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Key Findings from the EBRI Annual Retirement Survey

Senior couple walking on the beach holding hands at sunrise, plan life insurance at retirement concept.

WIlliam Shakespeare famously wrote, “For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”1

Shakespeare suggested that each of our experiences can be interpreted in a wide range of ways. Or, to put it another way, nothing can be deemed good or bad except by comparison.

This idea may best describe the results of the 2024 Retirement Confidence Survey, which were released a few months ago. The survey suggests that most Americans feel pretty good about their retirement prospects, but they haven’t fully recovered from the pandemic years.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:1-3

The Employee Benefit Research Institute has been administering its Retirement Confidence Survey for 34 years. Each year, we check the results to see how they compare with previous years, and whether there are any new trends emerging. Here’s a quick summary of some of the key findings for 2024.2

Social Security’s role in retirement: More than 60% of retirees say that Social Security is a major source of income. Interestingly, however, only 35% of today’s workers believe that it will play a major role when they retire. This gap between what worker’s believe–and what retiree’s experience–may be cause for concern. When we work with future retirees, we can develop financial models and income projections to help them manage the gap between perception and reality.2

Who has a calculator? More than 50% of Americans have calculated how much money they will need for retirement, but they struggle to turn the results into action. While it’s important to have a target, we would argue that it’s more important to have a strategy for pursuing your retirement goal. Unless you have a detailed approach, it can be difficult to measure results.2

Generating income: Roughly one-third of today’s workers want to talk about investments that offer lifelong income during retirement. More specifically, today’s workers expect to use their workplace retirement savings plan to purchase a product that can generate monthly income when they retire. There are several different approaches that can be used to create this type of income stream, but much depends on your unique situation.2

Inflation’s pinch: More than a third of retirees say that they are paying more than expected for travel, entertainment and leisure activities. Only 30% can say that their overall lifestyle in retirement is better than they expected. This is heartbreaking to hear. When we develop a retirement strategy, we look at many factors, including how inflation may unfold. If costs are higher than expected for a time, we can make adjustments, as we want everyone to enjoy the retirement they envisioned.2

When we create a retirement strategy, we explain that the approach may need to be refined if your goals, risk tolerance, or time frame change. Once you enter retirement, your strategy may also need to be adjusted based on a variety of circumstances–some that we may anticipate (such as ongoing inflation) and some that are unexpected.

With a strategy in hand, you can prepare, adjust, and measure your progress. Without a strategy, it can be difficult to know where you stand or what success would look like.

  1. ShakespeareAssociation.org, 2024
  2. EBRI.org, April 25, 2024

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