EBRI Issue Brief

Increased Saving but Little Planning: Results of the 1997 Retirement Confidence Survey

Nov 1, 1997 23  pages


  • The 1997 Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS) focuses on American workers' retirement planning and saving behavior. It also examines their confidence regarding various aspects of retirement, as well as their views on key policy issues. It explores current retirees' attitudes and experiences, providing context for today's workers' actions and attitudes. This Issue Brief discusses the 1997 RCS findings.
  • One-third of workers would like to retire at age 55 or younger.
  • Fifty-one percent of workers expect personal saving to be their most important source of retirement income.
  • Three-quarters of workers have no idea regarding how much money they need to accumulate for retirement.
  • Twenty-five percent of workers are very confident that they will have enough money to live comfortably throughout retirement, 43 percent are somewhat confident, and 30 percent are not confident.
  • Among those who are very confident in their personal financial preparations for retirement, relatively few (55 percent) have done a retirement saving needs calculation.
  • Sixty-nine percent of workers report having money saved for retirement.
  • Seventy-six percent of workers offered a 401(k) or similar retirement saving plan contribute to the plan. Of these, only 65 percent know the maximum that they are allowed to contribute, and of these, less than one-half contribute the maximum.
  • Twenty-four percent of retirees report that their standard of living is worse now than at the end of their working career.
  • Twenty-three percent of retirees are not confident that they will have enough money to live comfortably throughout retirement.
  • Many Americans do not understand the debate over Social Security's financial condition. Thirty percent incorrectly believe that "trust fund exhaustion" means the system will be completely broke and unable to pay any benefits (in addition, 12 percent responded that they do not know).
  • Assuming that adjustments must be made to Social Security, respondents were forced to choose between increased payroll taxes or reduced benefit levels; 63 percent chose increased taxes and 32 percent chose decreased benefits.
  • The primary lesson from the 1997 RCS is that workers need to be motivated beyond current levels to plan financially for their retirement and then save accordingly.