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Retirement: Only 66% of Workers Saving for Retirement

Despite the warnings and the realization that many Americans know they need to save for retirement, 34% of workers are not doing anything about it, according to the 17th annual "Retirement Confidence Survey" by the Employee Benefit Research Institute of Washington.

"It's very worrisome because the retirement environment is changing more quickly than individuals can adapt," said Mathew Greenwald, president of research and consulting firm Greenwald & Associates of Washington and co-author of the study.

Sixty-six percent of workers are saving for retirement, down from 70% last year, EBRI found.

Workers need to have a better plan for retirement, as the responsibility is shifting to the individual and the number of companies doing away with pension plans increases. Workers need to use retirement calculators and spend more time planning because many don't have a good grasp of how much money they will need for retirement, Greenwald said.

Retirement tools will help people set goals for how much money they should stow away each month, Greenwald suggested.

On average, Americans are spending 19 hours a year planning for retirement, compared to 19 hours dedicated to holiday planning and 11 hours spent planning for vacations, the study found.

Only 43% of workers indicated they and/or their spouse have attempted to calculate how much money they will need to have saved by the time they retire to live comfortably.

The definition of comfortable varies from person to person, but 25% think they will need to save less than $250,000 and 18% stated a goal of $250,000 to $500,000. Twenty percent believe they will need between $500,000 and $1 million, 11% expect that to be between $1 million and $2 million, and 8% are looking at $2 million or more to fund their retirement. The amount of money people anticipate needing increases with household assets.

Regarding how people should plan, financial advisers are the most helpful source when planning for retirement, 40% of respondents stated, compared to 18% finding advice from family, friends and co-workers helpful.

Healthcare costs are a concern, one that many Americans might not be factoring into their retirement plans. There will be cutbacks to healthcare for retirees, leaving them to foot the bill themselves, Greenwald noted. Also, healthcare costs are rising due to advancements in medical technology, Greenwald noted.

Nonetheless, 41% of workers expect to have access to employer-provided health insurance when they retire.

One reason workers do not factor in healthcare costs is because they do not believe they will ever need long-term nursing care. Seventeen percent of workers stated they are not at all likely to need long-term care. Only 10% of workers think it is very likely that they will need nursing care.

For healthcare costs, one in 10 workers think they will need to accumulate less than $50,000, 25% think they will need at least $250,000, and 25% have no idea how much money they will need for healthcare, the study found.

Current retirees are realizing the pressures of retirement. Forty percent of retirees said they are much more or somewhat more concerned about their financial future then they were right when they retired.

"There needs to be a balance between maintaining a standard of living and making savings last in retirement," Greenwald said.

The largest source of retirees' income is from Social Security or an employer-provided defined benefit plan, 40% and 21%, respectively.

Employees who have been contributing to their 401(k) all their life and will have money coming in from Social Security, most likely will be on track to live comfortably in retirement, said Jack VanDerhei, co-author of the report, professor at Temple University in Philadelphia and an EBRI fellow.

As defined contribution plans continue to supplant defined benefit plans, educating workers about saving for retirement is key, Greenwald stressed.

"The workplace is a great place to educate and teach people to take retirement seriously and try to be effective," Greenwald said. The amount and quality of advice 401(k) administrators are offering to workers is increasing and will continue to do so, he added.

Every generation, there are some people who run out of money, and the financial burden usually goes to the family, Greenwald noted. Increased efforts need to be made to reduce the number of people who go bankrupt in retirement, he said.

Additionally, there are other factors that people are not taking into consideration when planning for retirement. Individuals are not factoring in inflation rates or their life expectancies.

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