Political Differences Aside, Americans Anxious Over Retirement
By: Brian O'Connell

NEW YORK (BankingMyWay) — Americans’ viewpoint on retirement savings and the role employers pay in advancing workers’ wealth depend significantly on political affiliation.

That’s one conclusion drawn by a study from Wells Fargo . saying adults are “teetering on the edge of the retirement cliff.”

Among other issues, the study focuses on 401(k) plans and “political party affiliations” associated with how consumer them, as well as what role their companies play in managing those plans.

According to the Wells Fargo study, 74% of U.S. workers want their companies to offer personal financial advice on 401(k) plans; 67% of self-described Republicans support getting financial advice on the job and 86% of Democrats. That suggests Republicans are more likely to say workers are responsible for their own financial education, while more Democrats say management has a responsibility to help employees figure out how to invest in the financial markets.

Also, 60% of Americans say employers should hike 401(k) contribution rates automatically by 1% annually, but that breaks down to 56% of Republicans backing the idea compared with 72% of Democrats.

Finally, 59% of workers say their companies should enroll staffers automatically in the company 401(k) plan, with 55% of republicans supporting automatic enrollment compared with 77% of Democrats.

In short, and perhaps not surprisingly, Democrats want employers to offer more support for 401(k) plan participants, while Republicans are more likely to want more control and independence over their retirement plans.

Interestingly, Americans of all political persuasions say they don’t want their Social Security income cut in the name of federal debt reduction.

The Wells Fargo study reports that the number of middle-class U.S. adults who would “accept a reduction” in Social Security or Medicare to help pay down government debt fell to 37%, down 6% from 2011. Men are more likely to agree to have their retirement benefits pared back than women, at a rate of 44% to 26%, the study reports.

In addition 30% of Americans say they will have to work into their 80s to secure a comfortable retirement, compared with 25% who said the same thing last year. But 71% of respondents said their employers wouldn’t want them as an employee in their 80s.

That’s a big problem, Wells Fargo says.

“It is so tough for Americans to save for retirement, and we feel it is very important to keep shining the light on this issue,” explains Joe Ready, director of Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement and Trust. “People say they’ll work longer, but how possible will this be for millions of Americans? Preparing for retirement can’t be kicked down the road, because the other picture that is emerging is how many people will live very close to the poverty line in retirement. We’ve got to marshal our resources as a country, an industry and as individuals to deal with the issues creating this cliff.”

No matter what their political persuasion, a clear majority of Americans are worried about having enough money to live on in retirement. Republicans and Democrats may differ on how to get there, but getting across the finish line intact financially seems to be the biggest priority of all working Americans.

—For more ways to save, spend, invest and borrow, visit MainStreet.com.

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