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Workers and Retirees Optimistic About Retirement Prospects

A new report from the 34th annual Retirement Confidence Survey finds workers’ and retirees’ confidence has not yet fully recovered from the significant drop seen in 2023, but majorities remain optimistic about their retirement prospects and the lifestyle they envisioned. The survey is the longest-running survey of its kind measuring worker and retiree confidence and is conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and Greenwald Research.  

“Overall, two-thirds of the workers and three-fourths of the retirees are very or somewhat confident about having enough money to live comfortably in retirement, which is unchanged from 2023,” says Craig Copeland, director of wealth benefits research at EBRI. “The survey also shows that workers and retirees are confident that government programs such as Social Security and Medicare will provide benefits of equal value to today and believe they understand the Social Security program. Confidence is similar across all ages. But, in some cases, younger workers are more confident in certain aspects of retirement. For generation specific results, boomers and millennials report higher confidence in having enough money to live comfortably throughout retirement than Gen Xers.”  

“Workers and retirees are also concerned that their retirement could be impacted by the U. S. government making changes to the American retirement system. In fact, 79% of workers and 71% of retirees have this concern,” says Lisa Greenwald, CEO of Greenwald Research. “Inflation’s impact on their retirement also remains a concern among workers and retirees.” 

Key findings from the survey are below.  

  • Social Security remains the top source of actual and expected income for Americans in retirement. Most workers (88%) expect Social Security to be a source of income in retirement. Retirees confirm this sentiment as nearly all (91%) report Social Security as a source of income. However, nearly twice as many retirees (62%) report Social Security as a major source of income than what workers (35%) expect it to be. While most Americans expect Social Security as a source of income in retirement, fewer understand it, but those who understand it are a clear majority.  
  • Workers expect to claim Social Security as soon as they retire but also expect to work for pay in retirement. Workers believe they will start claiming Social Security benefits at a median age of 65, which is the same age workers expect to retire. While this has been the historical median age workers expect to retire, significantly more workers (28%) this year expect to retire at age 65. Retirees report retiring at a significantly lower age than workers anticipate.  
  • Americans’ retirement calculations result in a desire to save more, as estimations drastically differ from what Americans currently have. Half of Americans have tried to calculate how much money they will need in retirement. In reaction to their calculation, 52% of workers and 44% of retirees have started to save more. Even though seven in 10 workers and nearly eight in 10 retirees have saved for retirement, this renewed interest in saving is spurred by the drastic difference in what Americans believe they will need compared to how much they currently have saved.  
  • Workers would like help with saving for emergencies through their retirement plan. Two-thirds of workers and almost three-quarters of retirees believe they have enough savings to handle an emergency expense. Additionally, almost half of workers have planned how they will cover an emergency expense in retirement. However, the ability to save for emergencies is at the top of workers’ list of valuable improvements they would like to see made to their retirement savings plan. 
  • Workers are more likely this year to want to purchase a guaranteed income product with their retirement savings. Among workers who are offered a workplace retirement plan, one-third believe having investment options that provide guaranteed lifetime income to be the most valuable improvement to their plan.  
  • While expenses in retirement are higher than what retirees originally anticipated, retirees’ lifestyle in retirement is better than they expected. Significantly up this year, over a third of retirees say their travel, entertainment, or leisure expenses are higher than they expected. At the same time, four in five say they can spend what they want within reason.  

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