MIDDLE-INCOME Singaporeans could be at risk of under-estimating how much they need for retirement, a new survey by a bank here has shown.

These "emerging affluent" are also starting to save too late for their retirement and could face hardship when they run out of funds in their later years.

A DBS survey of 800 people showed that 73 per cent of the people polled plan to retire between 55 and 65, with an average savings of $571,715.

At the same time, more than 85 per cent of those polled expect to live on a retirement income of $3,500 per month for the next 15 to 20 years and more.

But DBS said that there is a big gap between both sets of numbers as the average savings would only last 13 years and not 15 to 20 years.

DBS Bank, which conducted the survey, said: "This reflects a gap as the retirement fund would last them for 13 years, which falls short of the average life expectancy in Singapore."

The emerging affluent are defined as those aged 18 to 29 with a monthly income of more than $2,500 and those 30 to 59 with income of more than $5,000.

This roughly falls in line with the median monthly income of full-time employed residents here, which is $3,705 including employer contribution to Central Provident Fund (CPF), according to the latest Manpower Ministry data.

The survey noted that for residents born in the 1980s, the average life expectancy is 70 to 75 years, while those born in the 2000s can expect to live to 80 to 84 years.

The survey also found that while providing for retirement is a priority for 76 per cent of respondents, only 49 per cent have a financial plan.

Those who do plan start at different ages: Early planners usually start at 28 years old and late planners at about 39.

DBS said: "Consumers often find the concept of retirement planning complicated and as a result put off acting on it."

Other financial priorities, such as children's education or mortgages, also deter people from planning as do an unwillingness to compromise on lifestyle, as well as a perceived lack of suitable retirement products.

The bank also noted that investment uncertainty is a barrier.

The survey also looked at three different categories of people and found that working singles aged 35 to 49 put 51 per cent of their income towards investment and savings.

Working singles aged 18 to 34 placed 44 per cent of their income in investment and savings but only 10 per cent is given to investment.

The "family focused" group - married people from 25 to 62 - set 43 per cent towards investment and savings, with a significant portion of their income going into loans.

Most of the respondents see the Central Provident Fund, savings, insurance, investment and annuity plans as the main income sources for retirement.

More are also aware of the need for enough protection, with more than 50 per cent having hospitalisation and surgical plans, whole life protection and critical illness plans.

DBS consumer banking head Jeremy Soo said: "With longer life expectancy and changing expectations of retirement living, it has become increasingly important for people to start investing for retirement early.

"An early head start, even if it is with a small amount, will increase the probability of meeting your lifestyle needs when you retire."