Picking Investments Loses Out to Picking Restaurants: TIAA-CREF Poll

Americans said to also spend more time choosing a TV than choosing their allocations in retirement products like an IRA

Put down that well-researched pizza and get your IRA investments figured out, TIAA-CREF says. Put down that well-researched pizza and get your IRA investments figured out, TIAA-CREF says.

A recent survey finds that Americans are more likely to throw themselves into selecting a restaurant for a special occasion, picking out a flat-screen TV or buying a tablet than planning their retirement investments.

The TIAA-CREF poll asked Americans if they spent two hours or more on these activities. Only 15% said they devoted this amount of time to planning IRA investment, while 25% said they spent two hours or more choosing a restaurant. More than 20% of those polled focused two hours or more on picking out a flat-screen TV, and 16% said they used this amount of time to buy a tablet computer.

Even among those who already have an IRA, more than half (55%) say they spent an hour or less planning for the investment.

“An IRA can be an incredibly powerful savings tool that can boost retirement security and offer immediate tax and savings benefits. IRAs can also serve as a valuable supplement to an employer-sponsored plan and help fund a first home or education,” said Doug Chittenden, executive vice president of individual business at TIAA-CREF, in a statement.

Despite these benefits, though, the survey of more than 1,000 adults found that fewer than one in five (17%) is contributing to an IRA, a drop from 22% in 2012.

Furthermore, fewer than half (47%) of those who are not contributing to these retirement accounts say they would consider doing so, down from 57% in 2013.

“It is possible that a lack of understanding is responsible for low IRA contribution levels,” TIAA-CREF explained in a press release.

More than one-third (35%) of those polled indicated that they did not understand what an IRA was or what the difference was between an IRA and an employer-sponsored plan. Among Generation Y (age 18-34), this figure jumps to 45%.

“More and more people are unaware of the ultimate value an IRA can have in a building a stable and secure retirement,” added Chittenden. “Americans today bear much more responsibility for their retirement savings than previous generations did. There is a pressing need to educate Americans from all age groups and income levels on the long-term retirement benefits that IRAs provide through compounded investment growth and tax savings.”

Americans can contribute as much as $5,500 ($6,500 for those 50 and older) for the 2013 tax year through April 15, 2014; if an individual has not made his or her 2013 contribution yet, he or she may contribute for both 2013 and 2014, according to the financial-services group, which has some $564 billion in assets under management.

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