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April 12, 2010
Retirement Confidence Stabilizing while Retirement Savings Decline
A new survey reveals that Americans are beginning to feel more confident about their retirement, even while their retirement savings decline.

“Americans’ attitudes toward retirement have clearly tracked the economy the last couple of years, and that seems to be the case in 2010,” said Jack VanDerhei, Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) research director and co-author of the survey. “Unfortunately, while their attitudes are stabilizing, their preparation for retirement is not. A distressing number of people have no savings at all.”

One of the survey’s key findings was that the number of workers who are very confident about having enough money to retire comfortably remained steady since last year at 16%. That figure was statistically equivalent to the 2009 figure of 13%, a 20-year low in worker retirement confidence. Retirees expressed similar sentiments, with 19% saying they feel very confident about having a financially secure retirement, also stable from the prior year. The retiree confidence figure reflects a sharp decrease from the 2007 survey, when 41% of retirees felt very confident.

A return to confidence is positive, but does not appear to be supported by actual savings. Sixty percent of workers say they and/or their spouse are saving for retirement, down from 65% in 2009, and more workers report that they have no savings or investments. Meanwhile, 27% of respondents say they have less than $1,000 in savings, compared to 20% the year before. More than half of the responding workers, or 54%, report that their total household savings and investments, not counting their primary home and any defined benefit plans, is under $25,000.

One result of this lack of saving and lack of confidence is that more workers are expecting to delay their retirement. In fact, the percentage of workers who expect to retire after age 65 has tripled in the last 20 years, from 11% in 1991 to 33% in 2010. Twenty-four percent of workers said they have delayed their planned retirement in the past year, with 29% of those citing the poor economy as a reason for their decision.

Retirement delays ripple throughout the job market. When older workers remain on the job, there is less room for those advancing their careers, which leaves less room for entry-level workers.

The results of the 20th annual Retirement Confidence Survey, conducted by EBRI in conjunction with Matthew Greenwald and Associates are available at

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