Data and Research

Eighty Percent of American Workers Back State-Run Retirement Plans

“Our survey shows that Congress’ actions to limit state flexibility to address retirement insecurity are seriously out of touch with the will of voters,” says AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond.

By Rebecca Moore editors@plansponsor.com | March 17, 2017

An AARP survey shows that the vast majority (84%) of American private-sector workers “strongly or somewhat agree” that officials should back legislation to enable workers “to save their own money for retirement.”

The survey of nearly 4,000 workers ages 18 to 64 included a significant oversampling of African Americans, Latinos/as and Asian Americans. The survey finds strong backing across all races, ethnicities and political ideologies for elected officials to clear the way for employee savings initiatives. The total agreeing that lawmakers should support positive legislative action includes 89% of Asian Americans, 86% of whites, 83% of African Americans and 78% of Latinos/as.

The study, conducted between last November and mid-January, comes against a background of increasing interest in the states in the state-based plans for private employers who do not currently provide workplace retirement plans, AARP notes.  Thus far, seven states—Illinois, Washington State, Oregon, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland and California—have approved various versions of what AARP calls “Work and Save” programs.

But the research also comes against a backdrop of controversial Congressional deliberations over the future of state-based plans. The Senate is currently considering legislation that could have a negative impact on the state initiatives. The U.S. House of Representatives has passed resolutions ordering a halt of Department of Labor (DOL) rules about state-run plans.

“Our survey shows that Congress’ actions to limit state flexibility to address retirement insecurity are seriously out of touch with the will of voters, who resoundingly, across party-lines, approve of these state retirement initiatives,” says AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond.

NEXT: Three-quarters of private-sector workers feel anxious about retirement.

The study found the overwhelming backing (80%) of the state-based programs was reflected in racial and ethnic breakdowns, which showed  that 76% of Latinos/as workers, 81% of African Americans, 84% of Asian Americans, and 80% of whites said they “strongly or somewhat support” the initiatives. For each group, 7% or less said they “somewhat or strongly oppose” the initiatives. Those remaining said they “neither support nor oppose” the programs.

Three in four private-sector workers (74%) say they feel “very or somewhat” anxious about having enough money to live comfortably through their retirement years. Just one-quarter said they are not anxious. Anxiety is high among all racial and ethnic groups, with large majorities of Latinos/as (76%), whites (74%), African Americans (73%) and Asian Americans (70%) all saying that they are anxious they will not be able to financially support a comfortable retirement.

Nearly half of those surveyed, facing financial uncertainty, said they are struggling to get by. Overall, 14% said they are having a difficult time, and another 30% said they are just getting by. On the other hand, 16% said they are living comfortably, and 39% said they are doing ok. Differences emerged among the different groups on this issue: for example, 57% of Latinos/as reported that they are just getting by or having difficulty getting by, compared with 52% of African Americans, 39% of whites and 35% of Asian Americans.

The survey was conducted for AARP by NORC at the University of Chicago between November 1, 2016, and January 16, 2017. It involved a large pool of 3,920 private-sector workers, including robust samples of 1,077 African Americans, 802 Latinos/as, and 607 Asian Americans.

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