EBRI Issue Brief

The Evolution of Retirement: Results of the 1999 Retirement Confidence Survey

Dec 1, 1999 28  pages


  • The ninth annual Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS) shows continued evidence of progress in the drive for retirement income security for American workers. However, there are still hurdles to overcome. The RCS tracks Americans' retirement planning and saving behavior and their confidence regarding various aspects of their retirement. It also categorizes workers and retirees into distinct groups based on their individual views on retirement, retirement planning, and saving.
  • The retirement envisioned by today's workers looks different in many respects from that now experienced by current retirees. Today's workers expect to work longer than current retirees actually worked before retiring—and many say they plan to work for pay after they retire.
  • Twenty-four percent of workers reported that they are very confident they will have enough money to live comfortably in retirement, and 45 percent reported that they are somewhat confident. However, there are indications that many may be falsely confident.
  • The good news is that 70 percent of Americans are saving for retirement, and a growing percentage (49 percent) are going further and determining how much they need to save to fund their retirement. The bad news is that 30 percent of Americans have not begun to save for their retirement, and 51 percent have never tried to determine how much they need to save.
  • Employers play a major role in ensuring adequate retirement preparation. Forty percent of all workers said they expect that money provided by their employer will be a major source of retirement income. Forty-six percent expect the money they put into a retirement plan at work to be a major source of income. The availability of a retirement plan at work is credited by 48 percent of savers as motivation to save.
  • While worker education is a point of emphasis among both employers and policymakers, more remains to be done. For example, 59 percent of workers expect to be eligible for full Social Security benefits sooner than they actually will be, and an additional 19 percent admit they do not know when they will be eligible.
  • There is evidence that education can have an impact on individual behavior. Forty percent of workers receiving educational material at work in the last year said that information caused them to begin saving (19 percent) or resume saving (21 percent) for retirement, while 40 percent said they changed the amount they were contributing to a retirement savings plan and 41 percent changed the allocation of their money in a retirement savings plan.