A False Sense Of Security? – EBRI Survey Results

May 16, 2000 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Americans are more confident than ever about their retirement savings - but should they be? The 2000 Retirement Confidence Survey finds more confidence, more individual saving, and a higher degree of awareness of the need to save than ever before. However, shorter careers, longer lives and delays in social security eligibility may dampen that enthusiasm - and place additional burdens on plan sponsors to educate participants.

The 10th annual version of the survey found over a quarter (26%) of respondents felt “very confident” of having enough money to live comfortably in retirement, a number that Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) President Dallas Salisbury finds “consistent” with other empirical data regarding actual savings rates.  Confidence was higher than in previous surveys.

An estimated 27% don’t have a clue of how much they need, or how much they have accumulated, leaving nearly the other half of the population with the possibility of going either way.

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Over half of (53%) current workers have tried to calculate how much they will need to save – but over a quarter of those (28%) were unable to complete the calculation, and have no current idea of their needs.  In 1993, just 35% had attempted the calculation.

Of those that have attempted the calculation,

  • 51% have begun to save more
  • 26% have changed the allocation of their savings

Rainy day

Respondents have not accumulated large amounts.  Among all workers:

  • 10% have saved nothing
  • 12% have saved less than $10,000
  • 10% have saved $10,000 to $24,999
  • 9% have saved $25,000 to $49,999
  • 14% have saved $50,000 to $99,999
  • 21% have saved more than $100,000

A quarter either didn’t know, or refused to share a figure.  Just a fourth of those over age 55 have saved $100,000 or more.

Unrealistic expectations

Most workers seem unaware that the social security retirement age increased this year to age 65 and two months, a result of legislation passed in 1983.  In fact, many of today’s workers will not be eligible for full social security benefits until age 67, as the increase phases in – though nearly a third believe they will be eligible to receive full benefits at age 65.

Nearly half of today’s workers expect to retire at age 65 according to the survey, despite findings that over a third of current retirees (36%) retired earlier than expected, typically due to “negative circumstances” beyond their control.

The survey reports that about half of those male workers alive at 65 can expect to live until age 82, while a like number of women can expect to live till at least 86.  However, nearly 20% are expecting to be in retirement for less than ten years.

More than half of current workers (53%) expect personal savings to be their primary source of retirement income, including 32% who are relying on money in a retirement plan at work.  Only 20% of current retirees concur, with 38% relying on social security as the primary source.  Just 11% of current workers are inclined to rely on social security as a primary source.

Survey results can be found at http://www.ebri.org/rcs/2000/2000_results.htm .