The stock market is at record highs, in the eighth year of a bull market, but consumers contemplating retirement aren't sharing in the confidence.
Capital One Investing's latest Financial Freedom Survey, which measures sentiment, found only 62% of participants think they're saving enough for a comfortable retirement. It's part of a downward trend, with 64% feeling confident last year and 72% the year before that.
Despite the declining confidence, even fewer are doing something about it. The survey found only 49% of participants have set up a long-term financial plan.
Specifically, the survey found that people thinking about their retirement years want to sock money away but aren't doing much to accomplish it. About 65% of consumers who are still working say they are putting away some money for retirement, but fewer than half are following a financial plan.
For example, 39% have embraced the idea they should be saving 15% or more of their income for retirement but only 13% are actually doing it. More distressing, about one-third aren't saving at all.
According to the Labor Department, fewer than half of Americans have calculated how much money they need in retirement. It found that in 2014, 30% of workers in private industry, with access to a defined contribution plan such as a 401(k), did not participate.
Government economists say the first step is to start saving money each month, but soon after it is important to put together a plan. They say retirement is more expensive than most people think – that they will need about 70% of their current income to get by.
Individual retirement accounts
If your employer doesn't offer a retirement savings plan, you can set up an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and contribute up to $5,500 a month into it, providing not only retirement savings but tax advantages.
Contributions to a traditional IRA are tax deductible and any money the contributions earn while in the account are not taxed. When money is withdrawn from the account, it's taxed as ordinary income.
Contributions to a Roth IRA are not tax deductible, but the earnings aren't taxed either. There is no tax liability when the money is withdrawn.
If you aren't sure which is the better option for you, talk with a trusted and objective financial advisor.
A new type of Roth IRA is called myRA, a retirement account created by the Treasury Department to help you save for retirement if you don’t have access to a plan at work. For more information, visit myra.gov.