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Retirement Readiness Assessments

InFRE Retirement Readiness Index®

Overview
There is a growing concern that millions of Americans are not prepared for, or even aware of, what is needed for a successful retirement. Baby Boomers are approaching this time in their life much differently than the generation before them, and issues such as increased longevity, health care costs, solvency of the Social Security system, inflation and uncertain long-term care costs for self and spouse are making an assessment of future retirement needs more challenging than ever before.

Many retirement industry studies have been conducted that explore the financial aspects of what individuals should accumulate to support themselves during these years. However, our research and analysis since 2003 expands the scope to include the financial, emotional and physical risks to a total retirement well-being, as well as the many variable decisions that must be considered when preparing for this life phase. The professional research and analysis team of Mathew Greenwald and Associates and over 30 experts in the fields of employer sponsored retirement benefits, financial planning, aging and adult learning participated in the creation of the research survey and data analysis.

The InFRE Retirement Readiness Index® measures all dimensions of retirement life-stage planning, including the following topics:

InFRE Retirement Readiness Index

Engagement: Understanding personal strengths, social networks, working in retirement either for pay or volunteering, finding meaning and challenges for fulfillment in this life stage

Health: healthy aging, medical care prevention and treatment, understanding personal longevity and inherited health traits

Wealth: financial accumulation, retirement income management, the effect of geography on a retiree’s potential cost of living, home equity for retirement income and contingency planning

Recognizing that the level of preparation that is necessary is dependent on where the employee is in his or her career, the evaluation and determination of the state of readiness is based on how many years an individual has before their expected retirement date as follows:

Early career: at least 25 years before retirement. At this point, most of retirement planning should be focused on understanding and managing income while accumulating wealth.
Mid career: between10 and 24 years from retirement. By this time, additional attention needs to focus on maintaining overall health while continuing an emphasis on financial preparation.
Late career: less than ten years from retirement. At this point, more attention should be paid on preparations for total well-being that includes understanding and planning for an engaged and fulfilled retirement.

What is the InFRE Retirement Readiness Index® and how can it be used?

The InFRE Retirement Readiness Index® is the aggregation of all individual Retirement Readiness Profiles, which includes those assessed as part of the initial 2007 or by employers who use the Profile with their employees. The Index provides an analysis of the current state of retirement readiness of based on various factors, such as age, income levels, and other demographic segmentations. The Profile will be available soon for the general American population to access through a website about retirement readiness.

Employers can use the value of the Index overall and by career stage as a benchmark to help identify gaps and barriers that exist in their current retirement education programs, and provide a basis for future initiatives to enhance the benefit services and education offered to employees to help them better prepare for retirement. For example, there is a maximum of 100 points for early career stage readiness, 110 points for mid-career, and 120 points for late career. The current scores per career stage are in the table below under Creation of the InFRE Retirement Readiness Index®.

Employers can either use these scores as a proxy of the readiness of their employees, or compare the actual readiness of their employees through the combined scores of employees' individual InFRE Retirement Readiness Profile® to that of the current InFRE Retirement Readiness Index® general population value.

Steps in Development

Testing Methods
Various testing methods were used to develop and validate the retirement readiness questionnaire and scoring that included:

  • Focus Groups with Federal Benefits Personnel – At the beginning of this project, three focus groups were held with approximately 30 Federal agency human resource personnel who are responsible for employee benefits.  These sessions produced many insights into the employer’s issues as they educate and inform employees about their employer-sponsored benefits.

  • Federal Worker Survey – A survey was developed to examine how Federal employees are preparing for retirement.  Questions were designed to address issues of physical wellness and the psychological and social aspects of retirement as well as financial preparation.   This survey was conducted between May and September 2005 through a 20-minute Internet survey with 7,294 Federal workers. 

  • Retiree Focus Groups - Two focus groups were held with members of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees (NARFE).  These sessions were very informal and participants were asked a series of questions to explore successes and issues regarding their pre-retirement planning. 

