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2017 Retirement Confidence Survey: A Secondary Analysis of the Findings from Respondents Age 50+

Retirement Plan


This study presents the findings of a secondary analysis of the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s 2017 Retirement Confidence Survey, with a special focus on respondents age 50+. The goal of this study is to provide a better understanding of the retirement expectations, preparations, experiences and needs of Americans 50 years of age and older.

The key findings from this study are as follows:

Preparing for Retirement

  • Among workers eligible to claim Social Security benefits, more than one in 10 (13%) expect to claim benefits before age 65, and more than a third (36%) are not sure when they will claim their benefits.

  • Among workers who are currently contributing to an employer-provided savings plan, the majority would be likely to seek advice regarding their plan from an independent financial services company or advisor (63%), the retirement plan provider (62%) and/or a financial services company or advisor retained by their employer (53%). Just one in five (22%), however, would be likely to seek advice from an online provider.

Saving for Retirement

  • More than seven in 10 (72%) workers and eight in 10 (80%) retirees have personally saved for retirement (not including Social Security or employer-provided money); and among workers, more than nine in 10 (93%) are currently saving for retirement.

  • Approximately three in 10 (31%) workers and retirees (29%) have less than $25,000 in savings and investments. 

  • Among workers who have not personally saved for retirement, nearly half (48%) say they would be very likely to save if they were given an employer match, and about  four in 10 (39%) say they would be very likely to do so if their savings contribution was automatically deducted from their paycheck.

Retirement Confidence

  • About three in four (74%) workers and nearly nine in 10 (88%) retirees feel at least somewhat confident they will be able to take care of their basic expenses during retirement. Fewer are at least somewhat confident about being able to live comfortably in retirement (67% and 82%, respectively).

  • Nearly three in five (58%) workers and more than two in five (44%) retirees are not confident they will have enough money to pay for long-term care, should they need it during retirement.

Financial Situation

  • More than a third (35%) of workers and a fifth (21%) of retirees do not feel financially secure.

  • A third (33%) of workers feel mentally or emotionally stressed about preparing for retirement; approximately one in five (19%) workers worry about their finances while at work. 

  • Being able to pay for healthcare expenses (60%, 45%), and cover future expenses (57%, 43%), and unexpected expenses (56%, 46%) are top concerns for more than half of workers and more than four in 10 retirees, respectively.

Retirement Experiences versus Expectations

  • Retirees who retired when planned or later than planned (43%) are less likely than those who retired earlier than planned (49%) to say their retirement expenses are higher than expected.

  • About a third (32%) of retirees have worked for pay since retiring; the large majority did it because they wanted to stay active and involved (90%) and/or because they enjoy working (83%); two in three did it in order to have extra spending money. About four in ten (39%) retirees say they worked for pay in retirement to make ends meet. 

This online survey of Americans age 50 and older was conducted from January 6-13, 2017 by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) in association with Greenwald & Associates. Data are weighted by age, sex, and education. For more information contact Alicia R. Williams at or S. Kathi Brown at


Suggested Citation:

Williams, Alicia R. and S. Kathi Brown. 2017 Retirement Confidence Survey: A Secondary Analysis of the Findings from Respondents Age 50+. Washington DC: AARP Research, December 2017.

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