Competing Financial Needs Disrupt 401k Saving for Many Americans

Survey reveals many employees are 'struggling' financially

401k saving, retirement security, financial wellness, financial well being, retirement confidence,Retirement savings are taking a back seat.

It’s not that U.S. workers don’t want to save for retirement. In fact, more Americans than ever before say retirement security is important. However, many are experiencing financial stress, which in turn is inhibiting saving.

A recent survey by Willis Towers Watson reveals many employees aren’t in the best shape financially. Around 30 percent were reported to be “struggling,” or “worried about their short- and long-term finances.” As a result, 37 percent of all workers anticipate working past age 70, up from 30 percent in 2015. Two-thirds of struggling Americans who are age 50 or older expect the same.

Almost eight in 10 respondents think retirement security is important—a striking increase from 52 percent in 2013. In spite of this, “most employees do not prioritize their own finances toward saving for retirement until their 40s or 50s, when other financial needs have been met,” the 2017 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey shows.

“Saving for retirement is a significant challenge for the vast majority of working Americans,” Shane Bartling, senior consultant at Willis Towers Watson, said in a statement. “Varying financial needs make building a retirement nest egg difficult for many men and women. While our survey finds that women place a lower priority on saving for retirement than men do, we believe it’s a question of, ‘Am I able to save for retirement?’ rather than, ‘Is saving for retirement important?’”

Around 60 percent of male employees indicated that retirement savings are their number one financial priority; only 44 percent of females agreed. Instead, women prioritized daily living costs and paying off debt as being the most important, while saving for retirement ranked fifth.

Predictably, retirement confidence has fallen with the rise of competing financial pressures. In 2015, 69 percent of employees reported being confident. Today only 57 percent think they will have the means to live comfortably 15 years into retirement.

“Employees with money worries are more likely to keep working past historically typical retirement ages to help sustain their income,” said Pat Rotello, senior consultant at Willis Towers Watson. “Given these developments, we believe employers will want to evaluate their retirement plans and financial well-being initiatives. In fact, seeing more employers develop and implement financial well-being programs to help their employees achieve their retirement and financial goals would not surprise us.”

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