Survey: Nearly a Third of Workers Haven't Started Retirement Savings

December 27, 2004 ( - While nearly half of employees in a survey said they were concerned about outliving their retirement savings (49%), almost a third haven't yet started funding their retirement kitty or haven't yet set a retirement savings goal.

Those were among the findings of the latest MetLife Study of Employee Benefits Trends, which surveyed workers and employers during the third quarter of 2004, according to a MetLife news release.

To make things worse, only four in 10 workers understand their employer’s benefits program and 27% try to fill in the information gap by talking to friends and relatives, the MetLife study found. Meanwhile, more than four in 10 (43%) of employees look to their employer to provide a financial planner they can enlist to help them invest assets in their K plans. Four in 10 said they worried about not having a financial plan while a third (31%) said they were concerned about finding a trusted source for financial advice. Some 48% fretted about having to work at least part time to live comfortably in retirement.

K plans or 403(b) programs are also losing in popularity, the survey found. Although the retirement savings plans came in third of a list of benefits when workers were asked to choose the most important, the percentage putting the retirement programs at the top fell from 67% in 2003 to 57% in the latest survey. Defined benefit pensions saw a similar popularity decline over the year going from 42% in 2003 to 32% in 2004.Topping the list were medical plans (81%), followed by vacation time (64%). Trailing the list of valued benefits was homeowners/renters insurance (3%).

Many workers’ apparent disconnect with prudent retirement planning isn’t for their employer’s lack of trying in giving them access to a K plan or other qualified retirement savings plan – at least when it comes to those at larger companies. According to the survey, a whopping 91% of employers with 2,500 or more provide qualified plans. That drops to 85% at companies with 1,000 to 2,499 employees and 83% at firms with 50 to 999 workers. The smallest coverage is at the smallest firms (two to 49 workers) where only 53% offer a qualified retirement program, according to the survey.

The study findings are here .