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More U.S. workers are confident of a comfortable retirement

The portion of Americans who are confident in their ability to retire comfortably has risen modestly from an all-time low, but more than one-third of people have less than $1,000 stashed away for their later years, according to a new survey.

The portion of Americans who are very confident they can achieve a secure retirement inched up to 18% this year, from 13% in 2013, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. An additional 37% are somewhat confident in their prospects.

Still, the survey painted a gloomy picture of the country's overall retirement readiness.

Though the 18% of highly confident respondents is an improvement from four years of record lows, it's well off the 27% peak in 2007 before the onset of the global financial crisis. And even that number was far below what experts say is necessary to ensure that most people are financially self-sufficient in their post-work years.

Beyond that, this year's improved results stem almost entirely from increased optimism among higher-income people. Confidence also is much higher among people with access to retirement plans, such as work-based pensions or 401(k)s.

Only 1 in 5 people without a retirement plan have saved for their latter years, according to the study.

That problem is particularly acute among low-income workers. Among households with income of less than $35,000 a year, 68% have saved less than $1,000 for retirement.

But inadequate savings extended beyond lower-wage people. Among all poll respondents, 36% said they have put away less than $1,000.

"This increased level of confidence does not appear to be founded on improved retirement preparations," according to the study. "In the aggregate, worker savings remain low, and only a minority appear to be taking basic steps to prepare for retirement."

walter.hamilton@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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