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Looking for a Retirement Lifeline in Puerto Rico



en español | The economic crisis in Puerto Rico has jeopardized the retirement security of many on the island. According to a survey of workers and retirees ages 35 to 64, few Puerto Ricans in the labor force are saving for retirement and many are struggling financially even while working. Just one in three workers surveyed have access to a defined benefit plan (i.e. pension) through their employer which leaves the majority of working Puerto Ricans with no guaranteed retirement benefit. In addition, as many as forty-four percent (44%) of these workers in their prime earning years (ages 35 to 64) have no retirement savings plan on the job, including defined contribution savings plans such as a 401(k).  As a result, almost one-half of workers surveyed (47%) believe they will never be able to retire.  A super majority (83%) agree that government can be part of a solution and say elected officials should support legislation that helps more workers save their own money for retirement.

Among the key findings from the survey:

Financial hardship is common and presents barriers to active saving.

  • Fifty-five percent (55%) of workers and sixty-two percent (62%) of retirees are either "struggling” or “just getting by” financially.

  • Thirty-two percent (32%) of workers experienced a reduction in work hours or pay last year (either themselves or someone in their household).

  • Many are sandwiched between supporting parents and adult children or grandchildren: Thirty-six percent (36%) of workers and twenty-nine percent (29%) of retirees are financially supporting their parents. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of workers and fifty-three percent (53%) of retirees are financially supporting adult children or grandchildren.

  • Sixty-seven percent (67%) of workers have no money left to save for retirement after paying bills.

Work is the new retirement plan.

  • Two-thirds of workers hope they will retire one day, but forty-seven percent (47%) are not confident they ever will be able to.

  • When asked what their plan is for retirement, workers are more likely to envision a future of work than traditional retirement. Fifty-seven percent (57%) plan to keep working as long as possible or return to working after retiring from their current career. Only forty percent (40%) say they will eventually stop working all together.

  • Forty-three percent (43%) of workers have thought very little or not at all about retirement planning.

Few workers are saving for retirement and many have no access to workplace savings plans.

  • Out of every three workers ages 35 to 64 in Puerto Rico, one is saving for retirement and two are not.

  • One in five (19%) workers in this age group is contributing to a retirement savings plan.

  • Forty-four percent (44%) of workers have no access to a retirement plan through their employer. 

  • Defined benefit plans are offered to thirty-six percent (36%) of workers surveyed and a similar share (38%) has access to a defined contribution plan. Nineteen percent (19%) have access to both types.

Data is based on a telephone survey of 800 participants ages 35 to 64 years old who reside in Puerto Rico and are either currently employed or looking for work (sample of n=600) or retired (sample of n=200). The interviews were conducted December 9 through December 29, 2016. For more information contact Angela Houghton at


Suggested Citation:

Houghton, Angela. Looking for a Retirement Lifeline in Puerto Rico. Washington, DC: AARP Research, April 2017.

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