Are you afraid you’ll never save enough money to retire? If so, you’re not alone. According to the 2013 Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS), published by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), 28 percent of workers are not at all confident they’ll ever have enough retirement savings to leave the workforce.

Retirement confidence reached a record low in 2011, and it has remained essentially unchanged since, the survey shows. To some extent, that’s to be expected, considering the economic uncertainty of the past few years. By now, though, the economy has shown signs of recovery that should bolster optimism. It seems that other factors are preventing retirees and workers from seeing bright futures for themselves.

Many workers have not saved enough for retirement

Many people entering retirement or planning for retirement have just recently realized that they aren’t prepared for this phase of life. Put simply, they haven’t saved enough money to maintain their lifestyles without working.

Twenty percent of those surveyed said that they need to save between 20 and 29 percent of wages to afford retirement, while 23 percent of those surveyed say they need to save 30 percent or more.

Unfortunately, many have not met those expectations, and even those who have saved a substantial amount feel it’s not enough. As a response, these people will either have to continue working after retirement age or change their lifestyles considerably to live on what they have saved.

Many workers feel economic pressure from other areas

The lack of confidence also comes from economic pressures that workers feel in other areas of life. Even though one-quarter of survey respondents believe they need to save 30 percent of their income to afford retirement, only 2 percent of workers and 4 percent of retirees say that retirement planning is the most pressing economic issue.
Thirty percent of those respondents currently in the workforce are more concerned about job security than saving for retirement, and 12 percent are more concerned with making ends meet, which implies they likely cannot afford to make significant contributions to their retirement savings accounts.

Not surprisingly, debt plays a role in respondents’ lack of confidence. Fifty-five percent of workers and 39 percent of current retirees say they have too much debt. Only half of the people polled said that they could definitely come up with $2,000 to pay emergency expenses should a situation occur in the next month.

Many people are uneducated about retirement planning

Perception plays a major role in these numbers. When people feel that they don’t have enough, they report that they don’t have enough. It doesn’t matter whether, in reality, they can or cannot afford retirement.

The report shows that less than half (46 percent) of the people interviewed have tried to determine how much money they need to retire. Even fewer (23 percent of workers and 28 percent of retirees) have taken time to meet with a financial advisor.

In other words, people just don’t know whether they have saved enough to retire. Those who don’t have any retirement savings can honestly say they do not have enough. The rest are simply making guesses without looking at actual numbers, responding emotionally rather than based on an informed perspective.

Without knowing how much they realistically need to save for retirement, it’s unlikely people will know how they can reach their goals. If you’re among those confused about retirement, you may want to sit down with a competent financial planner who can help you assess your situation.

Jeff Rose is a Certified Financial Planner and Iraqi combat veteran. He blogs at Good Financial CentsSoldier of Finance and Life Insurance By Jeff.