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What’s The Price Of Retirement Confidence? Americans Who Have $250,000 Or More In Investable Assets, A Wells Fargo Study Finds

The 401(k), Social Security and Role of Individuals

About half of all Americans surveyed view the 401(k) as the best retirement savings vehicle when asked to select from a list of options (52% among affluent; 49% among those with less than $250,000 in assets). Not surprisingly, affluent Americans contribute a higher percentage of their salary (median=12%) to their 401k plan than those with less than $250,000 in assets (median=7%).

Additionally, affluent Americans expect Social Security to play a smaller role in their retirement than those with less than $250,000 in assets , who expect Social Security to cover a higher median percentage of their monthly retirement income (median=20% compared to 25%). However, both groups have similar expectations on the following:
  • When asked to assign a proportion of responsibility for funding their retirement, the majority (50%) assigned responsibility to the individual through saving and investment, followed by the employer though a pension (25%) and by the government through Social Security (20% by the affluent and 25% for those with less than $250,000 in assets).
  • They expect to begin taking Social Security payments at the median age of 65.
  • Similarly among those not retired, majorities of affluent (78%) and those with less than $250,000 in assets, (71%) believe they will have the option of delaying the age at which they begin taking Social Security so that they’ll receive higher payments.
  • Majorities of the affluent (54%) and those with less than $250,000 in assets (61%) are not willing to take a reduction in their Social Security and/or Medicare benefits even if it would help the country head towards a path to reduce its debt burden.
    • Affluent women (45%) are more likely to be willing to take a reduction in their Social Security and/or Medicare benefits than women with less than $250,000 in assets (30%), but there is no such difference among the men in both groups (36/37%).

For help understanding how to prepare for and live in retirement, visit Wells Fargo’s retirement site at or visit the blog Beyond Today at

About the Survey

On behalf of Wells Fargo, Harris Interactive Inc. conducted 1,800 telephone interviews among those aged 25-75 focusing on attitudes and behaviors around planning, saving and investing for retirement. Harris conducted 400 interviews among those with $250,000 or more in investable assets and 400 interviews among those with $100,000 to less than $250,000 in investable assets. The remaining 1,000 interviews were conducted among those who fell within specific income and wealth brackets (those aged 25 to 29 had 2011 household income of $25,000 to $99,999 and household investable assets of $99,999 or less and those aged 30 to 75 had 2011 household income of $50,000 to $99,999 or household investable assets of $25,000 to $99,999). Among the working affluent close to two-thirds (61%) had 2011 household income of less than $150,000. In comparison, 92% of those with less than $250,000 in investable assets who are not retired had 2011 household incomes of less than $150,000. The survey was conducted July 9 – Sept. 7, 2012.

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