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Workers’ Retirement Confidence Takes a Big Hit

Industry Trends and Research

A new report finds a decline in retirement confidence to levels not seen since the 2008 financial crisis.

The report, from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), also finds both workers and retirees are very concerned about inflation and its impact on their savings and spending.

Compared with 2022, both workers’ and retirees’ confidence in having enough money to live comfortably throughout retirement significantly dropped from 73% in 2022 for those being very or somewhat confident to 64% among workers, and from 77% to 73% among retirees.

“Workers worry that their salaries won’t keep up with inflation and report more debt, while retirees worry about cost of living and expenses,” said Lisa Greenwald, CEO of Greenwald Research who conducted the survey for EBRI. “Half of retirees report that their overall spending is higher than expected, an increase over last year’s one-third, and the share of retirees who feel their retirement lifestyle is worse than they expected is slowly growing.”

Other Key findings include:


Both workers and retirees report high concerns about inflation and its impact on their savings and spending. The effects of inflation are heavy on Americans’ minds, as 84% of workers and 67% of retirees are concerned that the increasing cost of living will make it harder for them to save money. Four in 10 workers and 3 in 10 retirees are not confident their money will be able to keep up with inflation in retirement, which is a significant increase compared with the third of workers who felt this way last year


Workers’ debt levels are on the rise and are negatively impacting their ability to save for retirement. Over four in five Americans feel knowledgeable about managing their day-to-day finances. Despite the confidence in their financial knowledge remaining high, workers’ debt problems appear to be worsening in 2023. Significantly up this year compared with 2022, over 6 in 10 workers report their debt is a problem. However, consistent with last year, 34% of retirees report the same.


While Americans try to prepare for retirement, decreases in retirement accounts have caused concern. Half of Americans have tried to calculate how much money they will need to save to have a comfortable retirement. At least seven in 10 workers and retirees say they have personally saved money for retirement. However, Americans’ retirement savings have taken a hit this year. Forty percent of workers and 58% of retirees report that their retirement account balances have decreased over the past 12 months.


Understanding of retirement plan investment options is lacking for some and many don’t consider their plan provider a go-to source for retirement planning information and advice. Many workers feel they understand the investment options their workplace retirement plan offers. Seven in 10 workers are confident they can choose the right investment options for their situation. However, about four in 10 admit they don't understand Target Date Funds, three in 10 workers don’t understand Managed Accounts and half do not understand ESG investment options.

Social Security

Americans’ confidence in Social Security remains mostly unchanged, but worker confidence in Medicare has declined. Both workers’ and retirees’ confidence in Social Security remains unchanged as well, as half of workers and seven in 10 retirees feel at least somewhat confident that the benefits provided will continue to be at least equal in value to the benefits provided today.

Withdrawal Rate

Workers are confident they know how much to withdraw from their retirement savings. However, they have different expectations of the role many income sources will play in retirement compared with today’s retirees. Despite being down from last year, nearly two-thirds of workers are still confident they know how much to withdraw from their savings and investments in retirement.

Investment Goals

When describing their asset goals, half of retirees report they try to maintain their asset levels. Fewer than last year aim to grow their assets. Additionally, two-thirds of retirees report their financial priority in retirement is income stability over maintaining wealth. Workers share this sentiment as almost three-quarters say they would prioritize income stability.