“Investors with advisors are more confident of reaching their retirement goals,” Nigel Aston, head of European defined contribution for State Street Global Advisors, recently told attendees of its fall briefing, “Retirement 2020: What's ahead for defined contribution (DC) plans and participants.”

Clients also are apt to be predominantly over 50 and less confident if female, according to the results of the “Global Retirement Survey 2015,” conducted during May 2015 by Ssga with TRC Market Research, of Fort Washington, Pa., and Rice Warner, an Australia-based research and advisory.   

Among a total 3,652 retirement savers queried in the U.S., U.K., Ireland and Australia, those who expressed confidence about achieving their goals also noted constant contact with advisors, said Fredrik Axsater, Ssga's global head of defined contribution.

“An ongoing engagement (relationship) moves confidence,” agreed Aston, who quoted a 59 percent U.S. confidence level among self-directed advised respondents (SDA), whose investments are guided by an advisor. By comparison in-plan (IP) savers, who are invested in employer-sponsored 401(k), 403(b) or 457 plans, showed younger Americans were less positive, 34 percent, than those 46 years and older, 52 percent of whom were confident --but still less so than SDA savers.

The data also uncovered a gender difference. In the U.S., 52 percent of men, but only 39 percent of women invested in employer-sponsored plans were extremely confident or very confident that they'll meet retirement goals this year. Only 20 percent of U.K. women felt confident or very confident, versus 43 percent of U.K. men. Women tend to live longer, and so generally require more money to retire with than men, and take breaks from their careers to have children, thereby reducing their earnings, noted Washington, D.C.-based Melissa Kahn, Ssga's first managing director of retirement policy strategy defined contribution.

Two major factors in U.S. retirement were left out of the survey: Social Security and health-care costs, which could've posed a comparability problem because the other three countries have public health care. Kahn said entitlements should not be treated as “separate silos” when retirement questions are being considered.

The speakers noted some surprises they called, “The American Paradox”: Australians are saving 41 percent more for retirement than U.S. savers in employer-sponsored plans, but only 32 percent of Australians were confident in reaching their retirement goals vs. 51 percent of the U.S. savers.

“The Australian paradox debunks the widely held belief that confidence is driven by the balance in a retirement portfolio savings account,” said Axsater. Instead, other factors may come into play such as culture, the economy, pending legislation, plan design and individual circumstances, he said. “It is important that we move away from a singular view of confidence to a broader view of the financial life of people.”
Issues such as these are bound to attract “a lot of attention, with 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day,” said Kahn, who is counting on the presidential race and a new administration to propel entitlements and retirement security to the fore.