Retirement Expectations Are Changing

March 19, 2013 ( - Twenty-two percent of workers in the 2013 Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS) say the age at which they expect to retire has increased in the past year.

The survey, conducted by the Employee Benefits Research Institute and Mathew Greenwald & Associates, found workers most frequently cite the poor economy (22%), followed by lack of faith in Social Security or the government (19%) and the inability to afford retirement (19%) as reasons for postponing retirement.  

The age at which workers expect to retire is slowly rising. In 1991, just 11% of workers expected to retire after age 65. In 2013, 36% of workers report they expect to wait until after age 65 to retire and 7% do not plan to retire at all. At the same time, the percentage of workers expecting to retire before age 65 is now half what it was two decades ago: down from 50% in 1991 to 23% in 2013.  

In contrast to those expectations, a sizable proportion of retirees report each year that they retired sooner than they had planned (47% in 2013). Those who retire early often do so for negative reasons, such as a health problem or disability (55%), but some simply state they retired early because they could afford to do so (32%).

Sixty-nine percent of workers say they plan to work for pay after they retire. However, a much smaller proportion of retirees report having worked for pay since they retired (25%). Many workers are also planning to rely on income from employment to support them in retirement. Three-quarters of workers say employment will provide them (and their spouse) with a major (21%) or minor (54%) source of income in retirement.   

However, there is a large discrepancy between worker confidence in having paid employment for as long as needed (29% very confident and 45% somewhat confident) and retiree confidence in finding paid employment should they need it in retirement (7% very confident and 21% somewhat confident). Nearly half of retirees (48%) are not at all confident about finding paid employment in retirement.    

More so than current retirees, workers are likely to anticipate piecing together their retirement income from several sources. Since 2007, an increasing share of retirees (70% in 2013) has indicated that  Social Security is a major source of income in retirement. In addition to Social Security, retirees also rely heavily on traditional pension plans.    

Meanwhile, more than half of workers say they will rely on Social Security (77%), employment  (75%), employer-sponsored retirement savings plans (72%), IRAs (68%), other personal savings (64%), and traditional pension plans (57%) for retirement income.  

Full results of the 2013 RCS are published in the March 2013 EBRI Issue Brief available at