Despite signs of economic recovery, a new survey says Americans’ confidence in their ability to afford a comfortable retirement remains at historic lows as workers appear to be grasping the realities of what they need to save. The 2013 annual Retirement Confidence Survey, released today by the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) in Washington, and co-sponsored by the Principal Financial Group ®, finds overall confidence levels are essentially unchanged since the record lows set in 2011. Only 13 percent are very confident they will have enough money for a comfortable retirement. A full 28 percent 1— the highest number recorded during the 23 years of the survey—are not at all confident. Workers have growing doubts about their ability to pay for basic expenses in retirement and are least confident about being able to afford medical costs and long-term care. The lack of confidence may also stem from a finding that workers seem to be realizing just how much they may need to save. Nearly 70 percent say they need to set aside 10 percent or more of total household income to fund a financially secure retirement. Four in 10 put the target at 20 percent or more. Despite those projections, the survey finds less than half are taking steps to prepare and total savings remain modest. Saving and planning for retirement are overshadowed by immediate worries about job certainty, daily expenses and debt. “Especially in the face of current financial challenges, Americans need a plan for saving and spending so they can manage short-term needs and better prepare for the long-term,” said Greg Burrows, senior vice president of The Principal ®, a long-time underwriter of the Retirement Confidence Survey. “Using an online calculator or working with a financial professional to assess savings needs helps with setting realistic goals and getting on track toward a more secure future.” The survey shows overall retirement confidence is 20 – 40 percent higher among workers who take positive financial actions including calculating retirement savings needs, saving in an employer-sponsored plan and getting advice from a financial professional.
Among other key findings available on the EBRI website at www.ebri.org :
- Workers open to automatic enrollment. Among those not participating in a retirement plan, 88 percent of those responding would continue to contribute if automatically enrolled at a three percent deferral rate and 83 percent would continue to contribute if enrolled at six percent.
- Tax incentives matter. Nearly half (45 percent) of workers would stop or reduce the amount they contribute to their employer-sponsored plan if they could no longer do so on a pre-tax basis. Lower income workers ($35,000 or less) would be much more likely to stop contributing if the tax incentive was removed.
- Savings preparations decline despite growing concerns. The percentage of workers reporting they or their spouses had saved for retirement had increased briefly in 2009 to 75 percent but has slowly declined and now stands at 66 percent.
- Many still guess at savings needs. Forty-five percent of workers guess at how much they need to accumulate for retirement rather doing a systematic calculation.
- Low overall savings. More than half of workers report less than $25,000 in total household savings and investments, excluding the value of the primary home or any defined benefit plans.