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Survey says: ‘Yes, we can retire’

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Posted: 4 pm ET

Survey says: Yes, we can retire

Americans are feeling a lot more confident about their retirement prospects than they did in the post-Great Recession years from 2009 to 2013, according to findings reported in the 25th annual Retirement Confidence Survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, or EBRI.

Workers say they are:

  • Very confident  they will have enough money to retire and live comfortably -- 22 percent feel that way, up from 13 percent in 2013.
  • Somewhat confident -- 36 percent.
  • Not too confident -- 17 percent.
  • Not at all confident -- 24 percent.

Retirees say they are:

  • Very confident they will have enough money to live comfortably throughout retirement -- 37 percent feel that way, up from 18 percent in 2013.
  • Somewhat confident -- 33 percent.
  • Not too confident -- 14 percent.
  • Not at all confident -- 14 percent.

"As the economy improves, retirement confidence increases. This makes sense," says Mathew Greenwald, CEO of Greenwald and Associates, the research firm that directed this survey of more than 2,000 people -- half workers and half retirees.

One of the most significant trends Greenwald says he observed in the voluminous study was the plan among increasing numbers of workers to delay retirement, with the percentage of workers who expect to retire after age 65 increasing from 11 percent in 1991 to 36 percent in 2015. Some 10 percent said they will never retire.

Plans to delay may not pan out

Greenwald cautioned that there was a big gap between workers' plans for a delayed retirement and retirees' actual experiences. Only 14 percent of the current retirees surveyed said they retired after age 65. "Don't put off saving because you hope to work into old age, because you can't count on being able to do that," Greenwald says.

Here are some other things in this study that might make you say "huh?"

  • Only about half of workers -- 48 percent -- said they have calculated how much money they will need in retirement, then figured out how much that means they will need to save. Greenwald responded by quoting baseball great Yogi Berra, "'If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.' That's where many people are with retirement."
  • Fifty-one percent of workers and 31 percent of retirees said they owe too much money on credit cards and for cars and mortgages. That's down from 58 percent of workers and 44 percent of retirees in 2014, but it is still a big number.
  • Saving more money didn't seem to be an insurmountable problem, even for the 55 percent of workers who reported that they had no savings at all. Some 69 percent of those surveyed said they could save an additional $25 a week by giving up some small luxury. About half -- 46 percent -- said they could put an extra $25 in the kitty if they just gave up dinner out or take-out food.
  • While experts often say it takes at least 85 percent or more of preretirement income to retire comfortably, retirees say their reality is much different. Fifty-six percent said they live on no more than 70 percent of their preretirement income. Twelve percent say they live on 70 percent to 85 percent. Only 12 percent say they live on 85 percent or more.

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