Worried About Retirement? This Could Help

Health Writer
Medically Reviewed

If worrying about life in retirement is keeping you up at night, here’s a suggestion: Curl up with a good book on personal finance.

Researchers in Japan have found that people who scored higher on a test for financial literacy were less likely to report feeling anxious about what their retirement years had in store for them. The study was published online April 13, 2017, in the Journal of Risk Research.

The researchers analyzed data from a large, nationwide survey in Japan. As part of the survey, men and women were asked whether they had “anxieties” about what life would be like for them after age 65. For this study, the researchers focused on respondents over age 40, on the theory that middle age is when most people begin to think seriously, and fret, about later life.

Survey questions

Survey respondents also answered four questions to assess their financial literacy. Two involved basic money math, including this one:

Q. Imagine that the interest rate on your savings account was 1 percent per year and inflation was 2 percent per year. After 1 year, how much would you be able to buy with the money in this account?

More than today

Exactly the same

Less than today

Do not know

Refuse to answer

The other two dealt with common financial instruments. For example:

Q. Please indicate whether the following statement is true or false: “Buying a company stock usually provides a safer return than a stock mutual fund."

True

False

Do not know

Refuse to answer

The researchers found that people who did well on the financial literacy quiz were less likely to report feeling anxious about life after age 65. Perhaps not surprisingly, they were also likely to have more household wealth and higher incomes than the less financially literate.

The researchers’ takeaway was that financial literacy enables people to accumulate the resources they need for a secure retirement—not that financial literacy alleviates anxiety all by itself.

What the study found

Overall, the researchers described the state of financial literacy in Japan as “rather low,” with respondents answering just two of the four questions correctly, on average. Men tended to fare better than women, especially on the questions about financial instruments.

If your financial literacy could use improvement, libraries and bookstores are full of guides that can help. The internet, of course, has an abundance of resources; a good place to start would be the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website.

And, in case you were wondering, the correct answers to the two questions above are “Less than today” and “False.”