Americans’ confidence in their ability to afford a comfortable retirement has recovered slightly from the record lows of the past five years, primarily among those participating in retirement plans. But preparations for retirement haven’t improved.

The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) discloses this finding in its “24th Annual Retirement Confidence Survey.” 

The research indicates that 18 percent are now very confident, up from 13 percent in 2013.

Retiree confidence increased even more with 28 percent now very confident, up from 18 percent in 2013.

The increase in confidence was almost exclusively among those with higher household income and those participating in a retirement plan — defined contribution, defined benefit, or individual retirement account (IRA).

The percentage of workers in a plan who are very confident increased to 24 percent in 2014 from 14 percent in 2013. Only 9 percent of those not in a plan were very confident, unchanged from 10 percent in 2013. Workers without a plan are four times more likely to say they are not confident about retirement than those with a plan (9 percent).

“Overall reported worker savings remain low and only a minority appear to be taking basic steps to prepare for retirement,” the report states. “Managing daily expenses and the cost of living are the No. 1 reasons workers give for not saving more.”

Except for those who have taken action to plan and save, 58 percent workers indicate that debt is a problem. The exception is among those who have taken some kind of action to plan and save.

The Principal analysis of the survey data find that those in a retirement plan are twice as likely to calculate their retirement need, receive investment advice from a financial professional and report they retired as planned.

Among the report’s additional findings:

  • Twenty-two percent of workers say they need to save between 20 percent and 29 percent of their income. Another 22 percent indicate they need to save 30 percent or more;
  • Those without a retirement plan (IRA, defined contribution, or defined benefit) are more likely to set the target at 50 percent of income or to say they don’t know how much they need to save;
  • Only 44 percent of workers report they and/or their spouse have tried to calculate how much money they will need to have saved for a comfortable retirement. But workers who do, tend to have higher levels of savings and confidence than those who have not; and
  • Sixty-five percent of workers expect to work for pay in retirement, but only 27 percent of retirees report they actually do work for pay in retirement. Nearly half say they retired earlier than planned due to health reasons.