Poll Shows Transitioning Retirement Landscape

March 2, 2011 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - As pensions are increasingly replaced by 401(k) plans for working Americans, the Wells Fargo/Gallup Investor and Retirement Optimism Index shows retired Americans are twice as optimistic as the non-retired.

The Index found differences in the way retirees and non-retired Americans view their ability to achieve common retirement objectives.  Among retirees, 61% have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence that they will be able to fund their healthcare needs in retirement beyond what Medicare covers, compared to only 35% of non-retirees.  Similarly, while 62% of retirees are confident they are able to maintain their lifestyle in retirement without working, only 40% of non-retirees think they will be able to do so.   

According to a news release, the poll asked a series of questions on how working Americans will fund their retirement and found dramatic differences between the retired and those yet to retire: 

  • Nearly three-fourths (74%) of the non-retired say the 401(k) will be a major source of retirement funding for them, compared to 38% of the retired. 
  • Only 28% of non-retirees expect Social Security to be a major retirement funding source, compared to 48% of retirees. 
  • Pensions were listed as major funding sources by 49% of retirees, versus 39% for non-retirees. 


While the poll results suggest many Americans see retirement as the individual’s responsibility, only a small proportion has created a written retirement plan to fulfill that responsibility.  About a quarter (23%) of the non-retired respondents say they have a “written” plan for retirement.  

“When you look at the data and see how people anticipate funding their retirement, we almost have two retirement systems in the U.S. today, with most non-retired Americans in the position of having to plan for their retirement on their own,” said John Papadopulos, head of Wells Fargo Retirement, in the news release.  “We see the complexity and to some extent the stress of living life and planning for retirement as factors in reducing optimism.”  

The Index also found that despite differences in funding for retirement, both the non-retired and retired show similar levels of waning confidence in the stock market as a place for retirement investing: 61% percent of the non–retired say they have either “some confidence” or “little confidence” in the market for retirement investments as compared to 59% of the retired.  More than a tenth (11%) of the non-retired say they have “no” confidence in the markets as compared to 16% of the retired.  

The Index is based on the results of seven core questions that were asked during telephone interviews conducted by Gallup with 1,007 investors aged 18 and older from Feb. 1 through Feb. 8, 2011.