Both men and women cite “saving enough for retirement” as their greatest financial concern, but men pay more attention, take more positive action and rely more on financial professionals, according to a new report.
MassMutual Retirement Services discloses this finding in a nationwide survey of American workers who are eligible to participate in an employer-sponsored defined contribution retirement plan.
Conducted by Brightwork Partners, the survey generally suggests that, compared to 2011 results, pessimists are more pessimistic and the optimists are more optimistic. Among survey respondents, 34 percent believe the U.S. will be in a recession in the next 12 months, higher than the 31 percent in 2011.
In terms of perceived job security, the percentage of workers who are “very concerned” about losing their jobs is up by four points (the pessimists). Conversely, the proportion of workers who are “not concerned at all” about losing their jobs is up by 9 percentage points (the optimists). Health care expense as a savings objective is up 9 percentage points overall compared to 2011, a nod to heightened focus on health care costs in general.
Retirement tops the list of savings objectives in the survey. Overall, “saving enough for retirement” has surpassed “keeping up with monthly expenses” as the biggest financial worry, up significantly to 24 percent from 18 percent in 2011. It was also cited as a major savings objective by 63 percent of participants, 21 points higher than the second most-cited worry of “paying down debt.”
On a positive note, participants are saving more, with the average retirement savings rate among those surveyed at 10.5 percent, up from 9 percent two years ago, showing an increased commitment to this goal.
The data also shows that there is huge opportunity for retirement plan advisors to help participants, particularly women, prepare for retirement. Only 28 percent of respondents currently have, or have had in the past five years, a relationship with a personal financial advisor.
However, more men have an advisor (31 percent) compared to women (24 percent), and the gender difference here has increased since 2011 when 30 percent of men had an advisor vs. 27 percent of women. Significantly, retirement as a major savings objective is 20 points higher among participants with a professional financial advisor than for those without one (77 percent vs. 57 percent, respectively). This suggests that having a financial professional helps bring more focus to the need to save for retirement.
Although the retirement plan provider is still cited as the “most important source of investment information” by participants, professional advisors have displaced plan sponsors this year as the second most important source of this information. Of note, satisfaction with information from professional advisors is up sharply (47 percent “very satisfied” in 2013 vs. 25 percent in 2011), while satisfaction with information from plan sponsors is down sharply (10 percent in 2013 vs. 30% two years ago).
Men are also much likelier to have a professional advisor and are more confident than women in virtually every aspect of retirement planning and defined contribution investment decisions.