  • Public Sector Retiree Survey – A survey of public sector retirees was conducted to aide in the development of the retirement readiness project. Questions were designed to explore how well retirees felt they prepared for retirement and covered financial and non-financial issues.  Retirees from Federal, state and local governments participated in this effort. In total, 1275 retirees responded to the survey (545 by internet, 730 by mail). 

  • Field Tests – Pilot programs to test the retirement readiness questionnaire began in February 2006.  For the first pilot, approximately 50 attendees at an OPM benefits conference participated in the program.  After the presentation and completing the paper-based questionnaire, attendees were asked for their comments on the usefulness of this program to help Federal workers prepare for retirement.

  • General Population study:

    • Information for this study was gathered through an Internet questionnaire lasting approximately 15 minutes.  A total of 20,154 invitations were mailed and 1,008 usable responses were received, for a response rate of 5%.  To qualify for the study, participants had to be at least 25 years old and not yet retired.

    • Interviewing took place between January 3 and January 12, 2007 under the supervision of Greenwald & Associates.  The sample was randomly selected from Survey Sampling International’s SurveySpot panel.

    • The margin of error (at the 95% confidence level) for the total number of respondents in this study (1,008) is plus or minus 3 percentage points.  Questions asked of smaller groups of respondents and subgroups will have larger margins of error.

    • Respondent data was weighted to reflect the makeup of the non-retired U.S. population by age and household income.  Population statistics were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau.  A detailed description of the weighting methodology is available on request.

    • For purposes of analysis, respondents were divided into three peer segments:  early career (at least 25 years until retirement), mid career (10 to 24 years until retirement), and late career (less than 10 years before retirement).

    • Although the word “worker” is used to refer to survey respondents, a small percentage of survey respondents are not currently employed (5%).

    • A brief summary of the key findings begins on the next page, followed by a detailed discussion of the survey findings.  Results are reported for each question, and selected demographic and behavioral breakdowns of the data are included where there are significant differences.  Percentages in the tables and charts may not total to 100 due to rounding and/or missing categories.

Validation
Each of the above steps produced findings that resulted in refinements and enhancements to the retirement readiness questionnaire and profile.  The expertise of InFRE, the research team members and Mathew Greenwald & Associates provided unparalleled resources to ensure the resulting education and tools that make up the retirement readiness project are comprehensive and effective.  Further research, analysis and refinements for use by state and local governments and private sector employers will be performed on a regular basis. 


Findings from the InFRE General Population Retirement Readiness Survey that provide the basis for the creation of the InFRE Retirement Readiness Index®


Networking and Engagement

  • Although workers are looking forward to retirement, few have concrete plans for what they would like to do during this stage of life.  One-third say they have some plans but are mostly just looking forward to having more time for leisure activities, three in ten haven’t thought much about it but are looking forward to not working anymore, and 15% are not sure how they will fill their time in retirement.  Just 13% say they have many plans for their retirement.

  • This lack of planning is born out by the fact that only one-quarter of workers each have given a great deal or a lot of thought to where they would like to live in retirement; currently add a great deal or a lot of meaning to their life through civic, religious, volunteer, or other activities; and (among married workers) have had a great deal or a lot of discussion with their spouse about their plans for retirement and how to finance them.  Just two in ten have given a great deal or a lot of thought to what they will do in retirement to challenge themselves.

  • On the plus side, the majority of workers do not rely on the workplace to support their friendships.  Two-thirds say at least half of their close friends are outside of work.

Health

  • Two-thirds of workers expect to be healthy in retirement:  22% say they will be healthy for as long as they live and 43% expect to be healthy through most of their retirement with some ups and downs.   Most of the remainder think they will be fairly healthy but may have some limitations due to chronic conditions (25%).

  • Despite this, large proportions of workers are not taking steps that will help them maintain their health in retirement.  Two-thirds report they do not exercise regularly, about half admit they do not eat a healthy diet or maintain a healthy weight, and four in ten say they do not have regular physical checkups. 

  • Workers expect to live to a median (midpoint) age of 85.  However, it appears that many may be underestimating how long they will live, as workers are more than twice as likely to provide a life expectancy that is below average (67%) than to provide one that is above average (24%).  In actuality, the proportions of the population who can expect to live for fewer or more years than average are about equal.

