Twenty-one percent of workers are very confident in their ability to afford a comfortable retirement but their actions and their savings levels don’t seem to back up their confidence, according to the latest Retirement Confidence Survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

Sixty-nine percent of workers report that they or their spouses have saved for retirement but there is still a large percentage of workers who have virtually no savings or investments, according to the report.

“There is a clear dichotomy between those who have some sort of retirement plan — that is, a defined benefit or defined contribution plan, or individual retirement account ­­— and those who do not,” says Craig Copeland, senior research associate at EBRI. “Those with a retirement plan are more likely to be very confident about their financial prospects in retirement, compared with those who do not have a retirement plan.”

Two-thirds of workers without a retirement plan have less than $1,000 in retirement savings, Copeland says, while another 16% have between $1,000 and $10,000 saved.

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“There is a clear dichotomy between those who have some sort of retirement plan and those who do not.”

“This means that less than 20% of workers without a retirement plan have non-housing assets of $10,000 or more. It’s no wonder that nearly half of those without a plan think they will need to wait until at least age 70 to retire or not to retire at all,” he adds.

EBRI’s survey found the number of workers who were confident about retirement increased from 13% in 2013 to 21% in 2016.

The percentage of workers somewhat confident rose from 36% in 2015 to 42% in 2016, while the percentage of those not at all confident in their ability to retire comfortably decreased from 24% to 19% in 2016.

Thirty-nine percent of surveyed retirees said they were confident they had enough money saved up to live comfortably in retirement, an increase from 18% in 2013. Thirty-six percent were somewhat confident, compared to 44% in 2013; and 24% of retirees said they were not at all confident or not too confident they had enough money saved to keep them through retirement.

They may be confident, but “the amount of money that American workers have saved is alarmingly low,” says Matthew Greenwald of Greenwald & Associates, the company that conducted the survey. “A little over half, 54%, have less than $25,000 in savings and investments.”

Greenwald called out a “disturbing trend” he has seen develop since 1993, when EBRI first commissioned its Retirement Confidence Survey.

“Interestingly, confidence in the effectiveness in personal action appears more driven by events in the macro economy than in the actual conduct of the people themselves,” he says.

In order for individuals to take corrective action, it “is helpful to evaluate what you are doing, and when it comes to financial preparation for retirement, it appears difficult for many to evaluate the effectiveness of their preparations,” Greenwald says.

He points out that 63% of those surveyed were very confident in their ability to prepare a budget but 32% of workers believe they are saving less than they should.

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“If saving for retirement is important, it should be that better budgeting could often permit greater saving.”

“When workers are not saving as much as they themselves think they should, what explains the shortfall in saving? The main reason given is day-to-day expenses,” he says. “If saving for retirement is important, it should be that better budgeting could often permit greater saving.”

Greenwald expresses disappointment that slightly less than half of workers say they and their spouses have tried to figure out how much they need to save by the time they retire. There are numerous ways people can do the calculation, including speaking to a financial adviser, using an online retirement calculator or doing the math on a worksheet.

“Those who have taken the time to do it are more likely to feel confident in being able to afford a comfortable retirement and they have higher and, no doubt, more realistic savings goals,” Greenwald says.

Most retirement industry experts agree that workers who seek out advice about retirement do a better job of saving for retirement. There is a trend toward so-called robo-advisers, systems people can log into that will give them advice based on how they answer a few financial questions.

The EBRI survey asked American workers if they were interested in seeking advice from an online provider and only 2% said they were, with an additional 15% saying they were somewhat interested. Only 6% said they had gotten advice from an online provider.

“Interest in online advice will certainly grow, but this survey indicates much higher interest in the ability to talk to an adviser in person or over the telephone,” says Greenwald.

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