NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. workers are more likely to regret not saving enough for retirement more than they are to regret not having been a better human being, said Diane Gallagher, vice president of Defined Contribution Investment Only Practice Management at American Century Investments.
In its third annual defined contribution participant study, "Who's In the Driver's Seat? Participants Just Want to Ride Along," American Century surveyed 2,031 full-time workers ages 25 to 65 who participate in their employer's retirement plan. One of the survey's major findings was that participants have a great deal of regret about their past saving behaviors.
Among those surveyed, "not saving enough for retirement" was the most commonly mentioned regret, even more common than wishing they'd done better with personal relationships or careers, or being a better person overall. Respondents highlighted their first five years of working as the period for which they have the most regret over not saving more.
"American workers understand the power of compounding, we've done a great job of telling them how important it is to start early," said Gallagher. "But they also are aware of their own habits, and they have a lot of self-awareness around, 'If I had started earlier, I probably would have kept going throughout my career.'"
Another surprising finding from the survey is that most workers aspire don't actually aspire to affluence in retirement -- just independence. And, contrary to what one might expect, the large majority said it would be far worse to have too little in retirement than to miss out on enjoying things today.
"What they really want to do is stay in their own house," said Gallagher. "They don't want to be a burden to their kids. They want to have a comfortable, independent lifestyle, and they are maybe not looking for a tremendous amount of affluence."
Finally, a large majority of respondents said they would not mind a "slight nudge" from their employers when it comes to saving. And 65% had a positive view about a company that offers automatic enrollment, automatic increases and target-date funds.