With a new Administration and a new Congress about to take over, we’re going to start to see the think tanks and not-for-profit organizations issuing research and recommendations regarding public policy for retirement plans.

One of those organizations is the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), a not-for-profit organization whose stated mission is to “encourage the development of public policies that enhance retirement security in America”.

Last week the NIRS released a national public opinion survey that reveals widespread retirement insecurity among Americans. More than eight out of ten Americans are worried about their ability to retire, and 71% indicated they feel it is harder today to retire as compared to previous generations.

No surprises and caused no doubt by current economic conditions and the current state of employer sponsored retirement plans, i.e. the demise of defined benefit plans and the large declines in 401(k) balances.

The survey, Pensions & Retirement Security: A Roadmap for Policy Makers (PDF, 39 pages), was commissioned by the NIRS and conducted by Matthew Greenwald and Associates, the public opinion and market research company.

Public policy considerations aside, there was some important information regarding what Americans want from a retirement plan. The survey indicated that

  • Americans want portability, followed by employer contributions, continuation of benefits for a spouse after death, and a regular check that cannot be outlived.
  • Respondents are less interested in managing investments.
  • Americans want to take individual responsibility/control over their retirement savings and trust themselves most, but they tend to be less interested in managing their investments and often say 401(k) savings are a “gamble.”
  • Americans are divided as to whether retirement plans should allow loans against retirement savings.

Are you listening plan sponsors and retirement industry?