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More than 40 percent of women ages 25-44 fear they will live their retirement years at or near the poverty level

Survey reveals 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 Hispanics agreed.

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" agreed.

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."

Retirement Expectations

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 organization.


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