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Is it ever too late to start saving for retirement?

Overall, nearly half of American (47%) think you can be “too old” to start saving for retirement.

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Asian business man putting coin increase on coins stacking with house model while preparation to saving for property investment and house mortgage
(Photo by ESB Professional via Shutterstock)

You don’t need an office job to start saving for retirement, but a whopping nine in 10 industrial workers still think they do.

A recent survey of 2,000 Americans, half between the ages of 18–29 and half between 30–64, looked at how these groups plan for retirement across various fields of employment.

Workers at micro-sized companies (between 2–9 employees) were most intent on retiring in their 50s (32%)—but 24% of this group said their current employer doesn’t offer a retirement plan.

Overall, nearly half of all respondents (47%) think you can be “too old” to start saving for retirement.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of retirement benefits provider Human Interest, the survey also looked at some of the frequent reasons people think they won’t be able to retire.

The top reason people believe they won't retire was found to be pandemic-related stress, which is keeping them from working as hard as they need to (44%). Finance workers were the most likely to cite pandemic-related stress as a barrier to reaching retirement (57%).

Meanwhile, 40% of workers​​ think they won't have enough money to last the rest of their life, particularly healthcare workers (61%).

Similarly, 47% of education professionals think they’ll burn out before reaching retirement, while HR workers are most worried about potential job loss standing in their way (47%).

While half of all respondents turn to their savings or checking accounts to save for retirement, preferences differed across industries and company sizes.

People working at enterprise companies (1000+ employees) were most likely to use a 401(k) (52%), 29% greater than those at small businesses (10–50 employees). Those at mid-sized businesses (51–249 workers) favored real estate (53%), and crypto was a popular choice among those at small organizations with a staff of 10–50 (44%).

To ensure they hit their retirement age, 37% would exchange a job they liked for a better-paying one they liked less, and 32% would change jobs to one with a better 401(k).

Respondents ages 30–64 were more likely than 18–29-year-olds to say they’d change jobs for a better 401(k) (36% vs. 28%).

“The pandemic took a different toll across industries, adding to existing sector-specific challenges when it comes to retirement savings,” said Eric Phillips, Senior Director, Partnerships & Strategic Insights at Human Interest. “Whether you work at an office desk or at a factory, you shouldn’t have to be well-versed in all aspects of finance to plan for your future.”

Forty-four percent of all respondents said they’re using their company’s retirement savings plan, with 30–64-year-olds more likely than 18–29-year-olds to do so (48% vs. 39%).

Those working in finance and insurance rely on their company’s retirement plan more than other industries (54%), while construction workers were least likely to use their company’s (38%).

And 73% of employed respondents wish their employer-provided better 401(k) guidance and education.

“Our results showed that 70% think they’d have a better 401(k) with an office job, suggesting some employers may be unaware of how to improve the retirement plans they offer,” Phillips added. “There are affordable options for companies of any size to automate their 401(k) processes and take some of the guesswork out of saving for retirement for both themselves and their employees. In fact, when given access to a 401(k), our 2020 in-house study found that employees working in manufacturing and other underserved industries are nearly as likely to use their 401(k).”


  • Financial/insurance - 54%
  • Technology/computer science - 53%
  • Health, medical, fitness and/or wellness - 50%
  • Education - 50%
  • Manufacturing - 47%
  • Construction - 38%

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