Public opinion research finds an overwhelming majority of Americans believe the nation’s retirement infrastructure is crumbling and stock market volatility makes it impossible to predict retirement savings.

The research also finds that Americans remain highly anxious about their ability to achieve a secure retirement, view retirement as simply surviving, and believe Washington is disconnected from Americans’ retirement anxiety.

These findings are contained a new report, “Pensions and Retirement Security 2011: A Roadmap for Policymakers,” released today by the National Institute on Retirement Security. The research findings are as follows:

  • When it comes to retirement, Americans continue to have high anxiety. An overwhelming majority of Americans are anxious about their retirement prospects. Some 84% are concerned that current economic conditions are impacting their ability to achieve a secure retirement, with more than half (54%) of Americans very concerned. This level of anxiety has not dissipated, with 83% of Americans in 2009 reporting retirement concerns.
  • Americans have low retirement expectations. Americans consider a secure retirement simply surviving or living comfortably (34%), paying their bills (17%), and maintaining their pre-retirement lifestyle (11%). Only 11% expect retirement to include leisure, travel, restaurants, and/or hobbies. Moreover, Americans are taking a number of actions to improve their retirement prospects—saving more, getting rid of debt, delaying retirement, or looking for jobs with a pension.
  • The U.S. retirement system is under stress and in need of reform. Nearly 9 out of 10 Americans believe the retirement system is under stress and needs to be reformed. More than 80% of Americans believe that recent economic downturn exposed the risks of America’s retirement system. Nearly three-quarters of Americans believe that stock market volatility makes it impossible for the average American to predict how much money they will have in their nest egg when they retire, underscoring the flaws of the current retirement system.
  • Pensions are reliable and relieve retirement anxiety. Some 83% of Americans indicated that those with pensions are more likely to have a secure retirement, and 72% of those who have a pension are confident it will be there at retirement. Moreover, 75% believe the disappearance of pensions has made it harder to achieve the “American Dream.”
  • Washington is disconnected from Americans’ retirement anxiety. Nearly 80% of Americans believe leaders in Washington do not understand how hard it is to prepare for retirement in this economy. Some 83% say government should make it easier for employers to offer pensions, and 81% believe that Washington leaders need to give a higher priority to ensuring more Americans can have a secure retirement.