While a majority of U.S. employees say they’re very confident (39 per cent) or confident (29 per cent) they’re doing a good job preparing for retirement, nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) either strongly or somewhat agree that preparing for retirement makes them feel stressed, according to a new survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

The survey, which polled more than 1,200 workers and more than 1,200 retirees, found two-fifths (38 per cent) of employees have saved US$250,000 or more, while 14 per cent have saved between $100,000 and $249,000 and 11 per cent have saved $50,000 to $99,000. However, a third (29 per cent) said the total value of their savings and investments, excluding the value of their primary home, is less than US$25,000, including 14 per cent who said they have less than $1,000 in savings.

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Two-thirds (66 per cent) of workers said they’re currently saving for retirement, a percentage that increased among employees with an employer-sponsored retirement plan (79 per cent) and decreased among those without such a plan (15 per cent). Among this latter group, 52 per cent said they’ve saved less than $1,000, compared to just five per cent of workers with a retirement plan.

More than two-fifths (43 per cent) of U.S. employees who have a workplace retirement savings plan said they’ve increased their contributions in the past year, while very few said they’ve decreased (eight per cent) or stopped (four per cent) their contributions.

Three-quarters (77 per cent) of employees with a workplace retirement savings plan said they at least somewhat understand the tax treatment and penalties of early withdrawals from their plan, while fewer than two-thirds said they understand catch-up contributions (64 per cent) and required minimum distributions (57 per cent).

When asked what would be the most valuable improvement to their workplace retirement plan, a third of employees cited the ability to save for emergencies (33 per cent) and investment options that provide guaranteed lifetime income after they retire (32 per cent), followed by better explanations for how much income their savings will produce in retirement (29 per cent), whether they’re on track with their retirement savings (28 per cent) and investment options (27 per cent).

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