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Half of Americans ‘Very’ Confident in Meeting Retirement Goals: SSGA

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Following a dramatic uptick last year in retirement savers’ confidence in their retirement preparedness, confidence remained relatively stable in 2016, according to State Street Global Advisors fourth annual global retirement confidence survey.

According to the survey of 1,089 respondents in the United States in May 2016, 52% said they are “extremely” or “very” confident they will meet their retirement goals. In 2015, 51% said the same, compared to only 35% in 2014 and 21% in 2013.

The 2016 survey also includes responses from 1,038 individuals in the United Kingdom and 690 in Ireland, where confidence remains lower at 36% and 22% respectively.

The total 2,817 respondents include retirement savers, ages 22 to 70, who were working at least part-time and participated in retirement savings plans/schemes.

In this year’s survey, SSGA introduced a financial wellness index to assess a broader picture of participants’ financial lives. This includes insights into the sufficiency of their financial resources to meet their needs and obligations, the manageability of their debt, overall sense of financial stress and their ability to deal with financial emergencies.

“The introduction of the wellness index gives us a more complete view into participants’ perceptions and feelings about their financial life. While confidence can provide a signal of an employees perceived retirement future, the wellness index gives us a picture of their life today,” said Fredrik Axsater, global head of SSGA Defined Contribution, in a statement.

When asked simple questions about their overall financial situation, at least half of the participants in each country say their overall financial situation is “fine,” as opposed to “thriving” or “a mess.”

To capture an overall financial wellness score, SSGA created a statistically validated index of 14 variables, which ranged from feelings and perceptions (stress, control) to more direct questions about debt management, emergency savings, health costs and retirement savings.

The study found that 46% of the U.S. respondents have “high financial wellness” and only 8% have “low financial wellness.” The remaining fall in the medium range. Comparatively, in the UK, 33% were scored as having “high financial wellness” and 11% as having “low financial wellness.” Ireland is the worst off, with 13% scored as having “high financial wellness” and 27% as having “low financial wellness.”

“The good news is that employees’ reported confidence in their ability to retire remains higher than a few years ago,” Axsater said in a statement. “However, we believe it is important to look beyond reported confidence and have a broader understanding about how employees feel today about their financial lives. In fact, the wellness index scores appear to be a more powerful driver of behavior than one’s financial literacy.”

While retirement plan participants’ confidence that they will meet their retirement goals may be improving over the longer term, are the participants engaging in healthy in-plan savings behaviors to support that outcome? It seems so, the study found.

More than half of all participants in the survey are electing to defer a set percentage of their salary to their plans, a trend that has increased in all countries since last year.

In the United States, Americans on average are contributing 10% of their salary (this is higher than the averages of 8% in the UK and 9% in the Ireland).

In addition, retirement savers in all countries reported increased confidence about investing in 2016. The study found that a majority of plan participants—more than 50% in each country—said they know and understand their plan investments and investment options. U.S. participants are the most confident, according to the survey.

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