After strong market performance in the last year, 68% of American retirement plan participants believe they are on track with their retirement goals—a jump of 12 percentage points from the 56% who felt that way just a year ago.

According to the 2024 BlackRock “Read on Retirement” survey, among the 32% who feel off track, 84% named two top reasons, which are really the same issue looked at from two different angles: They are uncertain how much they’ll need in savings, and they’re uncertain how much will they be able to spend. 

Those savers without access to an employer retirement plan feel much more uncertain about the future: Only 47% said they feel on track for retirement, compared with 51% last year.

Across all groups and for the third year in a row, 60% or more of all respondents to the BlackRock survey said their top concern was outliving their savings. Ninety-nine percent of them said it would be financially helpful to receive guaranteed income in retirement, and 93% said knowing they had guaranteed income in retirement would help their mental health today.

The annual survey polled 450 defined contribution plan sponsors, 300 retirement plan advisors, 1,300 retirement plan participants, 1,300 savers without access to a workplace plan, and 300 retired people who had participated in workplace plans. The survey was conducted in the first quarter.

“Multiple groups of respondents across generation and gender cohorts reported confusion about how much to save, worries about outliving savings, and uncertainty in how much income they will need in retirement,” BlackRock said in a report on the survey results.

The survey looked at gender and generation differences, making some surprising findings and some not so surprising.

In the latter category was the ongoing gender disparity: 59% of women reported that they feel on track for retirement while 75% of men said they do. Seventy percent of women said they do not know how their savings will translate into monthly income, and 65% expressed fears they would outlive their retirement savings. Meanwhile, just 56% of men were unsure how decumulation would follow accumulation, and just 57% worried about outliving their savings.

However, Gen Z—the youngest generation included in the survey—reported feeling the most on track of all the generations. Some 77% said they now feel they’re going to be able to retire with the lifestyle they want (while only 56% said so last year), even though 60% said they would put off looking at the nuts and bolts of retirement income planning until they actually retire.

“Luckily, many Gen Z respondents are open to guidance,” BlackRock said. “Though 63% say they do not understand how to manage their retirement investments, 47% report they are working with financial advisors for retirement planning, with the majority (70%) reporting they found an advisor through their employer.”

Millennials aren’t quite as optimistic; only 72% said they’re on track, though that’s up from 55% last year. Perhaps influencing those sentiments is the fact that 62% of millennial respondents said they carried credit card debt, which was the largest percentage of all the generations, the survey found.

The least confident about retirement, however, is Gen X. Only 60% reported feeling on track (though that was up from 55% last year) and 63% worried about outliving their assets. Despite this, Gen X is the least likely generation to work with a financial planner—only 40% do. And while over half of those who do not feel on track believe they should be saving more, just a third of those eligible are taking advantage of catch-up contributions, the survey said.

Boomers already retired have advice for the industry based on their own experience: 85% reported that feeling secure in their income makes a bigger difference than they thought it would, and 94% believed employers should offer secure income options within the workplace retirement plan, the survey said.

Meanwhile, among boomers soon-to-retire, 67% said they want more education on retirement income strategies well before their retirement date.