The vast majority of Americans – 86 percent – believe the nation faces a retirement crisis, while nearly as many don’t think Washington lawmakers are doing enough to help, according to a report from the National Institute on Retirement Security.
The poll also found that nearly three-quarters of those it surveyed are concerned about their ability to achieve a secure retirement, while two-thirds indicated they would be willing to take less in salary increases in exchange for guaranteed income in retirement.
"The data evidence is irrefutable that the nation faces a retirement crisis," Diane Oakley, NIRS executive director, said. "This poll reveals that Americans understand the severity of this crisis, and they want action and reform."
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To underscore its findings, NIRS cited Boston College Center for Retirement Research figures that more than half of U.S. households do not have enough retirement income to maintain their standard of living even if they work longer than the average retirement age of 65.
NIRS figures show that there is a $6.8 trillion deficit in retirement savings, with the problem especially grave for minority households. While a typical white household close to retirement may have about $30,000 saved for that purpose — nowhere near enough — minority households are far worse off. Black and Latino households close to retirement have zero saved specifically for retirement in 401(k)s or IRAs, it said.
Not discouraged yet? Try this: 87 percent of Americans say that folks in Washington have no idea how tough it is to save for retirement, and 84 percent say that federal lawmakers should be working to make sure people can retire securely.
Even if they want to, not all Americans are able to save for retirement in an employer-sponsored plan. Just 65 percent of Americans had access to such a plan — and as of 2014, only 48 percent participated in one.
Another factor to consider is leakage – tapping into retirement savings for other financial needs – something the report says is a major factor in Americans’ failure to save enough for retirement. Leakage reduces aggregate individual account retirement assets by approximately 25 percent.
So how are Americans planning to cope with not having enough money to retire?
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According to the poll, 77 percent plan to cut spending in retirement; 72 percent intend to work as long as possible; 64 percent are cutting back on current spending; 63 percent are trying to save between 1-4 percent more; 56 percent are going to look for full- or part-time work once they’ve retired; and 42 percent are trying to save 5 percent more. Another strategy that 42 percent envision: selling their homes to be financially secure once they retire.
Given the option, employees participate at greater rates when offered one of the so-called “Secure Choice” plans — payroll deductions for retirement savings — that have been enacted by a number of states over the last few years.
Asked about such plans, 71 percent said they’re a good idea, and 75 percent said they would participate if they had such an option. They particularly like the notion that such plans are portable from job to job (93 percent) and provide a monthly check during retirement (also 93 percent), as well as low fees (85 percent).
Public-sector pensions, according to the report, have broad support; in fact, the report said, “private sector employees seem to ‘envy’ public employee pensions because they want similar benefits for themselves to improve their financial security. Americans do not seem to want a ‘retirement race to the bottom’ by taking away pensions for public employees.”
However, they don’t seem to understand how public sector pensions are paid for; only 25 percent understood that public employers pay just 25 percent or less of public pension costs, and that the rest comes from employee contributions and market returns.
If Americans and their leaders don’t find some way to bridge the “great divide” over the retirement issue, it’s unlikely that a resolution will be found any time soon to the impending crisis, the report concluded.
The poll, a nationwide telephone interview of 801 adults, was conducted by Greenwald & Associates. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percent.
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