Americans' confidence in their ability to retire appears to be stabilizing, but their preparations for retirement continue to erode, according to a new survey.

The survey, by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Mathew Greenwald and Associates, found that a growing number of American workers are also planning to delay retirement. That has negative implications for the U.S. job market, where unemployment is high and layoffs continue to grow.

The percentage of workers who are very confident about having enough money for a comfortable retirement remains steady at 16 percent, statistically equivalent to the 20-year low of 13 percent in 2009. Retiree confidence about having a financially secure retirement has also stabilized, with 19 percent saying now they are very confident, close to the 20 percent measured in 2009.

Worker confidence about paying for basic expenses in retirement has rebounded slightly, with 29 percent now saying they are very confident about having enough money to pay for basic expenses during retirement, up from 25 percent in 2009, but still down from 34 percent in 2008.  The percentage of retirees indicating they are very confident about paying for basic expenses has stayed level at 33 percent, close to the 34 percent observed in 2009.

The percentages of workers very confident about other financial aspects of retirement have held steady at 12 percent for medical expenses, 10 percent for long-term care expenses, and 21 percent for doing a good job of preparing for retirement.  However, the proportion of those who are not confident continues to creep upward, from 44 percent in 2009 to 51 percent in 2010 for medical expenses, from 56 percent to 61 percent for long-term care expenses, and from 30 percent to 35 percent for doing a good job of preparing for retirement.

Fewer workers report that they or their spouses have saved for retirement. The proportion is 69 percent, down from 75 percent in 2009, but statistically equivalent to 72 percent in 2008. Moreover, fewer workers say that they or their spouse are currently saving for retirement (60 percent, down from 65 percent in 2009 but statistically equivalent to percentages measured in other years).

An increased percentage of workers report they have virtually no savings and investments. Among workers providing this type of information, 27 percent say they have less than $1,000 in savings, up from 20 percent in 2009. Fifty-four percent of workers report that the total value of their household savings and investments, excluding the value of their primary home and any defined benefit plans, is less than $25,000.

Twenty-four percent of workers report they have postponed their planned retirement age in the past year. Among the reasons cited are the poor economy (29 percent of those postponing retirement), a change in their employment situation (22 percent), inadequate finances (16 percent), and the need to make up for losses in the stock market (12 percent).

While the age at which workers report they expect to retire shows little change from 2009, a longer-term look finds significant change. In particular, the percentage of workers who expect to retire after age 65 has increased over time, from 11 percent in 1991 to 14 percent in 1995, 19 percent in 2000, 24 percent in 2005, and 33 percent in 2010.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access