The Principal Finds Retirement Confidence Improving

September 15, 2009 ( - The latest Principal Financial Well-Being Index finds more workers saying their retirement balances are rising or at least no longer declining.

According to the survey findings, the percentage of workers who say their balance is the same or higher than it was on January 1, 2008, has doubled from last quarter (18% vs. 9%). The percentage of workers who feel it will take less than two years to recover has increased to 16% from 11% last quarter.

A press release said 11% of workers have actually increased the amount they are contributing to their 401(k)s. When asked what keeps them awake at night, 44% of workers said concern over being able to afford/pay for the basic necessities, and another 41% cited maintaining the same quality of life.

Lessons on Retirement Planning

Most workers (83%) say they do not have a plan for the transition to retirement, but of those workers who do have a plan, approximately four in 10 (43%) have an actual written plan.

Among retirees, 73% said they would start learning more about spending and investing in retirement more than 10 years before retirement if they could do it over again. One-tenth indicated they did not start thinking seriously about how to manage their spending and investments in retirement until they were retiring.

According to the press release, more retirees are seeking professional financial help to assist in managing their money since the economic downturn began. Thirty-four percent of retirees have an adviser who either manages their money or helps them manage their money on their own, up from 25% last year. Almost two-thirds of retirees (63%) are managing their retirement money on their own, down from 76% last year.

The latest Index finds 70% of workers who participate in voluntary benefits have continued to participate despite economic conditions. Three-fourths say they purchase voluntary benefits at work because of the convenience of payroll deduction.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of those who purchase voluntary benefits at work say they do so because of low group rates.

According to a press release, the survey found the top purchased voluntary benefits are dental (62%), vision (40%) and short-term disability (27%). Twenty-two percent of workers said they have never participated in any voluntary benefits

Other findings of the latest survey include:

  • Approximately one in 10 workers (12%) who have a college fund established for their children have dipped into it to cover day-to-day living expenses.
  • 94% of Americans say their overall spending is the same or less than in the previous quarter.

The Principal Financial Well-Being Index, fielded by Harris Interactive, surveys both American workers at growing businesses with 10 to 1,000 employees and retired Americans and is released quarterly by the Principal Financial Group. Current and past results of the survey can be found at .