The confidence of Americans in their ability to afford a comfortable retirement remains at historically low levels, according to a new survey.

The annual Retirement Confidence Survey, released Tuesday by the Employee Benefit Research Institute in Washington, and co-sponsored by the Principal Financial Group, found that only 14 percent of Americans said they are very confident they will have enough money to live comfortably in retirement. Workers with the most debt have the least amount of confidence.

Current worries appear to overshadow long-term planning, according to the survey. Forty-two percent of workers identify job uncertainty as the most pressing financial issue facing most Americans today. The percentage of those saving for retirement continues to decline.

Many of the respondents reported having virtually no savings and investments, and most workers said they have not even tried to calculate how much they need to save. Nevertheless, the survey data indicated that retirement confidence levels are measurably higher (20 – 30 percent) among workers who have taken positive financial actions, including investing in an employer-sponsored plan, getting advice from a financial professional, and calculating their retirement savings needs.

“Especially in an uncertain economy, having a plan and taking action helps Americans focus on what they can control and builds a realistic sense of optimism about the future ,” said Greg Burrows, senior vice president of the Principal Financial Group, a long-time underwriter of the Retirement Confidence Survey. “Working with a financial professional to set goals, and putting aside as much as possible, helps with short-term needs and paves the way for more security in the long term.”

In 1991, 11 percent of workers said they expected to retire after age 65, but by 2012 that proportion had grown to 37 percent. Regardless of their retirement age expectations, half of the current retirees who were surveyed said they left the work force unexpectedly due to health problems, disability, or changes at their employer, such as downsizing or closure.

For more findings from the report, visit

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