More than 40 percent of women ages
25-44 fear they
will live their retirement years at or near the poverty level
one in two Americans (ages 25-55) anticipate having to work in
retirement; findings for women and minorities show retirement
anxieties run higher.
Washington, DC -- On the eve of President Clinton's Town Hall
meeting on Social Security, a new survey reveals that 41% of women
ages 25-55 are worried they will live at or near the poverty level
because they cannot adequately save for retirement.
The SunAmerica / Teresa & H. John Heinz III Foundation National
Women's Retirement Survey, provided for the Women's Institute for a
Secure Retirement (WISER), represents one of the most comprehensive
surveys conducted to date on retirement savings.
The survey found that almost 80% of all 25-55 year olds in America
are at least "somewhat concerned" that they will not have enough
money to live on when they retire. This feeling was especially acute
among minorities, with 71% of African Americans and 59% of Hispanic
Americans saying they are "very concerned."
A total of 1858 adults were interviewed. The main study is based on
a total of 1500 interviews, including 1000 women and 500 men ages
25-55. An oversample of African American and Hispanic respondents
was conducted to bring their totals within the full sample to 300,
respectively. The survey was conducted by KRC Research & Consulting
and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percent.
SunAmerica, which provides retirement savings products and services
to more than 1.7 million Americans, commissioned the survey with the
Teresa & H. John Heinz III Foundation to identify the critical
retirement savings issues facing a broad range of Americans and to
use the data to develop ways to help secure their financial future.
Women, especially minority women, harbor great concerns about
retirement savings. When asked if they agreed with the statement, "I
am worried that I will live at or near the poverty level because I
cannot afford to adequately save for retirement," 41% of women said
yes. Among minority women, 57% of African American and 54% of
When asked if they agreed with the statement, "I usually have little
or no money available after paying all my bills to save for
retirement," 61% of women and 53% of men agreed. Among minorities,
the proportions were even more significant with 75% of African
American women and 69% of Hispanic women saying they agreed. Almost
1 in 2 African American and Hispanic women said they "strongly"
Four in ten of those sampled said they had no money saved for
retirement beyond what they might have in a pension plan or
retirement savings through work. The numbers were more striking
among minority women with half of all African American and Hispanic
women saying they had no money saved for retirement beyond what they
might have in a pension plan or through work.
"Clearly we must educate people and spur them to begin saving for
retirement now," said Jana Waring Greer, President of SunAmerica
Marketing. "For the past two years we have run a major national
advertising campaign advising Americans not to leave their
retirement to chance. This survey reinforces that we have got a huge
educational job to do."
When thinking about the age at which they would like to retire,
25-55 year olds want one thing, but reality dictates another. Many
25-55 year olds would like to retire before age 60, but the survey
shows they don't believe they will be able to retire until at least
age 65. In fact, for one-half of those polled, there may be no such
thing as retirement, if retirement is defined as not having to work.
Almost 1 in 2 men and women polled expect to have to take on a full
or part-time job after retiring in order to support themselves.
Among women, 60% of African Americans and 57% of Hispanics report
they will have to continue to work.
"This survey suggests that we have more than a social Security
crisis in this countryŚwe have a retirement crisis. The three-legged
retirement stool, traditionally consisting of pensions, Social
Security and savings, is no longer a reality for too many Americans,
particularly women," said Teresa Heinz, Chairman of the Teresa & H.
John Heinz III Foundation. "Declining confidence in the social
security system, limitations on pension and retirement plan
eligibility and participation and the fact that for many Americans,
there just is not enough money leftover after paying bills to save
for retirement is alarming. Retirement is viewed as something far
away and such an attitude is a dangerous position for many women.
Women have entered the labor force in record numbers, but their
access to retirement benefits has not followed at the same level. We
must expand retirement planning education to help women make
informed choices about savings and retirement planning."
The Retirement Planning Education Gap
The survey found a lack of knowledge about planning for financial
security in retirement most acute among minority women. Only 18% of
all women said they think they know "a great deal" about planning
for retirement with 15% of African American and an equal number of
Hispanic women saying the same. Meanwhile, 29% of African American
and 28% of Hispanic women said they "did not know very much."
Additionally, the survey found that fewer than half of all 25-55
year olds believe they are currently saving enough money for
retirement and a majority have never attempted to figure out how
much they would need to have saved in order to retire in a similar
lifestyle to the one they are currently living. More than 1 in 2 men
and women have never taken the time to calculate the figure; 74% of
African American women and 63% and 65% of Hispanic men and women
respectively say they have never done the math.
The survey also revealed that many 25-55 year olds believe they will
live a less comfortable retirement than their parents. More than 4
in 10 of the men and women sampled said their retirement would be
less comfortable than their parents' with a majority of African
American men and women and almost half of Hispanic American men and
women agreeing. When asked why they had not saved or invested for
retirement, 55% of men and 60% of women said they "just don't have
enough left to save after paying bills." Among minority women, 58%
of African American and 60% of Hispanics had the same response.
The National Women's Retirement Survey is part of a continuing
effort by the Heinz Foundation to explore, study and educate all
Americans, particularly women, on the complexities of pensions and
saving for retirement. An extension of the work started by the late
Senator John Heinz, the Foundation has held educational forums on
retirement related issues across the United States. In 1997, the
foundation launched WISER to begin to educate women about the
importance of savings and retirement security. Recently, the
Foundation and WISER joined with Good Housekeeping to publish and
distribute a special guide on women, pensions and savings to its
more than 26 million readers.
"The polling data underscores that the real urgent need in this
country is to address the fact that nearly sixty million Americans,
many of whom are women, have no pension and therefore will remain
dependent on social security. Far too many women feel too
constrained by the financial demands of the present to save for the
future," said Jeffrey Lewis, Executive Director of the Teresa & H.
John Heinz III Foundation. "Too many women, minority women in
particular, will find themselves about to enter financial prison
when they retire. We need to address the real crisis facing
Americans today, the fact that so many retire without a financial
safety net. By failing to enact an national retirement policy,
Congress continues to sanction poverty in old age as a way of life."
Cindy Hounsell, Executive Director of WISER said, "With so many
women living on the financial edge, saving for retirement is
unlikely to become a priority. Unless women can participate in a
pension plan, we will have a new generation of bag ladies."
SunAmerica is a financial services company specializing in
retirement savings and investment products and services. It is a
leader in the retirement savings market, holding nearly $52 billion
of assets and servicing more than 1.7 million Americans. SunAmerica
is based in Los Angeles and is headed by Chairman and Chief
Executive Officer Eli Broad.
The Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) works to
increase awareness of the structural barriers that prevent women's
adequate participation in the nation's retirement systems. Created
in 1996 by Teresa Heinz, Chairman of the Heinz Family
Philanthropies, its goal is to improve the long-term economic
security of millions of American women and men. WISER is a 501ę3