The Great Recession and increasing concerns about the future of Social Security have led Americans to find new ways to build retirement income, according to a new survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

Approximately 69% of the employees surveyed said they believe retirement savings accounts are extremely important in providing protection for themselves and their families. Nearly one quarter (21%) consider annuities to be important tools to build retirement income. Perhaps most strikingly, three out of five employees surveyed are not confident that they will receive Social Security when they retire, with nearly 60% of those who said they lack confidence in the government insurance program saying they are putting more money into savings accounts.

Cathy Weatherford, president and CEO of the Insured Retirement Institute, said that many of the concerns about the solubility of Social Security stem from a lot of the news that’s been coming out of Washington, D.C.  Americans are hearing that the reserves are being drawn down faster than had been previously anticipated. There is talk of raising the retirement age.

“People are hearing conflicting information. They are hearing negative information,” Weatherford said. “There is a lot of policy and political discussions around Social Security right now.”

But also, there is the anticipated wave of baby boomers heading toward retirement, leading to more people tapping into Social Security than ever before in the country’s history. This is causing the younger population to grow concerned about whether Social Security will be around when it retires, Weatherford added.

The survey from EBRI was commissioned by the Protect 2010 coalition, of which the IRI is a member. The program’s aim is to “educate the public about the value of workplace benefits and insurance as an important way to protect their assets from unexpected occurrences.” Among the other findings: 94% of employers offer benefits, but three-quarters of employees are not taking advantage of all of the benefits and insurance being offered by their employer. Seven out of 10 employers offer retirement savings accounts for their employees, with over half (54%) offering pensions and one-fourth offering their employees annuities.

“One of the key findings is that the majority of Americans still have good employer-based retirement plans,” Weatherford said. “But it’s important to also work with a professional where you can have a holistic plan so [your savings] last a lifetime.”

She added that the post-recession world has served as a “great wake-up call” for Americans when it comes to retirement income. People have used their fear and angst and their lost savings as motivation to become more proactive in building and protecting their retirement assets.

“In the post-recession what we’re looking at is that people are really much more aware and taking responsibility individually about saving more,” Weatherford said.



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