Good Attitude Can Lead to Better Saving

A new survey finds a positive attitude about retirement positively affects savings habits and results.

The BlackRock 2013 Retirement Survey reveals the most successful retirement savers have certain psychological and emotional attitudes related to the actual process of saving that drive them to put more money away for retirement, compared with savers who don’t share similar attitudes. The survey also shows defined contribution (DC) retirement plans have a considerable role to play in building savings insight that encourages individuals to save more.

“When workers feel empowered, confident and positive about the retirement savings process, they will actually save more for retirement than workers who don’t feel that way,” says Chip Castille, managing director and head of BlackRock’s U.S. & Canada Defined Contribution Group.

The belief that it is possible to allocate money to both retirement and current needs simultaneously leads directly to greater savings, according to an analysis by Boston Research Group, which partnered with BlackRock for the survey. For respondents agreeing that “you can save for retirement and meet daily expenses at the same time,” 46% were saving at the highest level, which is 11% or more of annual household income. However, among those disagreeing with the statement, just 17% were matching that saving level.

The survey finds workers are still not saving as much as they should for retirement. Compared to the recommended 15% of annual pay, results show two-thirds of respondents saved 10% percent or less for retirement of household pay in 2012, while 28% saved only 5% or less.

Seven in 10 saving for retirement say their focus on this effort has increased over the past five years. But fewer than one in four are confident about having enough money for retired life.

The analysis by the Boston Research Group shows that empowerment, confidence and positive attitudes about the retirement savings process are not merely associated with a high level of retirement savings, but in fact have a direct, causal impact on how much money individuals are saving.

Secrets of Highly Effective Savers

According to Castille, envisioning retirement and seeing progress is the first “secret” of effective savers. “Savers who have trouble envisioning the retirement they want to achieve are less successful as savers.” For those who were still figuring out what they wanted their retirement to look like, 28% were saving 11% or more. But for those saying they had already figured out their retirement picture, 39% were classified as highly effective savers.

“Being able to effectively chart one’s progress toward their savings goal also offers invaluable support for saving,” says Castille. For those who say that they look at their retirement savings and see steady progress toward a retirement savings goal, 39% are saving highly effectively. For those disagreeing with this statement, just 20% are.

The survey reveals the second secret is feeling hopeful about attaining a good retirement. When respondents said the only people they knew who had a good retirement lifestyle made significantly more money than them, just 24% were saving at a highly effective level. This is compared with 48% of those who disagreed with this statement.

The third secret is tapping objective guidance. Survey results show the belief that one is tapping good, trustworthy guidance for the savings process makes a difference. For those agreeing they want to save and invest more but do not know where to go for unbiased advice, just 30% were saving highly effectively. But for those with someone to trust for unbiased advice, 40% were highly effective savers.

The final secret is feeling confident about securing income. To the degree that savers do not feel confident about securing retirement income, they evidently feel less motivated to save, according to the survey. For those agreeing that they were nervous about trying to live without employment income, just 30% were saving highly effectively. But 46% of those disagreeing with this statement ranked as highly effective savers.

Tools That Encourage Savers

The survey results suggest retirement savings levels could be boosted through planning tools, delivered via defined contribution plans and other means, giving workers greater insight into the connection between their saving effectiveness and their ability to generate retirement income.

More than nine in 10 individuals participating in workplace retirement plans say they would be encouraged to save more for retirement if their plan told them how much income their current savings would fund in retirement and how much they needed to save to reach their retirement income goal.

“Our survey makes clear that saving for retirement can be a self-reinforcing process,” says Castille. “When individuals have strongly positive feelings about the effectiveness of their planning and saving, they will save even more. The key is to make sure retirement savers have the insight, guidance and tools they need to put the right strategies in place.”

For the survey, 1,011 employees saving for retirement were queried, with 882 participating in a variety of DC plans that including 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, profit sharing and stock purchase plans. Participants were drawn randomly across all sized plans and from all sized employers.

More information about the survey can be found here.