The study found that participation in 401(k)s and other defined contribution plans rose to 76% in 2011, up from 71% in 2010 and only 63% in 2009. Men showed the highest participation rates (81%), followed by Boomers (79%) and Gen Xers (77%). Participation among women held steady, with seven in ten reporting making contributions to their employers retirement plan. However, there was a slight decline (2%) in overall participation of younger workers, ages 19-31.
Most Americans showed increased optimism in their financial futures, and more than one third (34%) reported feeling extremely or very confident that they would see improvement in the next twelve months. Among those who did expect such positive changes, 53% said reducing debt and increasing savings were part of their financial goals and 42% said securing their financial future was their primary goal.
“Americans are known for their optimism and that is being reflected in their increasing participation in retirement plans, even as the economy continues to struggle,” said E. Thomas Foster Jr., vice president for The Hartfords Retirement Plans Group.
Twenty-six percent of respondents claimed they are living comfortably in 2011, up from 19% last year; 48% reported meeting their expenses with a little left over for extras. More people say they are saving for retirement and focusing on reaching their retirement savings goals, Foster added. The study polled 1,000 workers ages 18-65, with a minimum household income of $25,000.