Government workers are not sitting pretty on top of fat future pensions. More realize that their pensions could be under pressure in the future, and that their government employers are shifting more of their retirement burden onto workers. The smart government and municipal employees—especially those who are slated to only receive a partial pension and are being guided to save in a 457 or other defined contribution plan—are looking to save more.

These was among key findings from a recent survey by the ING Institute for Retirement Research.

A large majority, 71%, expect to receive a traditional defined benefit pension from their employer, but only 54% expect it to make up more than half of their retirement income, and 49% are afraid the pension could be reduced during their retirement.

Sixty-four percent of the government workers surveyed are offered a voluntary retirement plan, typically a 457 deferred compensation plan. However, only 74% are actively making contributions to such plans, and 50% had balances of $50,000 or less.

“It’s clear that the burden of retirement planning has been increasing for all workers today, even the millions of government employees who have long relied on pensions as their main source of retirement income,” said Bill Jasien, head of government markets for ING U.S. Retirement Services.

“As more government entities scale back on their pension programs to offset tight budgets and increased financial obligations, workers in this sector will need to better understand and leverage the savings opportunities offered by their employer’s defined contribution plans,” Jasien said.

Nonetheless, 61% of those surveyed said they were unsure or uncomfortable about their ability to set aside enough for retirement. Since the market downturn, 43% have become less confident about their savings, and 72% haven’t increased the amount they are investing to address these concerns. Nearly three-quarters, 74%, characterized themselves as risk-averse in their personal lives, and 50% said this carried over to their investment philosophy.

Pointing to these conservative and hesitant findings, Jasien noted: “This research underscores that employees in government positions are no different than their counterparts in the private sector when it comes to retirement planning. They continue to need effective tools, resources and education to better prepare.”

Most importantly, Jasien stressed, government workers are beginning to realize that savings in 457 plans are not a “nice to have” supplement to the smaller pensions they are being offered. Just like civilians relying on 401(k) plans, 457s are becoming “essential for achieving a comfortable retirement.”

ING conducted the poll of 1,000 Americans in government jobs between the ages of 20 and 70, along with research firm Synovate.

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