EBRI Issue Brief

Caregivers and Retirement: Findings From the 2023 Retirement Confidence Survey

Jul 13, 2023 53  pages


The Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS) was conducted for its 33rd year in 2023 to measure attitudes toward, preparations for, and understanding of the various issues surrounding retirement by American workers and retirees. The RCS found that working Americans in 2023 experienced the largest one-year drop in confidence in having enough money to live comfortably throughout retirement since 2008. At the same time, the survey also found that many workers and retirees haven’t prepared or didn’t prepare for retirement.

In this Issue Brief, the retirement prospects, knowledge, preparations for retirement, and experiences in retirement are examined for those who are unpaid caregivers vs. those who do not provide this care. Caregivers in this survey are defined as those who provided unpaid care for an adult and/or child within the last 12 months in a noninstitutional setting and helped their care recipient with at least one activity of daily living or instrumental activity of daily living. A description of these caregivers, who they provide the care to, and actions they have taken in response to being a caregiver are enumerated before comparing caregivers vs. non-caregivers on many dimensions of financial attitudes and activities and retirement preparations.

Key findings are:

  • Caregivers are less likely to say that their health status is excellent or very good, are more likely to be female, are less likely to be White, and are more likely to be Hispanic than non-caregivers. The share of caregivers who say that their health status is excellent or very good is 49 percent compared with 55 percent among non-caregivers. Sixty-one percent of caregivers are female vs. 49 percent of non-caregivers.
  • Caregivers are more likely to have lower levels of financial assets and more likely to have a problem with debt than non-caregivers. One-quarter of caregivers have less than $1,000 in savings and investments compared with 15 percent of non-caregivers. At the same time, caregivers are more likely to say that debt is a problem — 64 percent compared with 52 percent among non-caregivers.
  • Fifty-five percent of caregiving workers and 37 percent of caregiving retirees report that they provide financial support to their caregiving recipient. Over one-third of caregiving workers (35 percent) and caregiving retirees (37 percent) say they provided $5,000–$14,999 in financial support to their caregiving recipient in the past 12 months.
  • The role and responsibilities of being an unpaid caregiver are more likely to have a negative impact on the caregivers’ mental and physical health than on the performance of specific financial tasks. Among caregiving workers, 66 percent say their mental health is negatively impacted by the caregiving and 57 percent say their physical health is negatively impacted. The most impacted financial tasks among caregiving workers are saving for emergencies and working the hours they want or need to work (54 percent).
  • Caregivers in the upper-income group ($75,000 or more) are less likely to be confident in their retirement prospects than non-caregivers, but no difference in this confidence resulted among those in the two lower-income groups (less than $35,000 and $35,000–$74,999). Specifically, 26 percent of caregivers with incomes of $75,000 or more are not confident that they will have enough money throughout their retirement compared with 17 percent of non-caregivers with these incomes.
  • There are no significant differences between caregivers and non-caregivers strongly or somewhat agreeing that they feel knowledgeable about managing their day-to-day finances. In addition, there are also no significant differences in the likelihoods of caregivers and non-caregivers strongly or somewhat agreeing that they feel knowledgeable about managing savings and investments for the future.
  • Middle-income caregivers are more likely to agree that retirement savings is not a priority relative to the current needs of their family than middle-income non-caregivers, while there are no differences in the other two income groups by caregiver status in agreeing that retirement savings is not a priority. When asked which approach they are likely to take between managing their savings/investments on their own or purchasing a product that gives them guaranteed income for life, only caregivers in the higher-income group are more likely to say they would purchase a product that gives them guaranteed income for life than their non-caregiving counterparts.
  • Caregivers are more likely to express concern over various scenarios that could impact Americans’ retirement finances or retirement in general than non-caregivers. This includes such scenarios as the U.S. economy going into a recession in the next 12 months, inflation staying high for at least the next 12 months, salary and any other work compensation not keeping up with inflation, increasing cost of living making it harder for them to save as much money as they want, and having to make substantial cuts to their spending because of inflation.
  • Caregivers in the middle-income group are more likely to either strongly or somewhat agree with the statement that they do not know who to go to for good financial or retirement planning advice than non-caregivers in this income group. The top four sources of information used for retirement planning overall are consistent across caregiver status: family and friends; a personal, professional financial advisor; online resources and research they do on their own; and their employer or information they receive at work.
  • Caregivers in many instances have less confidence in their finances than non-caregivers. However, when it comes to preparing for retirement, caregivers are just as likely as non-caregivers to have done various retirement preparation tasks. This includes such tasks as having tried to figure out how much money they will need to have saved by the time they retire so that they can live comfortably in retirement, having thought about how much money to withdraw from their retirement savings and investments in retirement, and having planned for how they would cover an emergency or big expense in retirement.
  • There are no differences in reporting they understand certain investments available in workplace retirement savings plans between caregivers and non-caregivers who are offered a retirement savings plan. Caregivers and non-caregivers who are offered these plans cite the same top three most valuable improvements: investment options that provide guaranteed lifetime income after you retire, better explanations for how much income your savings will produce in retirement, and better explanations for whether you are on track with your retirement savings.
  • The distributions of the ages at which both caregivers and non-caregivers retired are not different. In addition, the likelihoods of retirees having retired earlier than, later than, or when planned are also not different between caregivers and non-caregivers. However, the top reason caregivers are most likely to have retired earlier than planned is because they had to care for a spouse or another family member, whereas non-caregivers’ top reason is that they could afford to retire earlier than planned. While the percentages of retirees actually working after retiring are substantially below those of workers expecting to work for pay in retirement, caregiving retirees are more likely to have actually worked after they retired than non-caregiving retirees, which could be due to the different reasons that they retired earlier than planned.
  • Caregiving retirees are more likely than non-caregiving retirees to say that their overall lifestyle in retirement now is worse than how they expected it to be before they retired. Specifically, 31 percent of caregiving retirees say it is worse compared with 20 percent of non-caregiving retirees.

Despite caregivers being more likely to not be confident about many aspects of retirement and more likely to be concerned about various scenarios that could impact their finances and retirement than non-caregivers, caregivers are just as likely to have done various tasks to prepare for retirement as non-caregivers. They are also just as likely to feel knowledgeable about managing their day-to-day finances and about certain investment options in retirement savings plans. Thus, even though caregivers are doing many of the right things in preparing for retirement, caregivers appear to be behind in savings and their confidence about their retirement due to their caregiving responsibilities.

EBRI and Greenwald would like to thank the 2023 RCS sponsors who helped shape this year’s survey: American Funds/Capital Group, Bank of America, BlackRock, Columbia Threadneedle, Empower, Fidelity Investments, FINRA, Jackson National, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Mercer, Mutual of America, Nationwide, NEFE, New York Life, PGIM, PIMCO, Principal Financial Group, and T. Rowe Price.