The 2017 Retirement Confidence Survey: Many Workers Lack Retirement Confidence and Feel Stressed About Retirement Preparations

March 2017
EBRI Issue Brief #431
Paperback, 32 pp.
PDF, 989 kb
Employee Benefit Research Institute, 2017

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Executive Summary

The 27th wave of the Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS), the longest-running survey of its kind in the nation, finds that the share of American workers who are very confident in their ability to afford a comfortable retirement remains low, and some workers report that preparing for retirement is emotionally or mentally stressful. However, among retirees, confidence in their ability to afford a comfortable retirement continues to be comparably high.

Findings in this year’s RCS include:

• Six out of 10 American workers feel very or somewhat confident about having enough money for a comfortable retirement, though just 18 percent feel very confident. The share of workers reporting that they feel either very or somewhat confident has declined compared with last year (60 percent from 64 percent in 2016). Worker confidence now resembles levels measured in 2015 (when 59 percent were either very or somewhat confident).

• In addition to lacking confidence, 3 in 10 workers report that preparing for retirement causes them to feel mentally or emotionally stressed. These stressed workers feel less financially secure and are far less confident about having enough money for a comfortable retirement than those who do not feel stressed.

• Another 3 in 10 workers say that they worry about their personal finances while at work (30 percent). More than half of these workers believe they would be more productive at work if they didn’t spend time worrying. Among all workers, about half say that retirement planning (53 percent), financial planning (49 percent), or health care planning (47 percent) programs would be helpful in increasing their productivity at work.

• Retiree confidence in having enough money for a comfortable retirement continues to exceed worker confidence levels. Seventy-nine percent of retirees report feeling either very or somewhat confident about having enough money to live comfortably throughout their retirement years, including one-third of retirees who feel very confident (32 percent).

• Workers who have a retirement plan, whether a defined contribution plan, defined benefit plan, or IRA, are far more likely to feel confident about having enough money for retirement. Indeed, they have saved more than those without a plan, have taken more steps to prepare for retirement, and feel less stressed about retirement preparations.

• Nearly 3 in 4 workers (73 percent) not currently saving for retirement say they would be at least somewhat likely to save for retirement if contributions are matched by their employer. Approximately two-thirds of non-saving workers say they would be likely to save for retirement if automatic paycheck deductions, at either 3 percent or 6 percent of salary, were used by their employer.