Financial fears have many workers planning to delay retirement

Originally posted by Melissa A. Winn on http://ebn.benefitnews.com

Although U.S. workers on a whole are more satisfied with their current financial situation than in years past, most (58%) remain concerned about financial stability in retirement and say they plan to continue working until age 70 or later, a new Towers Watson survey shows.

With many workers expecting to fall short on their retirement savings, nearly four in 10 plan on working longer, an increase of 9% since 2009. A large majority of these employees expect to delay retirement by three or more years and 44% plan on a delay of five years or more, the Global Benefit Attitudes Survey finds.

In 2009, 31% of workers planned on retiring before 65, and 41% planned on retiring after 65. According to the 2013 survey, only 25% plan on retiring before 65 and half expect to retire after 65. One in three employees either does not expect to retire until after 70 or doesn’t plan to retire at all.

The nationwide survey of 5,070 full-time employees found that nearly half of respondents (46%) are satisfied with their current finances, a sharp increase from 26% in 2009. Still, nearly six in 10 remain worried about their financial future.

Employees’ confidence in their ability to retire has also climbed steadily since the financial crisis, with nearly a quarter (23%) very confident of their income sufficiency for the first 15 years of retirement. However, only 8% are very confident they’ll have adequate income 25 years into retirement.

“Employees might be on firmer financial footing now than they were five years ago, but many remain nervous about their finances and prospects for a secure retirement,” says Shane Bartling, senior consultant at Towers Watson. “This is especially true for older workers who are likely better positioned to assess their retirement income than workers overall. The financial crisis hit workers age 50 and above particularly hard, with the stock market fall creating a huge dent in their retirement savings and their confidence levels.”

The survey also finds that employees of all ages are especially worried about health care costs and public programs. Only two in five employees believe they can afford any medical expenses that arise in the next 12 months and more than half of all employees (53%) are concerned they will not be able to afford health care in retirement. Most employees (83%) also believe Social Security will be less valuable in the future and 88% have similar fears about Medicare.

More than half of employees (56%) say they are spending less and postponing big purchases as a way to pay down debt and start saving for retirement, the study says. Just over half (51%) of employees say they review their retirement plans frequently.

Saving for retirement is cited as the No. 1 financial priority for all employees age 40 and older, the study notes.

“Employers and employees are both facing increasing retirement pressures. Employers understand that they have a role to play in helping their workers plan and save for a secure retirement. Today’s employees are considerably more engaged, and are looking to their employers for more information about health care costs and the value of their retirement programs,” says Bartling. The increased use of tools, including mobile apps, also represents an opportunity “for employers to help their employees plan for a successful retirement.”