Debt Concerns Easing for Workers and Retirees

According to the 2015 Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS) from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), 13% of workers (down from 20% in 2014) and 9% of retirees (down from 16%) report their level of debt is a major problem.

An additional 38% of workers and 22% of retirees describe it as a minor problem.

Forty-nine percent of workers say debt is not a problem for them, an increase of 7 percentage points from the 42% measured last year and 12 percentage points from the 37% in 2011. Two-thirds (67%) of retirees surveyed report they do not have a problem with debt, up sharply from the 55% who said the same in 2014.

Among workers, the most frequently reported types of debt are mortgages (46%), car loans (38%), and credit card debt (37%). Retirees most often report having a mortgage (23%), credit card debt (27%), home equity line of credit (17%), or car loan (17%).

“It is significant that fewer people report having a problem with debt than in the past few years,” says Mathew Greenwald of Greenwald & Associates. “This could indicate progress in addressing this issue and suggests there is more emphasis on debt reduction than on saving for retirement.”

The 2015 RCS found Americans’ confidence in their ability to afford a comfortable retirement has continued to rebound from the record lows experienced between 2009 and 2013, but this increased level of confidence does not appear to be grounded on objectively improved retirement preparations. In addition, retirement expectations of current workers do not match the reality of current retirees.