Sunday, September 23, 2012

Question “Mark”

Next month we’ll enter the final full month of the 2012 election cycle with a series of presidential (and one vice presidential) debates. Pundits claim these don’t have much impact on the election’s outcome, but millions of Americans will likely tune in anyway, either to help them make a decision, to reinforce the one they made months ago, or perhaps just for the prospect of seeing a historic gaffe. The answers, of course, will receive the most scrutiny, though as any journalist (or pollster) will tell you, the art lies in asking the “right” question.

In the not-too-distant future, EBRI will, in conjunction with Matt Greenwald & Associates, Inc., field the 2013 Retirement Confidence Survey.¹ Over its 23-year history, the RCS has examined the attitudes and behavior of American workers and retirees toward all aspects of saving, retirement planning, and long-term financial security. The survey itself—the longest-running survey of its kind in the nation—is meaningful both for the kinds of issues it deals with and the trends it measures: It’s tracked a “new normal,” where workers adjust their expectations about the transition to retirement; examined both age and gender differences on saving and planning for retirement; tracked attitudes about Social Security and Medicare; and compared expectations about retirement to the realities.²

Not surprisingly, coverage of the survey by the media continues to be quite extensive. The 2012 RCS was released on March 13, 2012,³ and partial tracking (to Sept. 5, 2012) found the 2012 RCS mentioned in 50 newspapers, 26 periodicals, 35 web-based outlets, 22 broadcast outlets (including CNN Money, CNBC.com, and CBS News), as well as eight newswire services.

Significantly, the RCS doesn’t merely deal with confidence as a “feeling,” but also at the criteria that underlie and influence that sentiment. It looks at the perspective both of those already in retirement, as well as those still working and heading toward that milestone, and does so with the perspective of research that has focused on those issues for more than two decades. It also (with a perspective based on more than 20 years of conducting this particular survey) offers insights on how those feelings and factors have changed over time.

From past experience, we know that how individuals view—and anticipate—retirement can have a dramatic impact on that reality. Each year the RCS research team, in collaboration with the survey’s advisory board of underwriters, meets to consider not only past trends and the present environment, but also future developments, as we seek to craft the right set of questions to help explore and expand our collective understanding of these critical issues.

As with many things in life, when it comes to planning for retirement, it’s hard to know what the right answer is if you aren’t asking the right questions.

P.S. The Retirement Confidence Survey is funded through subscriptions. In 2012, there were 26 subscribers (see the full list online here), which keeps the cost down to $7,500 per subscriber. If you’re interested in supporting and being part of the planning for the 2013 RCS, please email me.
 
Nevin E. Adams, JD

¹ The need and demand for reliable data about America’s retirement system, and worker/retiree post-career readiness for retirement has never been greater. If you’d like to know more, or participate as an underwriter of this important survey, please email Nevin Adams. A list of the 2012 RCS Underwriters is available online here.

² Information from prior editions of the Retirement Confidence Survey is available online here.

³ Data from the 2012 RCS is available online here.

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