Americans are prepared to work longer in order to save enough for retirement, according to a survey by Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC)

About 76 percent of respondents said it’s more important to reach a specific dollar amount before retiring, compared with 20 percent who said it’s more important to retire at a given age, regardless of savings, according to the survey of adults with household incomes or assets from about $25,000 to $100,000.

“Eighty is the new 65,” Joseph Ready, executive vice president of Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement & Trust, said in an interview at Bloomberg headquarters in New York before the survey was released today. “It’s a real sea change.”

About 74 percent expect to work in retirement, according to the survey, with about 39 percent working because they’ll need to and 35 percent because they want to. And 25 percent of those surveyed said they expect they’ll need to work until at least age 80 because they don’t have sufficient savings.

“People are starting to move toward understanding the different levers of what they’re going to have to do to make it in retirement,” Ready said.

About 68 percent of those surveyed said they’re not confident the stock market is a good place to invest their retirement savings. About 45 percent of respondents said if they were given $5,000 they would buy a certificate of deposit, and 50 percent said they’d invest it in stocks or mutual funds.

No Good Alternative

“Even though there’s a lack of confidence, I don’t know that they see there’s a good alternative,” to investing in stocks, said Laurie Nordquist, executive vice president of Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement & Trust.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index returned 1.32 percent this year through Nov. 14. One-year CDs yielded 0.35 percent and five-year CDs paid 1.19 percent on average as of Nov. 3, according to, an online provider of consumer-rate information and a unit of Bankrate Inc.

Survey respondents had saved a median of $25,000 towards retirement and estimated they’d need a median of $350,000 to support themselves in retirement. About 42 percent expect to receive a pension or already receive one.

“The numbers don’t add up,” Nordquist said. “The gap is probably larger than what they self identified.”

Those surveyed expect to withdraw about 18 percent on average from their savings each year in retirement.

“We would recommend typically 4 percent or less, in terms of withdrawals,” Nordquist said.

About 57 percent of respondents said they’re confident they’ll have saved enough for retirement.

“You used to just save blindly, but I think the blinders are coming off,” Ready said.

Geographic Attitudes

Wells Fargo hired Harris Interactive Inc. (HPOL) to survey 1,500 Americans aged 25 to 75 by phone in August and September. San Francisco-based Wells Fargo is the fifth-largest administrator of 401(k) retirement assets, overseeing about $117 billion as of 2010, according to Cerulli Associates, a research firm based in Boston. Fidelity Investments is the largest administrator with about $824 billion in assets.

Residents of the San Francisco and Sacramento, California, metropolitan areas are generally the most ready for retirement, and residents of Indianapolis and New York are generally the least ready, according to a ranking of 30 major metropolitan areas by Ameriprise Financial Inc. (AMP) The ranking, released yesterday, evaluated the survey responses of almost 12,000 adults about their preparations and attitudes towards retirement.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.