Saving early and often is the key to not running out of money in retirement. (istock)

What is our biggest fear when it comes to retirement?

Well, according to a new survey from the Indexed Annuity Leadership Council, our biggest fear is running out of money. Twenty-five percent of Americans are worried about that. And it’s not the first survey to show that trend.

“I think when you look at the top fears of people and what’s on their minds, and 25 percent of Americans are concerned about outliving their retirement, the immediate reaction is a lot of people aren’t thinking about that or don’t want to because they haven’t’ looked at what their future holds,” says Jim Poolman, executive director of the council.

Millennials are the most worried. Twenty-nine percent cited running out of money as their biggest concern. But Gen X’ers were not far behind, at 28 percent. Nineteen percent of Baby Boomers have the concern and 21 percent of people 71 and older are worried, according to the survey.

The next two biggest concerns: Covering health care expenses (19 percent) and maintaining their current lifestyles (23 percent). Not surprisingly, the age group most worried about  health care expenses was baby boomers (24 percent), while the concerns about maintaining current lifestyle seemed to cross all generations: millennials, 20 percent; Gen X, 23 percent; boomers and people 71 and older, both 25 percent.

For Poolman the biggest surprise was in the answers to questions on how much people have saved for retirement.

“When you look at the top three fears, they all have to do with not saving enough for retirement,” he says. “That’s not a surprise. When you dive down into that, one in four baby boomers has less than $5,000 saved for retirement. “That’s shocking to me. It tells me we need to keep having a national conversation about retirement, about saving and about planning.

“The average couple that retired last year will need $240,000 to cover future medical expenses in retirement,” he says. “Showing people those kinds of facts can only educate them about the need to start saving now.”

Poolman says it is never too late to start saving for retirement. “Even though you may have not saved and you are way behind, don’t make yourself further behind,” he says. “People should not give up. Those who think they cannot afford to save can start looking at a budget and find ways to cut costs. Just saving a little bit now can help a lot later.”

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Question of the week

What is your biggest fear about retirement? Send comments to rodney.brooks@washpost.com. Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Retirement Fears.”

Last week’s question: Would you change the age you started taking Social Security benefits if you could?

Sandra Stone of Florence, Ala., wrote:

I am 64.5, retired for 2 years, single with no dependents. I have a pension that does not adjust for inflation and a 401(k). I just filed for Social Security which my state does not tax as they do 401(k) withdrawals. I am concerned about pension health and want to assure I have disposable funds later in retirement.