Americans’ confidence in their ability to retire comfortably has improved from the record lows of the past five years, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).
Eighteen percent of workers who participated in EBRI’s 2014 Retirement Confidence Survey are very confident of a comfortable retirement, up from 13 percent in 2013.
However, this increased confidence was almost exclusively among those with higher household incomes ($75,000 and up), and was also strongly correlated to respondent’s participation in a retirement plan.
“In fact, workers reporting they or their spouse have money in a defined contribution plan or IRA or have a defined benefit plan from a current or previous employer are more than twice as likely as those without any of these plans to be very confident (24 percent with a plan vs. 9 percent without a plan),” noted Jack VanDerhei, EBRI research director, and co-author of the report.
Retiree confidence in having a financially secure retirement, which historically tends to exceed worker confidence levels, says EBRI, has also increased, with 28 percent very confident up from 18 percent in 2013.
Confidence in being able to afford various aspects of retirement has also improved. The percentage of workers very confident in their ability to pay for basic expenses has increased to 29 percent from 25 percent in 2013. In addition, there have been decreases in the percentages of workers reporting they are not at all confident about their ability to pay for medical expenses (24 percent, down from 29 percent in 2013) and long-term care expenses (32 percent, down from 39 percent in 2013) in retirement, according to the report.
However, nearly half of workers without a plan were not at all confident about their financial security in retirement, compared with only about one in 10 with a plan, says EBRI.
Fifty-three percent of workers cite cost of living and day-to-day expenses as the main reason for not saving, or not saving more, for retirement.
Existing debt is also an issue prohibiting workers from saving for retirement, according to Mathew Greenwald, of Greenwald & Associates, which conducted and co-sponsored the survey. Fifty-eight percent of workers and 44 percent of retirees report having a problem with their level of debt. And 24 percent of workers and 17 percent of retirees indicate that their current level of debt is higher than it was five years ago.
In addition, 36 percent of workers say they have less than $1,000 saved for retirement, up from 28 percent in 2013.
Income is also a key factor in workers' ability to save for retirement; 68 percent of respondents with household income of less than $35,000 a year have savings of less than $1,000.
“Even though the economy is recovering from the great recession, more and more respondents say their level of debt is higher than it was five years ago,” said Greenwald. “It’s interesting to compare these low levels of savings and problematic debt levels to the rising confidence level. It appears that people make some assumptions about how financially secure they will be In the future based on how well the economy’s performing now. With economic conditions being somewhat cyclical this obviously is not a good way of making judgments about the future.”
Only 44 percent of workers reported that they have tried to calculate how much money they will need to have saved by the time they retire.
Forty-three percent of plan participants said that having the financial services company that handles their retirement plan give them recommendations as to how much to withdraw from their plan each month to make savings and investments last throughout retirement would be very valuable. Another 45 percent think it would be somewhat valuable.
Nineteen percent of workers and 25 percent of retirees report they have obtained investment advice from a professional financial advisor. Of these workers, only 27 percent followed all of the advice.