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Retirement Security or Insecurity? The Experience of Workers Aged 45 and Older

The challenge of preparing adequately for retirement has grown markedly, as people live longer, fewer companies offer defined benefit plans, and nest eggs are increasingly linked to Wall Street. This challenge becomes even more difficult during turbulent economic times. People are now changing their behavior in significant ways to deal with their financial pressures, which they believe will undermine their future retirement security.

To understand how recent changes in the economy have affected the financial security of workers who are at least 45 years old, including their preparations for retirement, AARP commissioned a national survey. The survey found, among other things, that:

  • If the economy does not improve significantly, over six in ten workers age 45 and older say it is likely they will spend less in retirement (69%) as well as delay retirement and work longer (65%). Far fewer (37%) say it is likely they will save more for retirement.
  • Because of recent changes in the economy, during the past 12 months 24% of workers age 45+ have increased the number of hours they work and 20% have actually stopped putting money into a 401(k), IRA, or other retirement account.
  • Over a quarter (28%) of respondents felt their savings were not on track for retirement before the economy slowed down, and nearly six in ten respondents (58%) think they are not saving enough for retirement.
  • Over six in ten respondents (63%) whose current employer does not offer a retirement plan say they would be likely to use it if their employer offered one.

There are several implications of this study: (1) Employer-provided pension coverage needs to be greatly increased; (2) There is considerable distress among vulnerable elements of the population suggesting that the most at-risk individuals may be the hardest hit; (3) Middle-aged workers (45-49) need to make saving for their retirement a priority; and (4) Most workers are relying on working longer to compensate for retirement nest-egg shortfalls.

The study was conducted for AARP via telephone by International Communications Research (ICR). Interviews were conducted during September 3-21, 2008, among a nationally representative sample of 1,628 employed respondents age 45 and older, including 333 Hispanic respondents. For further information, contact Colette Thayer at 202-434-6294. (19 pages)