Octogenarians define a successful retirement.

Retirees 80 + say: Be able to spend what you want in early retirement and re-create a pension in any way you can.

More than half were not expecting to live as long as they have.

NEW YORK, October 27, 2015—What does a successful and happy retirement look like? A recent survey of 500 retired octogenarians provides a snapshot of what an average, successful retirement looks like, with lessons such as:

Wealth beats health: When deciding when to retire, their financial well-being was among the most important factors (68%), more so than their health (53%) or their age (42%).

The early years are the best: Nearly three quarters (72%) of respondents agree that the earliest years of their retirement were some of the best years. Nearly half (49%) say that their best and happiest year of retirement was within five years of retiring—including 24% who say that the very first year was their favorite.

Don’t underestimate your lifespan: Over half (54%) say that when they were planning for retirement, they were not expecting to live as long as they have.

Get your income on autopilot: Nearly nine in ten (88%) would advise younger generations to re-create pension-like income for their retirement. In fact, a majority (52%) feel that their auto-pilot income sources have given them greater peace of mind than accounts that they would need to actively manage themselves.

“We have all heard the saying, “listen to your elders.” In this case, we hope younger generations listen closely to what octogenarians report about how they planned for retirement and how this planning worked for them once they got there,” said Ross Goldstein, Managing Director of Retail Annuities Marketing Division, New York Life. “We hope Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials will take action to find pension-like income that will allow them to retire and enjoy their younger retirement years.”

The study was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs and commissioned by New York Life, the nation’s largest mutual life insurer.

Reliance on more than just social security.

“One of our most striking findings is that a generation which many believe is lucky to commonly receive pensions and full Social Security benefits is in fact relying on more than those two traditional income sources in retirement. That is a good lesson for everyone—planning really matters.

Where Octogenarians’ Retirement Income Comes From Income Sources That Octogenarians Wish They Had—But Don’t Have Right Now
Social Security (90%) Traditional pension (45%)
Savings accounts (57%) Income annuities (36%)
Traditional pensions (55%) 401K/403B (35%)
Permanent life insurance (46%) Managed investment accounts (35%)
Managed investment accounts (34%) Investment annuities(34%)
Income annuities (29%) Savings account (33%)
Investment annuities (28%) Permanent life insurance (30%)
Mortgage (23%)  
401K/403B account (22%)  

Notably, when we asked octogenarians what sources of retirement income serve them well, income annuities topped the list standing alongside traditional pensions and Social Security. About two in three respondents expressed confidence in these income vehicles, which highlights just how important income guarantees can be during a lengthy retirement,” said Mr. Goldstein.


This survey was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, October 2nd—8th 2015. A national sample (all 50 states) of 514 retired adults ages 80 and older from Ipsos’ U.S. online panel completed the seven-question, online survey in English, with an estimated margin of error of +/- 4.9 percentage points.

About New York Life

New York Life Insurance Company, a Fortune 100 company founded in 1845, is the largest mutual life insurance company in the United States* and one of the largest life insurers in the world. New York Life has the highest possible financial strength ratings currently awarded to any life insurer from all four of the major credit rating agencies: A.M. Best (A++), Fitch (AAA), Moody’s Investors Service (Aaa), Standard & Poor’s (AA+).** Headquartered in New York City, New York Life’s family of companies offers life insurance, retirement income, investments and long-term care insurance. New York Life Investments*** provides institutional asset management. Other New York Life affiliates provide an array of securities products and services, as well as retail mutual funds. Please visit New York Life’s website at www.newyorklife.com for more information.

Talk it through with an expert.

We're here to help.

get started
Futher Reading