September 13, 2013
By Nevin Adams, EBRI
In this era of “reality” TV, where the “antics” (and worse) of the formerly rich and infamous are on display in ways that could not even have been imagined a decade ago, I seem to find myself increasingly shaking my head and muttering “what were they thinking?” The answer, as often as not, seems to be “they weren’t.”
And some, looking at the retirement savings behaviors and expectations of the American workforce over the years, might well wonder—and perhaps respond—the same way.
Whether you are an employer trying to motivate workers to avail themselves of a new benefit (or to better utilize an existing one), an advisor looking to improve their portfolio diversification, a provider interested in expanding acceptance of your product set, or a regulator trying to fine-tune (or overhaul) the current legal boundaries, sooner or later you find yourself wanting (perhaps NEEDING) to know “what are ‘they’ thinking?”
In just a few weeks, we’ll begin development of the 24th Retirement Confidence Survey, the longest-running annual retirement survey of its kind in the nation. As you might expect, the survey contains a core set of questions that is asked annually, allowing key attitudes and self-reported behavior patterns to be tracked over time. We ask both workers and retirees about their confidence in their retirement income prospects, including Social Security and Medicare; how much money have they saved for their future and where they are putting their money; who they turn to for retirement investment information and advice; and seek insights on why they are not saving more and what would motivate them to do so. The survey also allows us to gain the perspective on those issues from those already in retirement, providing an invaluable reality “check” between active workers and current retirees on expectations such as retirement age, spending, and retirement financial needs.
We’ve also asked forward-looking questions, tried to gauge worker interest in using technology, social media, and various investment products to manage their retirement accounts, and gotten valuable insights on how specific regulatory and legislative changes might affect their future savings behavior—insights that we’ve been able to incorporate with our extensive databases and modeling capabilities to quantify the potential impact on overall retirement savings and security.
In a very real sense, the Retirement Confidence Survey provides a unique window through which we can both examine long-term trends and sentiments, and still glean a sense of the future—an appreciation both for what has been, and for what might yet be.
It’s a chance to find out not only “what are they thinking?” but uncover the actions that could influence, if not drive better behaviors in the future.
If your organization would like to participate in the design of the 2014 Retirement Confidence as an underwriter, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org Underwriters not only provide input on the survey questions, but have access to the raw data, are briefed on its findings prior to publication; have the ability to utilize the survey materials and findings for research, marketing, communications, and product-development purposes; and are acknowledged as underwriters in the final survey report.
More information about the Retirement Confidence Survey, as well as links to previous iterations of the RCS, are available at http://www.ebri.org/surveys/rcs/