EBRI’s 2013 Retirement Confidence Survey: Perceived Savings Needs Outpace Reality for Many

March 2013
EBRI Issue Brief #384
Paperback, 36 pp.
PDF, 509 kb
Employee Benefit Research Institute, 2013

Download Issue Brief PDF pdf

Executive Summary

• The percentage of workers confident about having enough money for a comfortable retirement is essentially unchanged from the record lows observed in 2011. While more than half express some level of confidence (13 percent are very confident and 38 percent are somewhat confident), 28 percent are not at all confident (up from 23 percent in 2012 but statistically equivalent to 27 percent in 2011), and 21 percent are not too confident.

• Retiree confidence in having a financially secure retirement is also unchanged, with18 percent very confident and 14 percent not at all confident.

• One reason that retirement confidence has remained low despite a brightening economic outlook may be that some workers may be waking up to a realization of just how much they may need to save. Asked how much they believe they will need to save to achieve a financially secure retirement, a striking number of workers cite large savings targets: 20 percent say they need to save between 20 and 29 percent of their income and nearly one-quarter (23 percent) indicate they need to save 30 percent or more.

• Aggressive as those savings targets appear to be, they may not be based on a careful analysis of their individual circumstances. Only 46 percent report they and/or their spouse have tried to calculate how much money they will need to have saved by the time they retire so that they can live comfortably in retirement.

• Retirement savings may be taking a back seat to more immediate financial concerns: Just 2 percent of workers and 4 percent of retirees identify saving or planning for retirement as the most pressing financial issue facing most Americans today. Both workers and retirees are most likely to identify job uncertainty (30 percent of workers and 27 percent of retirees) and making ends meet (12 percent each).

• Cost of living and day-to-day expenses head the list of reasons why workers do not contribute (or contribute more) to their employer’s plan, with 41 percent of eligible workers citing this factor.

• Debt may be another factor standing in the way; 55 percent of workers and 39 percent of retirees report having a problem with their level of debt, and only half (50 percent of workers and 52 percent of retirees) say they could definitely come up with $2,000 if an unexpected need arose within the next month.

• Worker confidence in the affordability of various aspects of retirement continues to decline. In particular, increases are seen in the percentage of workers not at all confident about their ability to pay for basic expenses (16 percent, up from 12 percent in 2011), medical expenses (29 percent, up from 24 percent in 2012), and long-term care expenses (39 percent, up from 34 percent in 2012).

• Just 23 percent of workers (and 28 percent of retirees) report they have obtained investment advice from a professional financial advisor who was paid through fees or commissions. Of these workers, 27 percent followed all of the advice, but more disregarded some of it and followed most (41 percent) or some (27 percent).

Related Documents

RCS Fact Sheet 1: Retirement Confidence

RCS Fact Sheet 2: Changing Expectations

RCS Fact Sheet 3: Saving for Retirement

RCS Fact Sheet 4: Age Comparisons

RCS Fact Sheet 5: Gender Comparisons

RCS Fact Sheet 6: Social Security & Medicare