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Retirement Planning > Retirement Investing

How Retirement Preparedness Varies by Profession

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When it comes to America’s lack of readiness for retirement, certain professions are in even worse shape than others, found the Indexed Annuity Leadership Council in its recently released study, The State of America’s Workforce. It found that, overall, less than 47% of all U.S. workers are “somewhat ready” for retirement — having saved 50% to 80% of the money they will need — with 18% stating they are not ready at all (0 to 20% saved). Just a bit over that, 20%, say they are very ready for retirement (80% to 100% saved). But the devil’s in the details.

Blue- and gray-collar workers (47.7%) are “not very ready” (20%-50% saved) while white-collar workers (49.1%) were “somewhat ready.” The top professions of readiness were engineering (57.6%) and protective services (50.5%). The bottom groups of readiness were personal care workers, such as personal trainers (27.5%), and those in food preparation and serving (28.5%). The next lowest groups were construction and extraction (40.9%) and office and administration support (40.9%).

(Gray-collar workers include skilled technicians and paraprofessionals like administrative workers and clerks, according to the annuity group.)

The study surveyed 2,204 U.S. respondents ages 40 to 70 who worked full time. The goal was to “determine how these Americans are approaching retirement planning and readiness.” Kristen Berman, co-founder and principal of the Common Cents Lab at Duke University, collaborated with Jim Poolman, executive director of the IALC, on the study.

Some other findings:

  • Within blue- and gray-collar areas, protective services and health care reported the highest level of excitement for retirement. Of all respondents, 25% felt excited for retirement while 26% felt only a little excited. Sadly, 17% were not excited at all.
  • A majority of those surveyed felt “not worried a bit” or “a little worried” about retirement, while 13% felt very worried.
  • The larger the company, the more positive workers felt about retirement.
  • Workers at smaller companies (fewer than 50 employees) were more likely than employees at larger companies to feel their employer is not helpful at all in their retirement planning.
  • Of all blue- and gray-collar workers, 26% felt not informed on retirement product options, while 20% of white collar workers said the same. Personal care workers weren’t satisfied at all with information  and only 45% of food preparation employees weren’t satisfied about retirement options. Construction and extraction employees as well as those in engineering reported the highest levels of “helpfulness.”

The study also found that those who felt most prepared for retirement were three times as likely to have access to pensions than those who felt unprepared, and were five times as likely to have IRAs, eight times as likely to have mutual funds and 10 times as likely to have an annuity. Further, 59% of those who felt prepared had a 401(k) plan versus those who felt unprepared.

Not surprisingly, white-collar workers have more access to savings and retirement plans than blue- and gray-collar workers. In fact, less than half blue- and gray-collar employers offered access to 401(k) plans.

Some reasons provided for not being prepared for retirement, the study found, were not saving earlier (40%), making bad financial decisions (19%), not saving enough (17%) and personal issues (8%). In addition, 26% said high daily living expenses and 24% said elevated debt levels hindered their ability to save. Those who said they were most unprepared for retirement stated these reasons five to seven times more than those who felt more prepared. Of professions who stated too much debt was a key issue were food prep and serving, health care, and construction and extraction (all 32%.)

Finally, the study found that four in 10 employees stated they planned to be working a part-time job during retirement either by choice or necessity, and that three in five were likely to work longer — on average two more years — to reach their retirement goals.

— Check out Average 401(k) Deferral Rate Reaches All-Time High: T. Rowe Price on ThinkAdvisor.


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