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California Financial Security: Dreaming or Struggling



This statewide survey of 800 California adults age 36-70 who are in the workforce finds that some Californians are living the dream, but many (particularly Gen X-ers) are struggling. Within California, broad-based support exists for legislation both to address access to affordable housing (61%) and workplace retirement savings plans (63%).  Additional findings show:

  • For some Californians, saving, particularly saving for retirement, is a luxury they simply cannot afford. One in five (22%) say they would not be able to pay an emergency expense of one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) or more, and one in four (25%) feel they are either just getting by or finding it difficult to get by financially. 

  • Housing costs and retirement savings go hand-in-hand for many.  Many rate household bills and housing expenses as a “major” obstacle to saving for retirement, and over half (56%) are anxious about having enough money saved in order to live comfortably in retirement.

  • Three in five (61%) say they have considered leaving the state of California and living somewhere else due to the high cost of living.

  • For non-homeowners, affordable housing in their preferred community (50%), and the financial expenses associated with becoming a homeowner (49%) are top housing concerns. For homeowners, affording the costs associated with maintaining home ownership, such as paying property taxes (15%), are a top concern.

The AARP 2017 study of California adults was conducted as a telephone survey among California residents age 36-70 in the workforce. The survey collected opinions on retirement security, housing affordability, and legislation to address retirement saving and affordable housing. The survey was approximately 20 minutes in length. The interviews were conducted by The American Institute of Consumer Studies from June 22-October 6, 2016. The sample consisted of a mix Random Digit Dialing and listed sample on both Landlines and Cell phones. Data was weighted to ensure proper representation of the population.  For more information contact Brittne Nelson at


Suggested Citation:

Nelson, Brittne. California Dreaming or California Struggling? 2017 Findings from the AARP Study of California Adults Ages 36-70 in the Workforce. Washington, DC: AARP Research, May 2017.

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