Workers' Name Outliving Savings as Biggest Retirement Fear

February 4, 2004 ( - Nearly half the employees participating in a recent poll confessed that their greatest retirement fear was running out of money.

According to MetLife’s recently released 2003 Employee Benefits Trend Study, 48% said they most fretted about “outliving their savings” while almost as many (43%) are concerned that during their own retirement they will need to provide for the long-term care needs of others.

That’s why nearly half (48%) of workers believe they will have to take on full- or part-time jobs to generate enough retirement income. “The retirement fears of today’s workers are justified,” said Beth Hirschhorn, chief marketing officer for MetLife’s US Insurance and Financial Services businesses, in a statement. “Most people greatly underestimate the likelihood of living beyond average life expectancy and also underestimate how much money they will need in retirement.”

However, that fear has yet to translate into action for many employees. More than one out of four (26%) have not done any specific retirement planning, while only 57% have done some research on their own. This lag in planning has left half of the respondents either somewhat (30%) or significantly (23%) behind their retirement savings goals, according to the survey.

“Alarmingly, among employees in the 41 to 60 age group, many of whom are on the brink of retirement, only 4% have reached their goals,” Hirschhorn added.

The lack of employee preparedness for retirement is made worse by a scarcity of workplace education programs. Thirty-nine percent of employees are unable to estimate their annual retirement income needs, while even more (44%) don’t have a clue about how many years they need to plan for living beyond retirement. Women are less likely than men to be able to estimate these needs. Regardless of the low levels of planning and education, about half (49%) expect to retire between the ages of 61 and 70, the survey found.

While offering retirement planning services remains one of the top four most important HR strategies for employers this year, it is down from 28% in 2002 to 25% last year. Investment education on 401(k) plans is also down from 28% in 2002 to 21% in 2003.

The MetLife Employee Benefits Trend Study was conducted during the third quarter of 2003 and consisted of two distinct surveys. The employee survey polled 728 full-time employees, age 21 and older, at companies with at least two employees. A total of 1,548 HR/Benefits executives from companies with at least two employees participated in the employer survey. Both surveys were fielded during September and conducted by NFO World Group via a Web-based survey.