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Still worried about retirement

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Posted: 2 pm ET

Are you one of the 51 percent who is at least somewhat confident that you'll have enough money to retire comfortably? Or are you among the 49 percent who either don't feel confident or don't have a clue how you'll get by when you aren't working?

The Employee Benefit Research Institute, or EBRI, released its annual retirement confidence survey today, reporting that not much has changed since the Great Recession began in 2008. About half of workers feel their retirement planning is going OK and the other half are nervous.

To be precise:

  • Very confident: 13 percent.
  • Somewhat confident: 38 percent
  • Not too confident: 21 percent
  • Not at all confident: 28 percent

The number of people who say they are not at all confident is at its highest level in the last 23 years -- since EBRI started asking this question. Why is that, since the economy appears to be on the mend? "I think more people have a better understanding of where they are. I think the slippage has more to do with more realism on the part of those who aren't prepared," says Jack VanDerhei, EBRI's research director.

People may be more aware, but they aren't rushing to save more or to even to figure out how much they should be saving. The percentage of people who have saved anything for retirement fell to 66 percent from 75 percent in 2009. Of  spouses, some 54 percent say neither they nor their spouse has tried to calculate what it would take for them to retire.

If you look more closely at these numbers, it's clear that the people who have the most trouble saving are those who don't make much money. Only 24 percent of workers with household incomes under $35,000 are saving for retirement. Of those earning between $35,000 and $75,000, 76 percent are saving. And among those earning more than $75,000, 94 percent are saving. And the rest must have a rich uncle.

EBRI asked people why they weren't saving, and a total of 59 percent answered that either their household expenses were too high or that they simply couldn't afford to save.

People who aren't saving do have a plan: 26 percent say they are going to work at least until age 70. But as Mathew Greenwald, president of Greenwald & Associates, which conducted the survey, points out, "These plans can be considered risky. The risk is that people won't be able to work for reasons beyond their control."

The survey found that 47 percent of current retirees say they were forced to retire before they wanted to -- mostly because they were laid off or had poor health.

Retirement planning isn't getting any easier, but it can be done. EBRI asked workers what they could do to save $25 a week and the most common answer was, "Give up eating a meal or two out." So, if you take the $25 that you're not spending on a hamburger and fries and invest it weekly for 35 years, and the money earns an average of 6 percent interest, by the time you're ready to retire, you'll have $154,542.

Not too shabby. As the ad says, "Just do it."

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1 Comment
March 21, 2013 at 7:41 am

It is not surprising that many worry about having enough money for retirement. Many did not think about retirement earlier in their careers and did not start to save for retirement until into their 40s or 50s if at all. I recently came across a new retirement site that has some good information for retirees and those approaching retirement at