The number of workers “not at all confident” about having enough savings for their retirement rose to 28% in 2012 from 23% a year ago, according to an annual survey released Tuesday by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, Washington.
The 23rd annual Retirement Confidence Survey by EBRI and market research firm Matthew Greenwald & Associates Inc. also found the percentage of workers feeling confident about retirement savings was unchanged from 2011's record low at 51%, and 21% were not too confident, the highest level in the survey's history.
More pressing financial concerns and unrealistic or unexamined assumptions about financial needs in retirement contributed to those levels, the study authors said. Just 2% of workers and 4% of retirees identify saving or planning for retirement as their most pressing financial issue.
One new question in the 2013 survey was about setting retirement savings targets. Nearly one-third felt the need to save 30% or more of their income, while 20% reported a target of 20% to 29% of income.
Only 46% of survey respondents or their spouses have started to calculate how much they need to save by retirement to live comfortably. That perceived level of savings could be discouraging people from being more proactive, and could be keeping confidence levels low, said Nevin Adams, director of education and external relations for EBRI.
“We have to be very careful not to scare people off,” he said in an interview. “We are looking at a situation where people are beginning to open their eyes, but most haven't made that commitment yet,” said Mr. Adams, who also co-directs EBRI's Center for Research on Retirement Income. “Maybe it's time for a real talk; maybe they can handle the truth.”
The longest-running retirement survey of its kind in the U.S. was conducted in January through random calls to 1,254 people age 25 and older. It is funded by roughly two dozen organizations. The survey data and fact sheets are available on EBRI's website.