Study Links Savings Goals With Plan Access

Most workers who are likely to focus on retirement savings have access to an employer-provided retirement plan, according to the Investment Company Institute.

In 2011, nearly three-quarters of workers most likely to be focused on saving for retirement had access to a retirement plan—including defined benefit (DB) and defined contribution (DC) plans—through their own employer or their spouse’s employer, and 93% of those with access participated.  

“Who Gets Retirement Plans and Why, 2011,” a study by the Investment Company Institute, finds a link between the savings goals of employees and the likelihood that they work for an employer who sponsors a retirement plan. When asked the primary reason they save, younger and lower-income households are typically focused on saving to fund education, to purchase a house, to fund other purchases, or to have emergency cash on hand. They are less likely to cite retirement as the primary reason they save.   

In contrast, older and higher-earning workers are more likely to save primarily for retirement. Consistent with these savings preferences, groups of workers who are more focused on saving for retirement are also much more likely to work for an employer that offers a plan.



Among all private-sector wage and salary workers ages 21 to 64, 50% work for an employer that sponsors a retirement plan. Among full-time, full-year workers ages 30 to 64, employer sponsorship increases to 60%.   

If the analysis is narrowed further to those groups of workers most likely to be focused on saving for retirement—workers ages 30 and older with at least moderate levels of earnings, and all but the lowest earning workers ages 45 and older, then 69% work for an employer that sponsors a plan and 74% have access to a retirement plan through either their own employer or their spouse’s employer. The 93% participation rate among those within this group with access to a retirement plan further demonstrates their interest in retirement savings.  

“Policy discussions surrounding retirement often focus on the headline statistic that about 50% of America’s workers are covered by a workplace retirement plan,” said Peter Brady, ICI senior economist and a coauthor of the study. “This study shows that older, full-time workers are much more likely to have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan. So, looking at the percentage of all workers who have coverage today understates the share of the population who will reach retirement having accrued employer-provided retirement benefits. Young workers don’t remain young throughout their entire working career and many part-time workers don’t remain part-time throughout their entire working career. Many workers who do not have access to an employer plan today will have access prior to retirement.”  

The study report is at