Nancy Hellmich / USA Today
Most people have very little tucked away for retirement, and many aren't even trying to figure out how much they'll need later in life, a new national survey reveals.
About 36% of workers have less than $1,000 in savings and investments that could be used for retirement, not counting their primary residence or defined benefits plans such as traditional pensions, and 60% of workers have less than $25,000, according to a telephone survey of 1,000 workers and 501 retirees from the non-profit Employee Benefit Research Institute and Greenwald and Associates.
Only 44% say they or their spouses have tried to calculate how much money they'll need to save by the time they retire so that they can live comfortably in their golden years, the survey shows. Workers who have done calculations on what they need to save tend to have higher levels of savings than those who haven't crunched the numbers.
RETIREMENT LIVING: What to do now to prepare
"There's an incredible difference between those lucky enough to have a retirement plan and those who don't," says Jack VanDerhei, the institute's research director and co-author of the 2014 Retirement Confidence Survey. "What's really striking is that 73% of those without a retirement plan, such as an IRA, 401(k) or 403(b), have less than $1,000 in savings and investments."
The reason defined benefits weren't included in the total is most people don't know how much those are worth, he says.
Many people realize that they are not on track in saving for retirement, and the two most important reasons they give for not saving more are cost of living and day-to-day expenses, VanDerhei says.
People's confidence that they'll have a comfortable retirement has risen slightly after record lows of the last five years, with 18% of workers in 2014 saying they are very confident they can retire comfortably, up from 13% who were very confident in 2013. Meanwhile, 24% are not at all confident they have enough saved for a comfortable retirement, about the same as 2013.
Retirement confidence is present mostly in people with higher incomes and in those with retirement plans, VanDerhei says.
The survey "highlights the impending retirement crisis that we will face over the next 20 years," says Mark Fried, president of TFG Wealth Management in Newtown, Pa. "When I see these numbers I have ask the question: How did we get here? We need more financial education in the schools, in the media, in the workplace."
If possible, people 40 and older should try to save up to 20% of their income, he says. "If you can't afford to do that right now then set this as a target, and as you get annual raises put aside part of each raise until you reach the 20% number," Fried says.
Invest in your company's retirement account up to the match. One of the best ways to increase your retirement savings is to take advantage of your employer match if you have one, he says.
John Piershale, a certified financial planner at Piershale Financial Group of Crystal Lake, Ill., says: "Try to imagine how much you are going to need to have saved up to last you 20 to 30 years during retirement. The only way you can figure that out is do some retirement calculations. We help clients figure this out."
STORY: Biggest retirement regrets
If people are way behind in saving for retirement, they may need to work longer at their current job or get a second job to help fill the savings gap. Piershale says. "If you had the idea that you were going to retire at 62 or 65, and you don't have enough saved up, then you have to keep working."
Other survey findings:
• Debt is weighing heavily on many people, with 58% of workers and 44% of retirees saying they have a problem with their level of debt.
• Like workers, many retirees are also short on funds, with 58% of them having less than $25,000 in savings and investments, not counting their primary residence or defined benefits plans (traditional pensions); and 29% having less than $1,000.
• Although 65% of workers plan to work for pay in retirement, only 27% of retirees say they are working for pay during their golden years.
Total savings and investments reported by workers, not including value of primary residence or defined benefit plans such as a traditional pension.
Less than $1,000, 36%
$1,000 to $9,999, 16%
$10,000 to $24,999, 8%
$25,000 to $49,999, 9%
$50,000 to $99,999, 9%
$100,000 to $249,999, 11%
$250,000 or more, 11%
Total savings and investments reported by retirees, not including value of primary residence or defined benefit plans such as traditional pensions:
Less than $1,000, 29%
$1,000 to $9,999, 17%
$10,000 to $24,999, 12%
$25,000 to $49,999, 8%
$50,000 to $99,999, 7%
$100,000 to $249,999, 11%
$250,000 or more, 17%
Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute