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Retirement Confidence at 10-Year High, but Savings Don’t Follow

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Americans are more confident about their ability to retire than they’ve been in a decade, but despite all their good feelings, their savings aren’t keeping up.

That’s according to AllianceBernstein’s Inside the Minds of Plan Participants survey, which finds that 47% of defined contribution plan participants — 15% more than last year — are feeling confident about their retirement prospects.

In addition, workers were also more upbeat on their relationship with investing, with those who say they feel experienced in making investment decisions rising from 53% in 2017 to 67% this year.

But retirement savings are still shy of where they ought to be. And even more disturbing is the news that financial literacy is actually deteriorating. Add to that the fact that people’s reasons for participating in their employers’ retirement plans really aren’t focused on retirement the way they should be.

According to the survey, although 56% of workers still rate a steady income in retirement at the top of their DC plan wish list, that percentage has fallen since last year, when it was 65%.

Another answer jumped significantly; 46% of participants, more than in previous years (34% in 2015), want to use their DC plan savings “to live comfortably and enjoy life” — just not necessarily during retirement.

Oh, and just because that 47% is feeling more sanguine about retirement, that doesn’t mean the rest of workers are. About a fifth say they’ll either continue to work part time or hold off on retiring, while 17% say they either haven’t thought about retirement or don’t plan to retire at all.

This year is also the first time, says the survey, that Social Security viability worries amount to the most-cited issue among plan participants — a tad more prominent than the potential of outliving their savings, maintaining their lifestyle or being dependent on others. In fact, more than 90% of respondents are concerned about programs such as Medicare and Social Security, and two-thirds find them very important.

While 70% of retired respondents say their retirement is either in accord with or even better than their expectations, that percentage is awfully close to the percentage of those who say they get a pension.

Says the report, “That pensioned proportion of the retired population will likely decline at least a bit with each passing year, while the number of retirees (one-third) who report dissatisfaction with life or finances in retirement is equally likely to increase with each year, as the rate of seniors filing for bankruptcy has tripled since 1991.”