Successful retirement preparation is driven by three variables: consistent saving and investing, access to financial advice and access to workplace retirement plans, according to a survey by Putnam Investments released on Wednesday.

Putnam Investments survey, which polled almost 3,300 working Americans, found that American households are on track to replace 64% of their current income in retirement.

“While promising in some areas, these findings tell us - clearly - that U.S. households still need to save more to reach sufficient income for successful retirement. It is critically important to strengthen public and private retirement systems and broaden access to workplace savings for all working Americans,” said Putnam Investments President and CEO Robert L. Reynolds in a press release.

“The data also demonstrates, unmistakably, the valuable role that financial advice plays in helping individuals prepare for retirement, as well as the behavioral changes needed for success. Overall, we hope this body of research will encourage individuals, their advisors, employers and policy makers to take the steps needed to achieve greater retirement security for this nation,” added Reynolds.  

When Social Security is not added into the equation, the national Lifetime Income Score of 64% replacement falls to 30%. At the same time, households with income below $50,000 are on track to replace only 17% of their pre-retirement income if social security is not in the mix. For young workers, age 18 to 34, scores drop from 73% replacement to 33% if Social Security is removed from the equation.

“The American dream of a dignified and secure retirement is at risk for millions of people. The Putnam Lifetime Income Score analysis suggests that if we want to avoid a major increase in elderly poverty over the next generation, we have to act now to make Social Security solvent and to raise personal retirement savings across the board. Enacting auto-IRA payroll deduction to help make workplace savings programs available to all working Americans and maintaining tax incentives to encourage strong participation by individuals in 401(k) plans and IRAs more broadly are significant pieces of solving the retirement puzzle as well,” said Reynolds.

An interesting point the study made was that those individuals who appeared to be on the best track to replace current income those who seemed to be the worst positioned have exactly the same mean household income of $93,000 annually. The difference: household savings.

Meanwhile, Americans who participate in 401(k) or other defined-contribution plans are the best-prepared for retirement. Those who currently are contributing 10% or more of their income to their plan have a Lifetime Income Score of 124%, while those who are currently contributing 4% to 10% of their income to their retirement plan still score 84% replacement. Those who do not defer any of their income scored only 58%.

The least-prepared are those who are not eligible for an employer-based retirement plan, which is currently almost half of the population.

Advisors are an important part of helping clients save for retirement, according to the survey. Those with a paid advisor had a Lifetime Income Score of 82%, while those without a paid advisor scored 61%. Meanwhile, those with a paid advisor still managed to score 51% without Social Security, while those without an advisor scored 23% without Social Security.

Saving for retirement is also correlated with retirement confidence. Those with Lifetime Incomes Scores of 100 or more are much more confident about how much they will need for retirement and that they are financially ready for retirement than those with scores of 45% replacement or below. Those with higher scores are also more likely to expect that they will live as well or better in retirement than they did while working, that they will have enough to pay for healthcare and that they will be able to leave a legacy to their heirs than those with lower Lifetime Income Scores.



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