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Employees’ Retirement Confidence Takes a Big Hit

A new report finds a decline in retirement confidence to levels not seen since the 2008 financial crisis.

The report, from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), also finds both employees and retirees are very concerned about inflation and its impact on their savings and spending.

Compared with 2022, both employees’ and retirees’ confidence in having enough money to live comfortably throughout retirement significantly dropped from 73% in 2022 for those being very or somewhat confident to 64% among employees, and from 77% to 73% among retirees.

“Employees worry that their salaries won’t keep up with inflation and report more debt, while retirees worry about cost of living and expenses,” said Lisa Greenwald, CEO of Greenwald Research who conducted the survey for EBRI. “Half of retirees report that their overall spending is higher than expected, an increase over last year’s one-third, and the share of retirees who feel their retirement lifestyle is worse than they expected is slowly growing.”

Other key findings include:



Both employees and retirees report high concerns about inflation and its impact on their savings and spending. The effects of inflation are heavy on Americans’ minds, as 84% of employees and 67% of retirees are concerned that the increasing cost of living will make it harder for them to save money. Four in 10 employees and 3 in 10 retirees are not confident their money will be able to keep up with inflation in retirement, which is a significant increase compared with the third of employees who felt this way last year




Employees’ debt levels are on the rise and are negatively impacting their ability to save for retirement. Over four in five Americans feel knowledgeable about managing their day-to-day finances. Despite the confidence in their financial knowledge remaining high, employees’ debt problems appear to be worsening in 2023. Significantly up this year compared with 2022, over 6 in 10 employees report their debt is a problem. However, consistent with last year, 34% of retirees report the same.



While Americans try to prepare for retirement, decreases in retirement accounts have caused concern. Half of Americans have tried to calculate how much money they will need to save to have a comfortable retirement. At least seven in 10 employees and retirees say they have personally saved money for retirement. However, Americans’ retirement savings have taken a hit this year. Forty percent of employees and 58% of retirees report that their retirement account balances have decreased over the past 12 months.



Understanding of retirement plan investment options is lacking for some and many don’t consider their plan provider a go-to source for retirement planning information and advice. Many employees feel they understand the investment options their workplace retirement plan offers. Seven in 10 employees are confident they can choose the right investment options for their situation. However, about four in 10 admit they don't understand target date funds, three in 10 employees don’t understand managed accounts, and half do not understand ESG investment options.

Social Security


Americans’ confidence in Social Security remains mostly unchanged, but worker confidence in Medicare has declined. Both employees’ and retirees’ confidence in Social Security remains unchanged as well, as half of employees and seven in 10 retirees feel at least somewhat confident that the benefits provided will continue to be at least equal in value to the benefits provided today.

Withdrawal Rate


Employees are confident they know how much to withdraw from their retirement savings. However, they have different expectations of the role many income sources will play in retirement compared with today’s retirees. Despite being down from last year, nearly two-thirds of employees are still confident they know how much to withdraw from their savings and investments in retirement.

Investment Goals


When describing their asset goals, half of retirees report they try to maintain their asset levels. Fewer than last year aim to grow their assets. Additionally, two-thirds of retirees report their financial priority in retirement is income stability over maintaining wealth. Employees share this sentiment, as almost three-quarters say they would prioritize income stability.