Data and Research

Americans Still Lack Education Regarding Investments

Among survey findings, only 22.7% of respondents understand how their savings are invested. 

By Amanda Umpierrez editors@strategic-i.com | March 13, 2017

A recent Scarborough Capital Management survey of more than 1,000 participants found that while Americans may seem assured regarding their retirement savings, most are not educated in their 401(k) investments.

The survey found that most (68.7%) of Americans are ‘confident’ or ‘somewhat confident’ in their investment decisions, but only 22.7% believe they understand the works behind investing within a 401(k). More so, 25.8% do not consider themselves educated on the subject at all.

The survey reported that 43.6% of participants spend only one to two hours per year managing their 401(k). However, affluent Americans cashing in at least $200,000 a year review their 401(k) more than four times on a yearly basis, at 63.5%, while only 36.8% of those making $25,000 to $49,999 check their finances at that same rate. The survey also found that 17.1% of men devote 10 hours a year to managing their 401(k), while only 6.2% of women do. Also, women were found to have less saved in their 401(k), and were more likely to have their spouse handle savings, at 11.6%, than men were (1.3%). The report cites the gender wage gap in contributing to less savings, as well as the fact that women are more likely to take a break in their career than men.

Without adequate understanding on 401(k) investments, Americans must consider what their expected retirement savings will resemble in the future, and how long those savings will last. The survey reports that only 2.8% of respondents with a salary of $100,000 to $199,000 per year have more than one million dollars in their 401(k). Furthermore, only 20.9% of participants in total anticipate funding half of their retirement with a 401(k); and 23.7% believe their 401(k) will fund just 10% of retirement. Among younger generations, 46.9% of those 18-to-34 years old trust their 401(k) savings will survive for more than a third of their retirement, according to the survey. For those ages 55 or older, only 29% hold the same beliefs.

For Americans already nearing retirement, the survey found that if given the chance to re-do saving for retirement, 68.3% would invest more in their 401(k), while 1.8% would invest less. It seems that waiting to save won’t be a problem for younger generations however, as the survey found that many Americans start to take retirement saving seriously by their 20s (31.8%) or during their 30s (33.4%). Also, when asked to rank retirement savings and paying off debt on a list of other important factors, 46.1% of respondents chose paying off debt as a top priority, while 43.1% considered saving for retirement their main concern.

While almost half of younger Americans believe their 401(k) savings will survive a good portion of retirement, the survey reported that these age groups tend to dip more into their savings than elder generations. When asked if they have taken money to pay for college or if they plan to in the future, those ages 18-to-34 years old were found more likely, at 43.1%, to dip into their 401(k), compared to those ages 35-to-44 years old (25.9%) and 45-to-54 years old (12%). When purchasing a home, 12.3% of younger Americans took money out of 401(k) savings to make the down payment, while only 7.7% of those ages 35-to-44 did so, followed by 5.4% of those 55 or older.

More survey findings and information on the report can be found here