. Why the increase? Because people are nervous they’ll outlive their assets, EBRI suggests.

Multigenerational Living

Multigenerational Living

More seniors are opting to live with younger family members who can help them save on housing costs, assist with medical needs, and keep them company. According to the Pew Research Center, 32.3 million Americans lived in households with two adult generations in 2016, up from 27.4 million in 2012. Despite concerns about privacy and new roles in a family, it could work out if everyone is on the same page.

Stay Sharp with Continuing Education
Steve Debenport/istockphoto

Back to School

With retirees allowed to take college courses cheaply or even free, they're becoming familiar faces on campus. There are even university-based retirement communities that offer flexible living arrangements, college classes, and the use of campus amenities such as libraries, rec centers, and theaters.

Cooperative Housing

Cooperative Housing

For some, a lack of control is a turn-off when it comes to retirement communities, and a senior co-op, or cooperative housing, becomes a good alternative. Co-ops, run as nonprofits, give each senior resident ownership of their community as well as input regarding how it is run. According to SeniorLiving.org, co-ops take a variety of forms, such as apartments, townhomes, or mobile-home communities. They may have amenities similar to traditional retirement communities, too, paid for with residents' monthly dues. Just be sure you agree with community rules before buying shares in the property. Cooperative housing, while a tiny segment of the senior housing market, has been edging up, according to Senior Housing News.  

Create a Family Tree

Raising Grandkids

The number of grandparents raising grandchildren has been on the increase in recent years. In 2005, some 2.5 million children were living with grandparents, and by 2015 the number had risen to 2.9 million, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. Earlier this year, AARP noted that an estimated 3 million grandparents were raising grandkids. The nation’s opioid crisis has had an impact on this trend as grandparents often step in to provide the care their own offspring cannot.  

Senior 'Villages'

Senior 'Villages'

One interesting twist on the idea of aging in place, especially for those who don't have family or friends nearby to rely on: Joining a "village" that can help connect seniors to services such as transportation and household help. Services aren't free, but membership dues are fairly reasonable, an average $600 a year. There are village networks across the country, according to the Village to Village Network, and seniors can search easily for villages near them.