The Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS) was conducted for its 31st year in 2021 to measure attitudes of American workers and retirees about issues surrounding retirement. The 2021 RCS included an oversample of Black and Hispanic Americans to allow for a closer analysis of the challenges that they face in saving and preparing for retirement. New questions were added this year to explore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, evaluate priorities in regard to preparing for retirement, and understand experiences with the financial system that may affect Black and Hispanic Americans’ retirement preparations.
The demographic profiles and composition of Black and Hispanic populations in the United States are unique, both compared with each other and compared with those of White Americans. Both Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely to have lower incomes and assets. This is a critically important consideration as financial resources (income and assets) have historically had a clear correlation to retirement confidence and responses to many other RCS metrics. In addition, the Black population tends to be more female, while the Hispanic population skews younger. Consequently, this Issue Brief closely examines the responses of Black and Hispanic Americans, taking into account some of these key demographic differences. Key findings are:
- Confidence in having enough money to live comfortably in retirement increases with income regardless of race or ethnicity. For example, in the upper-income group, 86 percent of White Americans, 84 percent of Black Americans, and 85 percent of Hispanic Americans reported that they were confident about their retirement prospects.
- The wealth gap between White Americans and Black or Hispanic Americans remains even as income rises. Lower- and middle-income Black Americans were more likely to report savings of less than $1,000 compared with White Americans. Likewise, the share with the highest amount of assets ($250,000 or more) was much higher for White Americans than for Black or Hispanic Americans for both middle and upper incomes.
- Black and Hispanic Americans were more likely to consider debt to be a major or minor problem for their household than White Americans, across each income group. In the upper-income group, 62 percent of Black Americans and 58 percent of Hispanic Americans considered debt a problem compared with 37 percent of White Americans. As a result, Black and Hispanic Americans were more likely to say debt is impacting their ability to save for retirement or emergencies and to live comfortably in retirement.
- Hispanic Americans, regardless of income, were more likely to agree that it is more important to help friends and family now than to save for their own retirement. In the upper-income group, nearly one-half of Hispanic Americans agreed with this statement compared with only one-third of White Americans. Upper-income Black Americans were also more likely to agree that family is more important. Black and Hispanic Americans were also more likely to agree that saving for or paying off a child’s education was reducing their ability to save for retirement.
- Hispanic and Black Americans are more likely to say that a connection or commonality between them and the advisor is important. This includes a preference for working with an advisor who has had a similar upbringing or similar life experiences to them, working with an advisor who is affiliated with their employer, working with an advisor who has a similar racial/ethnic background to them, and working with an advisor who is the same gender as them. Black and Hispanic workers were also more likely to say that one-on-one, personalized education would be a valuable potential improvement to workplace retirement savings plans.
- Forty-six percent of all retirees reported they retired earlier than expected — but the top reason why differs by race. While White retirees said they could afford to retire earlier than planned most often, Black retirees said they had a health problem or disability most often.
Black and Hispanic Americans reported disproportionately lower financial resources, and how they feel about retirement and financial security is clearly impacted by having less resources. Still, there are some modifications in the financial system that could help improve their prospects, including access to workplace retirement savings plans that provide one-on-one, personalized advice that builds on their comfort with having a connection to those providing them advice. Many Americans, but perhaps especially Black and Hispanic Americans, would benefit from increased assistance in balancing competing financial priorities, such as debt reduction, supporting family, and their own long-term savings. In addition, financial service companies having more people who are similar to Black and Hispanic Americans and treating them fairly could improve their use of the system. A greater understanding of the importance of supporting family and friends that in particular Hispanic Americans feel when making financial decisions is needed, so that this obligation can be weighed against their own savings to build wealth that could result in a lesser need for supporting family members in the future. Obviously, higher incomes would help, but these issues even arise for those already with higher incomes.
EBRI and Greenwald would like to thank the 2021 RCS sponsors who helped shape this year’s survey: AARP, Aon, Ariel Investments, Ayco, Bank of America, BlackRock, Capital Group, Columbia Threadneedle, Empower Retirement, Fidelity Investments, FINRA Foundation, J.P. Morgan, Legal & General Investment Management America (LGIMA), Mercer, Mutual of America, Nationwide Financial, New York Life, PIMCO, Principal Financial Group, Prudential, PGIM, Retirement Clearinghouse, T. Rowe Price, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Wells Fargo.