Both men and women American workers eligible to participate in an employer-sponsored defined contribution retirement plan are concerned about the weak economy, but their top financial concerns are different, according to a national survey conducted by MassMutual Financial Group.
Sponsored by Springfield, Mass.-based MassMutual Retirement Services and conducted by Brightwork Partners, a research-based consultancy group, the survey indicates that the weak economy is weighing heavily on the minds of American workers.
Among survey respondents, 31% believe the U.S. will be in a recession in the next 12 months, while 38% are somewhat or very concerned about losing their jobs.
The survey found important distinctions between genders and age groups in their respective financial concerns:
Saving enough for retirement is the biggest financial worry for men, with 21% of the male respondents compared with 14% of women respondents ranking that first. In contrast, more women indicated that they're far more concerned about just keeping up with monthly expenses -- more than twice as many women are concerned about meeting monthly expenses than saving enough for retirement. An estimated 31% of women respondents listed it as their top priority compared to 13% of male respondents.
Respondents under age 30 have significant concern about saving to buy a home, indicating that there is still an appetite for home ownership among younger workers. Keeping up with monthly expenses was their only larger concern.
The top two concerns for people over the age of 60 are "expense of catastrophic illness" and "long term care for yourself or your spouse when you need it" -- two factors that have potential to rapidly deplete retirement savings.
When queried about taking retirement, an estimated 35% of respondents say they've considered delaying retirement beyond their original target date, and that percentage jumps to more than 50% for people currently age 50 and older.
In addition, 64% of people expect to work at least part-time in retirement and 54% expect they will need to reduce their standard of living. Women expect to work longer than men, with an average expected retirement age of 66.9 compared to 65.6 for men.
On a positive note, the percentage of respondents who say they've taken action likely to improve their retirement savings was far higher than those respondents who indicated that they may have taken action that could harm their chances for a comfortable retirement.
The respondents who indicated they've taken positive actions to prepare for retirement listed the top three as: Increasing their savings percentages through workplace retirement plans (19%); reallocating their existing portfolios (19%); and contributing to a regular IRA (18%).
Respondents who indicated they've taken that could harm their retirement savings plans listed the following: Decreasing their contribution percentages in their workplace retirement plan (8%); taking loans (8%); stopping saving in their workplace retirement plan altogether (7%); or making hardship withdrawals (4%).
The survey data also suggests that there's an opportunity for retirement plan advisors to help participants prepare for retirement. Only an estimated 29% of respondents say they currently have, or have had in the past five years, a relationship with a personal financial advisor.The nationwide survey was conducted online between June 29 and July 29, 2011, and included 2,170 defined contribution plan participants who are eligible to participate in a 401(k), 403(b), 457 or similar workplace retirement plan.