Data and Research

Fewer Relying on 401(k), More on Social Security for Retirement Income

More people in the youngest age cohort say they plan to rely on Social Security for retirement income.

By Lee Barney editors@plansponsor.com | May 26, 2017

Regardless of their age, many Americans are planning on relying on Social Security in their retirement, Gallup found in a survey.

Despite recent stock market gains, 48% of non-retirees say they will rely on their 401(k) savings for a majority of their retirement income, below the 53% who said so in 2003. Following the 2008 recession, this dipped to a low of 44% in 2011. Meanwhile the percentage of Americans of all ages who say they will rely on Social Security as a major source of retirement income has continued to increase in that time, from 28% in 2003 to 33% in 2017.

While forty-three percent of those between the ages of 50 and 64 are planning on Social Security being there for them in retirement, the same can be said for 25% of those between the ages of 18 and 29. By comparison, only 13% of 18- to 29-year-olds said this in 2007.

The growing reliance on Social Security among young people is somewhat surprising, given that over the past 16 years, younger Americans have been less likely than older Americans to say that they will rely on Social Security when they retire, Gallup notes. Previous Gallup surveys have shown that nearly two-thirds of those younger than 50 are skeptical that they will receive a Social Security benefit when they retire. This skepticism may be rooted in reality, Gallup notes, as Congress and recent presidents have not taken any action to shore up the Social Security trust fund, which is on a path to run out of funds by the mid 2030s.

Gallup concludes: “If the Social Security system isn’t fixed, many of today’s workers may be in for a shock, because those who are already retired are substantially more likely to say Social Security is a major source of income for them now than nonretirees project it will be for them in the future.”

The information is based on interviews that Gallup conducted in April among 18,000 individuals. Gallup’s full findings can be viewed here.

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