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October 06, 2004
In Retirement Planning, Goal Setting Improves Confidence
Those who set goals for their retirement saving are more likely to consider themselves confident in their retirement planning, according to a customer survey conducted by American Express Retirement Services.

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The 2004 version of the Participant Satisfaction Survey, which American Express sends biannually to participants in its retirement plans, found that participants who said they have calculated the amount of money they will need to retire were more likely to be "very confident" that they are doing a good job preparing financially for retirement than those who have not calculated a goal, by a ratio of 3 to 1.

That was an increase from a 2 to 1 ratio between them in 2002. Those same, goal-setting participants also tend to be more satisfied with their retirement plan and tend to contribute more of their salary to their plan and hold larger account balances, according to American Express.

Survey participants who indicated a strong level of retirement planning knowledge correlated strongly to those with confidence in their investing skills and to those who set retirement goals. As one would expect, confidence in investing skills also was a strong driver of overall confidence in retirement planning, American Express reported.

"There are some fairly convincing data accumulating from the past few years of our survey that strongly suggests participant confidence is driven by whether or not people set a retirement savings goal," said Rusty Field, vice president of American Express Financial Education and Planning Services. "It's gratifying to see that the message of goal setting is being heard. But we can't stop there. Helping people meet those goals as they aspire to is the all important next step."

The 2004 survey also found that a large majority of participants (76 percent) were eager to receive additional, non-retirement financial services through the workplace. This is consistent with American Express's 2002 and 2000 surveys that found 84 percent and 65 percent respectively eager to receive additional, non-retirement financial services through the workplace.

"Demand for financial education and financial services remains strong, though I'm not surprised by a small retreat in 2004 as markets have improved over two years ago," said Field. "That tendency to take a hands-off approach when the market is improving can often prove to be as misguided an instinct for retirement plan investors as taking overly drastic measures when the market is faltering."

The survey also measures overall participant satisfaction with plan features, services, investments and communications, and is designed to help plan sponsor clients study the satisfaction level and needs of their plan participants. Because the majority of the survey results are client and plan specific, the entire results of the survey are not available to the public.

Advanis conducted the Internet-based survey between April and June 2004, with a random sample achieved of 3,650 participants in retirement plans serviced by American Express Retirement Services. The American Express Global Marketplace Insights research group provided data analysis.

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