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Retirement Expectations

Survey Finds Retirement Expectations Include a Declining Standard of Living

December 6, 2017

Workers are not confident about their odds of meeting their retirement goals, and research indicates many fear a future that includes a declining standard of living, a delayed retirement date, working during retirement, and outliving their savings, according to a 2016 BrightWork Partners survey.

These expectations don’t have to become reality. An employee benefits package that includes a workplace retirement plan can encourage workers to ramp up savings and improve their financial skills so workers can improve their odds of brighter future. Many plans can be designed to help workers attain a secure retirement and minimize employer plan administration.

1 in 5 workers believe they will run out of money

Healthcare will likely be a large expense in retirement that most workers will not be able to afford. The BrightWork Survey found that seven in 10 workers expect they will not have enough money saved to cover these expenses. The vast majority also believe they will not live as well as they do today (72 percent), and one in five believe they will run out of money.

Worker Expectations about Retirement

I will not…

Have enough for healthcare


Live as well as I do today


Be able to travel extensively


I will…

Have to work


Have to reduce my standard of living


Run out of money


Source: Voice of the Defined Contribution Participant Study. BrightWork Partners, 2016

Workers count on employer retirement plan benefits and working

The BrightWork Survey also found that most workers’ most important retirement income source will be their workplace retirement plan (79 percent). They also expect Social Security (68 percent), personal savings (44 percent), and working during retirement (31 percent) to contribute to their income during their retirement years.

Roughly half of workers plan to retire later and work during retirement

Most workers are not saving enough and more than half (52 percent) plan to delay their retirement date, the survey found. Roughly 40 percent have considered delaying their retirement due to insufficient savings. Younger workers are more optimistic – or perhaps unrealistic – and are planning an earlier date than those closer to retirement age. Workers under age 50 expect to retire when they reach age 64, while those over age 50 plan to leave the workforce at age 67.

Many of the survey respondents also foresee working during retirement for a variety of reasons. For some, working will help them stay healthy, happy, and give them a sense of purpose. But for many, leaving the workforce may not be feasible. Roughly half of respondents (46 percent) indicate they will need the money to help pay for basic expenses or to keep up with the cost of healthcare (44 percent).

Current savings levels not enough to reach income targets

Survey respondents stated that they would like a median annual income of $72,000 to feel financially comfortable in retirement. To reach this goal amount, workers would need to target an income replacement ratio of 84 percent of their current income; however, most workers are not currently saving sufficiently to achieve these targets.

The value of a workplace retirement plan

A workplace retirement plan is the source most respondents (79 percent) expect to fund their retirement years.

Whether your goal is to help employees or promote your business goals, offering retirement plan benefits is a smart strategy for your business.


BrightWork Partners, a partner firm of Retirement Insights, LLC, conducted the Voice of the Defined Contribution Participant Study in July 2016 of 1,082 working adults participating in a 401(k), 403(b), or 457 plan to determine their perspective of retirement readiness. For more information about the survey, contact us at

About the Author

John Guido, Principal at Retirement Insights, LLC

Retirement Insights, LLC is a data research firm dedicated to assisting financial services companies to competitively position their products in the marketplace and achieve their goals. We offer powerful competitive intelligence tools, reporting and consulting services specialized in the retirement and financial industries. Our expertise lies in connecting our innovative research and information with insights that help our clients make better decisions and bring practical, actionable solutions into view.

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