New TIAA Survey Identifies Factors That Build and Detract From Financial Confidence

Only 27% are very confident about their ability to maintain financial stability in retirement, but several factors people say help increase confidence are within reach of all

NEW YORK--()--TIAA’s 2019 Lifetime Income Survey found that various uncertainties are key detractors of financial confidence among Americans– with just three-in-ten respondents saying they are very confident they will always feel financially secure, including during retirement. Only a little more than one-in-three (35%) are very confident they will be able to maintain their lifestyle as long as they live. Uncertainty about the future of social programs and market performance, concerns about unexpected expenses and investment losses, and fear of saving too little are all major detractors of confidence.

The survey showed a number of skills and practices that build confidence. For example, the ability to plan long-term and invest effectively are key drivers of feeling secure. Those who rate highly their ability to invest effectively are roughly three times as likely to express confidence in always being financially secure, including throughout retirement. Long-term planning can also play a role in financial confidence, as those who are able to master this skill are at least twice as likely to feel confident.

Good savings habits also build confidence as two-in-five cite saving regularly as a means of boosting financial security. Beyond saving, perhaps the most significant antidote to financial uncertainty is the presence of guaranteed lifetime income through a pension or annuity that secures monthly income for life. Nearly all respondents say it is helpful to know the amount of income they can expect each month in retirement in addition to Social Security. Large majorities – over four-in-five - with access to guaranteed income through a pension or income annuity report an increase in confidence due to their guaranteed lifetime income.

“A major lesson of this survey is that effectively addressing uncertainties is key to feeling financially secure”, said Lori Dickerson Fouché, Chief Executive Officer of TIAA Financial Solutions. “Two great ways of reducing uncertain outcomes are by using financial products that guarantee lifetime income and getting the advice and building the skills needed to deal with adverse events.”

Paths to Financial Security Exist but Inaction and Uncertainty Persist

While there are tangible ways to mitigate financial uncertainty, many are not taking action to improve their financial confidence and situation. More than 60 percent of respondents haven’t created a written financial plan for retirement; over half reported not saving as much as they should have in 2018, including 22 percent who report they saved “a lot less” than they should have; and almost two-thirds (64%) don’t rely on a financial advisor for advice on achieving their financial goals.

Events beyond people’s control are highly worrisome and detract from financial confidence. Indeed, the possibility of an unexpected expense is the top confidence detractor. Additionally, the majority of individuals are highly concerned about a major unexpected expense (54%), a major medical expense (54%) and significant cuts to social programs (53%). Significant portions are also very concerned about a major market decline (45%) or an increase in inflation (44%).

Income is the Outcome

Of those who participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, nearly seven-in-ten (69%) cite guaranteed income for life as one of their top two goals for their retirement plan and almost half (45%) say that guaranteed income for life is their very top goal. They are more likely to rank guaranteed lifetime income as one of their top two goals than keeping their savings safe regardless of what happens in the market (56%), earning a competitive rate of return on their savings (46%), or saving a specific amount of money (28%). Among the reasons guaranteed lifetime income is strongly valued: three-in-five (60%) say it provides a feeling of financial security and nearly half (46%) assert it makes it easier to save for retirement.

“Employer-sponsored retirement plans that provide guaranteed lifetime income through in-plan annuities give workers saving for retirement a method for insulating themselves from risks, such as the impacts of stock market volatility, longevity risk and even cognitive decline,” said Fouché.” Having monthly income that’s guaranteed for life helps create certainty in people’s ability to fund their necessities and can lessen the impact and stress from unexpected expenses that are beyond their control.”

Retirement Plan Misconceptions

Despite the value that people put on knowing how much income they will have in retirement and in guaranteed lifetime income, there is a lot of confusion about this topic. One-third of those offered a retirement plan do not know whether their plan offers an investment menu option that guarantees lifetime income. Among those who think that guaranteed lifetime income is available in their plan, many incorrectly believe that mutual funds (35%) and target date funds (20%) secure lifetime income.

Access to Professional Advice is Helpful

Those who rely on a financial advisor express more confidence in their ability to always be financially secure, never run out of money and maintain their lifestyle in retirement than those who do not rely on one. A professional financial advisor is the top source of information on achieving financial goals, relied upon by over one-in-three (36%). Advisors are also important in saving for retirement, as over two-in-five (41%) say a financial advisor helped them determine the amount they need to save. As people get closer to retirement, the role of financial advisors becomes more critical. Among Boomers, over half say they rely on an advisor for information on achieving their financial goals (54%) and determining their savings goals (52%).

There is also interest among workers in financial wellness resources provided by their employer. Eight-in-ten workers (79%) say they are interested in wellness resources. A one on one meeting with a financial advisor is the wellness resource that garners the most attention, as a majority of workers (59%) express interest.

About TIAA

With an award-winning1 track record for consistent investment performance, TIAA ( is the leading provider of financial services in the academic, research, medical, cultural and government fields. TIAA has $1.1 trillion in assets under management (as of 6/30/20192) and offers a wide range of financial solutions, including investing, banking, advice and education, and retirement services.

TIAA’s 2019 Lifetime Income Survey conducted by the Washington, DC research firm Greenwald & Associates, identifies a number of factors that tend to bolster – or batter – confidence in financial and retirement security. The firm surveyed 901 people in May and June 2019.

1 The Lipper Mixed-Assets Large Fund Award is given to the group with the lowest average decile ranking of three years’ Consistent Return for eligible funds over the three-year period ended 11/30/15 (against 39 fund families), 11/30/16 (36), 11/30/17 (35) and 11/30/18 (35). Note this award pertains to mixed-assets mutual funds within the TIAA-CREF group of mutual funds; other funds distributed by Nuveen Securities were not included. From Thomson Reuters Lipper Awards, © 2019 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved. Used by permission and protected by the Copyright Laws of the United States. The printing, copying, redistribution, or retransmission of this Content without express written permission is prohibited. Certain funds have fee waivers in effect. Without such waivers ratings could be lower. Past performance does not guarantee future results. For current performance, rankings and prospectuses, please visit the Research and Performance section on The investment advisory services, strategies and expertise of TIAA Investments, a division of Nuveen, are provided by Teachers Advisors, LLC and TIAA-CREF Investment Management, LLC. TIAA-CREF Individual & Institutional Services, LLC and Nuveen Securities, LLC, FINRA Members, distribute securities products.

2 Based on assets under management across Nuveen Investments affiliates and TIAA investment management teams as of 06/30/2019.

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