The Retirement System in Transition: The 2007 Retirement Confidence Survey

April 2007
EBRI Issue Brief #304
Paperback, 28 pp.
PDF, 346 kb
Employee Benefit Research Institute, 2007

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Executive Summary

Workers slow to see or adapt to a changing U.S. retirement system: The 17th annual wave of the Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS) suggests that American workers may be slow to recognize how the U.S. retirement system is changing, and those who are aware of these changes may not be adapting to them in ways that are likely to secure them a comfortable retirement.

Half of workers less confident about pension benefits: The RCS finds pension-plan changes by employers have left nearly half of workers less confident about the benefits they will receive from a traditional pension plan, but that those experiencing a decline in retirement benefits often fail to react constructively. Moreover, although Americans will rely increasingly on 401(k) retirement savings plans and other personal savings and investments to fund their retirement security, data suggest that many may not follow professional investment advice when it is offered to them.

Many workers counting on benefits that won’t be there: Many workers are counting on employer-provided benefits in retirement that are increasingly unavailable. Only 41 percent of workers indicate they or their spouse currently have a defined benefit pension plan, yet 62 percent say they are expecting to receive income from such a plan in retirement. Likewise, workers are as likely to expect as retirees are to receive retiree health insurance through an employer, even though the number of employers offering this benefit to future retirees is declining.

Many workers unlikely to heed investment advice even if they get it: More than half of workers indicate they would be likely to take advantage of professional investment advice offered by companies that manage employer-sponsored retirement plans. However, two-thirds of these workers say they would probably implement only some of the recommendations they receive and 1 in 10 think they would implement none of them.

Americans overestimate long-term care coverage: One-quarter of workers and more than one-third of retirees report they have long-term care insurance (separate from health insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid) to help pay for care they might need in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or at home. But only 10 percent of Americans age 65 and older are estimated to have had private long-term care insurance in 2002, suggesting that many are counting on coverage they do not actually have.

Most savings levels are modest: Almost half of workers saving for retirement report total savings and investments (not including the value of their primary residence or any defined benefit plans) of less than $25,000. The majority of workers who have not put money aside for retirement have little in savings at all: Seven in 10 of these workers say their assets total less than $10,000.

Continued ignorance about Social Security coverage: Despite the longstanding increase in the eligibility age for Social Security, only a small minority of workers are aware of the age at which they can receive full retirement benefits from Social Security without a reduction for early retirement.