Dreams of Comfortable Retirement Ebb Among Americans: EBRI

By Hazel Bradford

Mar. 13, 2012

Americans’ confidence in having a comfortable retirement remains at historically low levels, while the percentage of workers saving for retirement continues to decline, according to an Employee Benefit Research Institute survey released March 13.

Among the 1,003 workers and 259 retirees who were surveyed by EBRI, job security was seen as the most pressing issue.

Only 14 percent of people surveyed were “very confident” that they will have enough money to retire comfortably, according to EBRI’s 22nd annual Retirement Confidence Survey, echoing results from 2011 and 2009 surveys.

In the face of such low numbers, “the good news is that automatic enrollments in 401(k) plans are administratively easier for employers who want to adopt them,” said Jack VanDerhai, EBRI research director who co-authored the report with market research firm Mathew Greenwald & Associates.

VanDerhai said that 20 percent of respondents would allow their 401(k) plan auto-enrollment contribution to increase to 10 percent to 14 percent of their salary, and another 20 percent were open to 15 percent.

“We realize that the default contribution rates in many cases aren’t going to be sufficient. (Higher employee contributions) would allow the employee contribution rate to reach the levels that many financial professionals would consider adequate,” he said.

Sixty-six percent of workers surveyed and their spouses said they saved for retirement, compared with 75 percent in 2009.

Thirty percent of those surveyed have virtually no savings or investments, and 60 percent reported less than $25,000 in savings, excluding the value of their home or any defined benefit plans.

Also in the survey:

• Two-thirds of respondents anticipate income from an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan.

• 56 percent of workers expect to receive benefits from a defined benefit plan, but only 33 percent reported that they or their spouse now participate in one.

• 56 percent say that they and/or they spouse have not tried to calculate how much retirement income they will need to retire comfortably.

• The percentage of workers expecting to retire after age 65 grew from 11 percent in the 1991 survey to 37 percent in 2012. 

Hazel Bradford writes for Pensions & Investments, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email


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