Wealth

  • While some workers are on track to save the money they will need for retirement (34%), the majority are far behind schedule (56%).

  • Half of those participating in a workplace retirement savings plan with an employer match report they contribute the match amount or less.  Similarly, half of workers contributed nothing to an IRA, while 30% contributed some money, but less than the maximum allowed.  Only 12% contributed the maximum.

  • Of those workers who participated in a retirement savings plan with a previous employer, the majority rolled the money over to an IRA (52%) or left it in the plan (29%).  However, one-quarter spent the money.

  • Fully one-fourth of workers report saving nothing for retirement in 2006 and more than two in ten saved less than $3,000.  On the positive side, two in ten indicate they set aside $10,000 or more for retirement.

  • Although one-quarter of workers have no money earmarked for retirement and one in ten have less than $10,000, another quarter report having sizable piggy banks.  One in ten say they have a total of $100,000 to $199,999 saved for retirement and 14% have $200,000 or more.

  • Consumer debt is one factor that hinders the building of wealth for retirement.  Nearly four in ten indicate that their debt affects their ability to save a great deal or a lot.  Moreover, more than one-third of workers say their debt has gone up over the past five years.

  • Although one-third of workers do not own a home and are not building equity, more than two in ten report that their home equity is worth at least twice their annual household income.

  • Very few workers say their financial security in retirement is extremely or very dependent on an expected inheritance (5%).  In fact, half of workers state they do not expect to receive any inheritances.

Financial Planning

  • Just one-third of workers say they know how much they need to accumulate by the time they retire so they can maintain their desired retirement lifestyle.  About half of these workers say they determined the amount within the past year.

  • Regardless of whether they said they know the goal amount, workers were asked what they thought it should be.  Half of those providing a dollar amount cited a goal of less than $500,000.

  • Three in ten review and adjust their investment allocations every six months or more often.  Another quarter do so about once a year.

  • The majority of workers do little or no contingency planning (64%).  Just one in ten report doing a great deal or a lot of planning for the unexpected.

  • Workers are generally relying on Medicare to fund their health and long-term care expenses in retirement.  One-quarter each say they are counting on Medicaid and employer-provided health insurance, while two in ten each plan to self insure or purchase health insurance directly from an insurance company.

  • Although a large majority report currently having health insurance (82%), fewer say they have life (72%) or disability (53%) insurance.

  • Only minorities of American workers indicate they have a will or trust (29%), medical directive (24%), or power of attorney (24%).

Creation of the InFRE Retirement Readiness Index®

The scores for the networking and engagement, health, and wealth components are combined to create the total InFRE Retirement Readiness Index® score.

The majority of workers earn less than 40% of the total points. Four in ten get 20% to 39% (40%), while one-quarter get less than 20% of points (25%). Late career workers tend to earn the most points, while early career workers earn the least.

Median Percentage of Points Earned

Early Career

Mid-Career

Late Career

Engagement

79

57

50

Health

50

44

53

Wealth

19

25

31

Total

25

31

39

Networking and Engagement Scores

The percentage of engagement points earned is related to the way workers feel about their plans for retirement.  For example, half of those who say they can’t wait for retirement (49%) and three in ten who say they have some plans but are mainly looking forward to spending more time on leisure activities (30%) score 80% or more.  Approximately two in ten who are simply looking forward to not working anymore (20%) or are not sure how they will spend their time (17%) have similar scores.

Health Scores

The percentage of health points earned is related to workers’ predictions about their health in retirement, with those expecting better health having a higher percentage of points. Workers generally earn fewer of the available health points than of the networking and engagement point

Wealth Scores

Of the three components of the index, workers tend to earn fewest of the available wealth points. As expected, the percentage of wealth points increases as workers approach retirement. More than half of those who say they know how much they need to accumulate for retirement earn 60% or more of the wealth points (52%), compared with only 15% of those who do not know.

See the complete results of the 2007 InFRE General Population Report on Retirement Readiness conducted with Greenwald and Associates.