Confidence about retirement security low

Mary Akers in the kitchen of her home in Takoma Park, Md. She's 62, and says she'll never be able to retire.

Tess Vigeland: We asked some Facebook friends how they're feeling about their retirement prospects. "Scared," said one response. "What retirement?" asked another. A survey out this week from the Employee Benefit Research Institute showed confidence about retirement security is at its lowest point in two decades.

Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer explores why.


Nancy Marshall Genzer: The report says more than a quarter of U.S. workers aren't at all confident about retirement.

Sixty-two-year-old Mary Akers is one of them.

Mary Akers: There's just no hope for me to retire.

Akers bustles around her kitchen in suburban Maryland, ticking off her retirement regrets. She made good money in the '80s, but didn't save much because she got sick. She didn't think she'd get old. If she did, there'd be Social Security. Ah, the '80s. Big hair. Shoulder pads. Retirement.

Akers: The future was glorious, and then the '90s came. And now we're looking around and saying, "What happened? Where is everything going?" And we're looking at the health care and Social Security and just watching it all kind of fall apart.

Then came the financial crisis. Her 401(k) took a big hit. Stocks have recovered some, but Akers is still pessimistic.

Jack VanDerhei co-wrote the retirement report. He says people used to just guess at what they'd need for retirement. Many have saved very little. More than a quarter of those surveyed have less than a thousand dollars socked away. VanDerhei says the crisis scared workers into actually setting goals for retirement savings. Now they're depressed.

Jack VanDerhei: The fact that more of them have gone out and figured out that "My goal is x dollars and I'm not even close to x dollars" has done a lot to decrease those overall confidence levels between 2010 and 2011.

Amazingly, the survey finds people aren't changing their habits. They're just planning to work longer. Seventy-four percent of current workers plan to stay on the job past retirement age.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace Money.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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