As corporations continue to freeze or eliminate defined benefit plans, American workers may be getting increasingly concerned about their financial security in retirement and looking for guaranteed income options.

Two-thirds of Americans say they would be willing to give up salary increases in exchange for guaranteed retirement income, according to a new survey by the National Institute on Retirement Security.

In the survey, 72% of Americans viewed retirement benefits as a perk that was almost as important as their salary and 84% said health insurance is the most important job benefit they receive.

Also see: Group pension buy-out sales more than double

Eighty-two percent of those surveyed said that a “pension is worth having because it provides steady income that won’t run out, while 67% of Americans indicate they would be willing to take less in pay increases in exchange for guaranteed income in retirement.”

The crux of the study is that the overwhelming majority of Americans believe there is a retirement crisis in America. In the past, people could rely on Social Security, a pension and individual savings to get them through retirement. Many corporations and government entities are eliminating or reducing pension benefits and some legislators believe that cuts will have to be made to Social Security to keep it solvent. That means more and more people will have to rely solely on their own personal savings to get them through retirement in the future and that may not be enough.

“NIRS calculates that the U.S. retirement savings deficit is at least $6.8 trillion based on the most generous measure of household assets net worth, which includes assets like home equity beyond financial assets,” according to the report.

Also see: Kimberly-Clark offloading $2.5 billion in pension liabilities

Eighty-six percent of those surveyed said there is a retirement crisis in America, with the highest income earners being the most cognizant of the fact. NIRS found that more than 38 million working-age households didn’t participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan or an IRA in 2010.

“Households that do own retirement accounts have 2.4 times the income of households without retirement account assets,” the report stated.

A high percentage of Americans say they support pensions for public employees, but few realize that three-quarters of public pension costs are paid for with employee contributions and investment returns, the report stated.

Also see: DB plan sponsors actively look at risk management options

“More than 8 out of 10 Americans — a vast majority — say that all workers, not just public employees, should have a pension. Some 87% of Americans say pensions are a good way to recruit and retain qualified teachers, police officers and firefighters,” the survey found.

NIRS wanted to find out what Americans were planning to do to make sure they have a financially secure retirement. It found that 77% plan to cut back spending in retirement, and 72% said they planned to stay in their current job as long as possible.

Sixty-four percent said they will cut back on their current spending and 63% said they will save 1% to 4% more than they are saving currently for retirement.

One downside to the retirement crisis is that older workers are staying at their jobs longer, eliminating opportunities for the younger generations. Another downside is that retirees who don’t have enough in savings will decrease their spending, which has negative effects on the economy as a whole, the report found.

Also see: How do you know when it’s time for a new retirement plan adviser?

Wage stagnation is having a harmful effect on employees’ ability to save for retirement. According to NIRS, wages after inflation have been flat or falling for decades.

“The reality today is that Americans need to save more money because they are living longer and to cover health care costs in retirement as employers move away from offering retiree health insurance,” the report said. “Between 1988 and 2013, the share of large companies offering retiree health care plummeted from 66% to 29%.”

Social Security is more important than ever. NIRS found that nearly two-thirds of older Americans rely on Social Security benefits for most of their income. The government has increased retirement age to ensure some of these benefits last longer, but that has resulted in lower benefits, which is a “difficult development for lower income workers who rely most heavily on Social Security to make ends meet.”

Paula Aven Gladych is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Employee Benefit News content is archived after seven days.

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