Job uncertainty and debt have driven Americans’ confidence to retire comfortably to near record lows, according to the 2012 Retirement Confidence Survey, an annual survey co-sponsored by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and market research firm Mathew Greenwald & Associates, Inc.
The survey found that 14% of workers and 21% of retirees are very confident of having enough money to live comfortably throughout their retirement years, down substantially from confidence level highs of 27% and 41%, respectively, in 2007. The 2012 retirement confidence levels are among the lowest recorded in the survey’s 22-year history.
“Americans’ retirement confidence has plateaued at the lowest levels we’ve seen in two decades of conducting this survey,” Jack VanDerhei, EBRI research director and co-author of the report, said in a statement.
Americans were more worried about immediate financial concerns than they were with longer-term issues, such as saving or planning for retirement. For example, both workers and retirees were more likely to identify job uncertainty as the most pressing issue facing Americans today.
Many workers reported having virtually no savings and investments, according to the survey. In total, 60% of workers reported that the total value of their household’s savings and investments, excluding the value of their primary home and any defined benefit plans, is less than $25,000.
Workers also increased the age at which they plan to retire, with 37% saying they planned to retire after age 65, up from 11% in 1991.
People planning to work more years, however, may be disappointed to hear that half of the retirees surveyed said they left the work force unexpectedly for reasons beyond their control, such as health problems, disability, or job losses.
Other tidbits from the survey:
• More than half of workers (56%) report they and/or their spouse have not tried to calculate how much money they will need to live comfortably in retirement.
• Retirees report they are significantly more reliant on Social Security as a major source of their retirement income than current workers expect to be.
• Although 56% of workers expect to receive benefits from a defined benefit plan in retirement, only 33% report that they and/or their spouse currently have such a benefit with a current or previous employer.
• Only a minority of workers and retirees feel very comfortable using online technologies to perform various tasks related to financial management. Relatively few use mobile devices such as smart phones or tablets to manage their finances, and just 10% of those using online technology say they are comfortable obtaining advice from financial professionals online.
The survey was conducted in January 2012 through 20-minute telephone interviews with 1,262 individuals (1,003 workers and 259 retirees) age 25 and older in the United States.