American workers have a confidence problem regarding their retirement. Debt, lack of a retirement plan at work and low savings are among the key factors putting them in a funk.
While 60 percent of workers share some optimism about their retirement, that number is falling, according to the 2017 Retirement Confidence Survey, an annual joint effort conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and Greenwald & Associates.
In developing research for “The 2017 Retirement Confidence Survey: Many Workers Lack Retirement Confidence and Feel Stressed About Retirement Preparations,” EBRI and Greenwald & Associates conducted online interviews with more than 1,000 workers and nearly 600 retirees earlier this year.
The 27th iteration of the study found overall confidence levels dropping back to 2014 levels with workers feeling increasing stress about their retirement planning, financial planning and health care.
In fact, half of those workers surveyed said they would be more productive at work if they didn’t spend so much time worrying.
Not very confident
“The percentage of workers who feel very confident in being able to afford a comfortable retirement is low,” says Craig Copeland, EBRI senior research associate and co-author of the 2017 Retirement Confidence Survey. “Furthermore, many workers are worried about retirement issues and their personal finances.”
Debt is a drag for many workers and confidence experiences a significant drop for those with debt issues. Copeland says that workers who feel their debt is a major problem have notably lower retirement confidence (32 percent are very/somewhat confident versus 78 percent among those who say debt is not a problem), while those who have a retirement plan have markedly higher confidence (71 percent very/somewhat confident versus 33 percent among those who do not have a retirement plan).
A planning problem
“I continue to be struck by the relatively small share of workers who do formal retirement planning,” says Lisa Greenwald, assistant vice president of Greenwald & Associates, and co-author of the report.
“Use of a financial advisor increases with age and income, but just 23 percent of workers say that they have spoken with a professional advisor about retirement planning and only 1 in 10 report they have prepared a formal plan for retirement,” says Greenwald. “Some of these critical retirement planning steps don’t cost workers anything, like estimating Social Security or thinking through what your expenses may be in retirement.”
Heavy about healthcare
Workers are far less confident than retirees about being able to afford healthcare in retirement. Roughly half of workers (54 percent) say they’re very or somewhat confident about being able to afford medical expenses in retirement (versus 77 percent of retirees). Workers are also less confident than retirees that Medicare will continue to provide the same level of benefits that retirees receive today (38 percent of workers versus 52 percent of retirees).
Working Americans feel they will have to postpone retirement in order to reach their financial goals. (Thinkstock.)
Retirement confidence remains strongly related to retirement plan participation, whether in a defined contribution (DC) plan, defined benefit (DB) plan, or individual retirement account (IRA). Workers reporting they or their spouse have money in a DC plan or IRA or have benefits in a DB plan from a current or previous employer are more than twice as likely as those without any of these plans to be at least somewhat confident (71 percent with a plan versus 33 percent without a plan).