Study: Fla. Retirees In the Money; Workers Still Saving

June 2, 2003 ( - Florida retirees may be living the good life after years of careful scrimping, but Sunshine State workers are still behind the retirement eight ball, according to a new study.

The 2003 Florida Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS) found that the Florida retirees are more confident about their financial prospects than American retirees in general, because they have planned and saved for retirement. The Florida RCS was sponsored by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), American Savings Education Council (ASEC), and Mathew Greenwald & Associates and underwritten by State Farm Insurance.

On the other hand, Floridians still dragging themselves off to work each day, it turns out, are much more like workers everywhere – they have lots of work left to do to prepare for retirement. More than half of Florida retirees are very confident about having enough money to live comfortably throughout their retirement years (52% versus 39% of American retirees overall). In contrast, fewer than three in 10 Florida workers are very confident (27% versus 21% of workers nationally). Not surprisingly, confidence level rises along with household income. “Florida has a unique combination of a high proportion of retirees-many who appear likely to have saved for retirement-and active workers without retirement coverage,” ASEC President Don Blandin said in a statement. “It is not surprising the two groups have sharply different outlooks.”

According to the study, one explanation why Florida retirees appear so much better prepared than retirees nationally is because the state’s warm climate and amenities make it a magnet for older people with financial resources, which may act as “self-selecting” factors in attracting retired individuals who have saved and can afford to live here. The 2000 national census found that 17.6% of Florida’s resident population was age 65 or older-the highest by far of any state in the nation.

By comparison, recent EBRI researchshows that Florida workers have the lowest rates in the nation of participation in an employment-based retirement plan. Nationwide, 43% of workers participate in an employer retirement plan while just over 35% of Floridians do. Among workers most likely to have retirement benefits (full-time, full-year workers ages 21-64), 58.3% nationwide participate in a retirement plan, compared with 46.2% in the Sunshine State.

The Florida RCS is a comprehensive study of the attitudes and behaviors of workers and retirees in the state of Florida toward all aspects of saving, retirement planning, and long-term financial security.

Other key findings about Florida workers and retirees:

  • Almost eight in 10 Florida retirees have saved for retirement (78%), compared with 64% of retirees nationwide and 71% of all American workers. Fewer than seven in 10 Florida workers have ever saved for retirement (68%), and only 56% say they are currently saving. Among the workers, six of 10 have an IRA or other tax-qualified retirement savings account outside of work (58% of Florida workers versus 57% nationally)
  • Sixty-one percent of Florida retirees say they have savings and investments in addition to what they have set aside for retirement versus 40% of retirees nationally. Some 53% of Florida workers have these additional savings, compared with 51% of workers overall. Among those with retirement savings or money set aside apart from that, 60% of Florida workers and 54% of workers natinally owned stock or bond mutual funds.
  • More than half (55%) of Florida retirees are very confident they have done a good job of preparing for retirement, compared with 41% of retirees nationally; 24% of workers nationally; and 2% of workers in Florida. As a result of their preparation, Florida retirees also feel very confident in the following areas: having enough money to take care of basic expenses (56%), having enough money to take care of medical expenses (52%), and not outliving their retirement savings (46% versus 30% of retirees nationally).
  • Florida retirees tend to say they have a higher level of financial sophistication than American retirees overall. Twelve percent of Florida and national retirees each rate themselves as having a comprehensive knowledge of investing and saving for retirement, and 44% of Florida retirees and 34% of national retirees think they have a general knowledge of investing and saving.
  • Sunshine state retirees halted their careers at an average 62 years old (the same average nationally), but are somewhat less likely to say they never expected to retire (2% Florida versus 9% nationally). Workers in the state are more likely to say they won’t ever retire (11% Florida versus 6% nationally).

The Florida survey was conducted in February 2003 through 14-minute interviews with 400 people – 251 workers and 149 retirees – age 25 and older. Results of the Florida Retirement Confidence Survey are available online at