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Survey Illuminates Retirement Trends

Today's workers do not plan to repeat their parents' retirement experiences, according to a recent study.

Current workers expect to work longer than their parents worked, and a majority plan to work for pay after they retire because they enjoy working and want to stay involved.

The ninth annual Retirement Confidence Survey gauges the views and attitudes of working and retired Americans and is co-sponsored by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), the American Savings Education Council and Mathew Greenwald & Associates.

The study, released June 15, found that nearly half of today's workers expect to retire at age 65 (30 percent) or later (17 percent) and five percent expect they will never retire. In contrast, 70 percent of current retirees say they retired before age 65 although 43 percent say health problems, corporate downsizing or other events caused them to retire earlier than they had planned.

Today's workers have a variety of reasons for working after retirement - enjoying work and wanting to stay involved (64 percent); having enough money to make ends meet (37 percent); keeping health insurance and other benefits (37 percent); having extra spending money (36 percent); helping to support children or other household members (18 percent); and trying a different career (16 percent).

While the survey shows a significant increase in the number of workers saving for retirement (70 percent in 1999 vs. 63 percent in 1998), just 24 percent are very confident that they will have enough money to live comfortably in retirement. This confidence could prove false, however, considering that only half of all workers have calculated how much they will need to save before they retire, only 36 percent have thought about insurance coverage for long-term care or nursing home needs and just 16 percent report having accumulated $100,000 or more for retirement, the survey found.

As in previous surveys, fear emerges as one of the primary motivators for saving for retirement. Fifty-three percent of respondents said they are saving because they cannot count on Social Security and 48 percent say they are saving because they see people struggling in retirement.

One of the most surprising findings was that while a majority of workers surveyed will not be eligible to receive full benefits until they are 67, few are aware that Social Security is phasing in an increase in the age for retirement, said Dallas Salisbury, president and CEO of EBRI.

For the survey, conducted in January and February, 1,002 individuals, age 25 and older were interviewed.