NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- If there's one word that best describes Americans' understanding of retirement, it might be "confused." That's the operative term after a review of the latest Genworth ( GNW) survey on retirement readiness among adults nearing the end of their working years. Genworth reports that Americans are "retiring earlier ... but underestimating retirement expenses" once they arrive -- both the result of "unrealistic" expectations. "Unpredictable retirement dates, compounded by misperceptions about retirement expenses and the uncertain futures of traditional sources of retirement income may leave many retirees at risk for outliving their retirement savings if they don't prepare properly," says Eric Taylor, national sales manager for annuities at Genworth. survey by Wells Fargo ( WFC) says, middle-class Americans consider paying off debt a bigger priority than saving for retirement. That's noble, but once the bills are paid, there's little left for the retirement savings account. The Genworth data reveals that 52% of pre-retirees expect their living expenses to decrease in retirement, but actually, 65% of retirees saw their costs rise in retirement. Genworth says health care costs are the main culprit, along with real estate and "money spent on dependents."