A new analysis finds that retirement coverage in the private sector remains a “serious problem” for plan sponsors and employees despite previously reported high levels of access to retiree options, according to researchers from the Center of Retirement Research at Boston College.

After sifting through cumulous amounts of data, researchers highlight that a big share of private sector workers are not covered by a retirement plan at any given point in time. While 80% of employees have access to retirement benefits, the April Issue in Brief states that many do not participate in these pension options. Realistically, only about half of all private workers, aged between 25 and 64, are actively taking part.

Alicia H. Munnell, a director of the CRR, and research associate Dina Bleckman analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve and the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.

From 1991-2012, between 40-55% of private sector employees participated in some kind of pension plan during that time span, according to the researched data.

“Individuals, on balance, underreport their coverage and participation in retirement plans,” Munnell and Bleckman write. “The under-reporting at the coverage level is greater than at the participation level, since individuals know more about their own retirement plans than about what their employers are offering.”

While taking a step back, noting that it is “probably reasonable to say that about 50% of private sector workers participate in a retirement plan,” the Boston College researchers explain that more workers will likely pick up coverage over their career. This is not the case for workers with high levels of career movement.

“Those workers who move in and out of coverage end up with inadequate retirement balances, and roughly one-third of households reach their sixties with no retirement plan at all,” Munnell and Bleckman explain. “So, yes, coverage remains a serious problem.”

Prior reports have noted that private sector employee access to retirement has been a problem. This year alone, there have been countless instances of a need to modify the current U.S. retirement industry. From the introduction of President Barack Obama’s “myRA” program or Sen. Tom Harkin’s USA Retirement Funds Act, many have pointed to maintaining the current employer-sponsored defined contribution structure for future stability. At the state level, Connecticut has embarked a similar path towards offering private employees retiree options as has been established in California, as well introductions to similar efforts in Wisconsin and Maryland

Additional industry commentary has pointed to the need for employees in company-run DC plans to find supplemental lifetime income options. This can either be achieved through implementing sound advice options or upping contribution methods. Also, many pension plan sponsors have also bristled at the inevitable impact of the Department of Labor’s fiduciary standard as well as premium increases.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Employee Benefit News becomes archived within a week of it being published

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access