Most Americans Ill Equipped To Turn Retirement Savings Into Income, J.P. Morgan Research Shows - Participants openly questioning reliability of their investments.
The majority of Americans say they want and need income replacement projections but most have neither access to that data nor an understanding of how to translate their 401(k) savings into a stream of retirement income, according to a new research from J.P. Morgan.
A recently released white paper titled "Searching for Certainty" details the findings of an online survey conducted with over 1,000 individuals with 401(k) plans nationwide. J.P. Morgan found that participants wrestling with how to make their savings last through retirement were often completely in the dark.
Eighty six percent of respondents said that they will need to know how much of their pre-retirement salary they can replace, yet almost one quarter (22%) aren't even sure what they are on track to receive after they stop working. Overall, only 40% of respondents even feel comfortable that they will be able to reach their financial goals in retirement.
Americans are also dangerously underestimating how much money they will need in retirement. Among respondents who had a target retirement income replacement level in mind, nearly half (45%) thought they would need less than 75% of their pre-retirement salary level. However, extensive J.P. Morgan research shows that a minimum guideline for successful retirement income is a replacement ratio of at least 70% or more.
"On the positive side, some 91% of participants agreed that they were personally responsible for their own financial futures," says Diane Gallagher, vice president, product development, J.P. Morgan Retirement Plan Services. "However, there's still a significant gap between acknowledging responsibility and acting upon it."
Related findings about the retirement income challenges facing Americans are eye opening:
Two thirds of respondents admitted that they don't even know how much they should be saving for retirement
Nearly half of respondents are scared that they will outlive their retirement savings
Of the participants who said they would need 75%-100% of their pre-retirement salary after they stop working, less than a third even had enough savings to provide this income
Americans Putting Retirement on the Back Burner; Plan Sponsors Must Step-Up
Driven by the overhang of the recession, most Americans have pushed aside retirement savings priorities, which rank a distant second to paying monthly bills. This is despite the fact that 401(k)s are the only or the primary source of retirement savings for two thirds of Americans.
"Paying monthly bills, credit cards and mortgages accounts for 71% of individuals' top priorities," says Donn Hess, managing director, product development, J.P. Morgan Retirement Plan Services. "It is extremely difficult to convince participants that retirement should be more important than any of these financial concerns. That's why we have to make it hard for people to fail as savers and why the right 401(k) plan design is so essential to the mix. Automatic programs can make the difference between someone who can afford to retirement and someone who cannot."
Emerging Risks of the High-Income Employee:
Interestingly, higher income employees are facing the most challenging shortfalls in closing the retirement income gap, which highlights the significant need for supplemental savings channels for this demographic.
Employees earning $165,000 annually cannot replace their salary on their 401(k) contributions alone, even with making catch-up contributions. As a result, the availability of a non-qualified plan is increasingly important with the full complement of savings plans working together. According to J.P. Morgan's research, however, 46% of non-qualified plan participants do not currently contribute to their primary defined contribution plan. "We have to work with sponsors and participants on optimizing their plan design and usage of those benefits," says Mr. Hess
Methodology - The study was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of J.P. Morgan from July 12 to July 23, 2010 among 1,014 respondents. All are U.S. respondents age 21 or older who are employed full time or part time, and not retired or self-employed, and employed in companies with at least 50 employees and have contributed to their 401(k) plans within the past 12 months.
A copy of the J.P. Morgan white paper "Searching for Certainty" is available: www.jpmorganfunds.com/jpmfdocs/wp-certainty.pdf
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