Access to Guaranteed Lifetime Income Boosts Employee Confidence, Retirement Savings During Pandemic According to New Survey

More than 30 percent of employees increased their retirement savings contributions in 2020; Popularity of in-plan lifetime income solutions grows among 401(k), 403(b) plan sponsors

NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 23, 2021 – Helping employees save for retirement remains a priority for a substantial majority (74 percent) of employers and, despite economic uncertainty, more than three in ten employees say they increased their retirement savings contributions in the last year, according to the TIAA Retirement Insights Survey.

Further, 80 percent of employees who have guaranteed lifetime income in retirement — like an in-plan annuity — say they feel confident in their progress toward their long-term savings goals, compared to 45 percent of those who do not have a source of guaranteed lifetime income. Similarly, nearly nine in ten employers who offer in-plan guaranteed lifetime income options consider them to be extremely or very valuable for employees.

Survey suggests the pandemic is shifting attitudes toward in-plan guaranteed lifetime income options.

Adding in-plan guaranteed lifetime income options to retirement plan designs will likely be a significant trend this year as 74 percent of employers say helping their employees save for retirement is a priority, and as most employers (88 percent) view retirement plans as both a vehicle for accumulation and a way to provide their employees with secure income through retirement. According to the survey, more than one-third (34 percent) of employers say enabling income replacement in retirement is most influential to their retirement plan design, and 77 percent are interested in adding new target-date funds with lifetime income allocations to their plans. Seventy-one percent of employers say they believe their employees would be interested in guaranteed lifetime income options and more than half (51 percent) of employees agree, saying they would be highly interested in an in-plan guaranteed lifetime income annuity.

"In response to concerns about outliving retirement savings, the long-term prospects of Social Security income and an anemic interest rate environment, participants are looking for the certainty that comes with guaranteed lifetime income1," said Doug Chittenden, Head of Client Relationships at TIAA. "Employers play an integral role in providing participants with solutions that can create a clear path to retirement while ensuring they have a sound retirement income strategy that supports them through their retirement years."

401(k) and 403(b) providers differ on the value of in-plan guaranteed lifetime income

Although both employers and their employees see the value of guaranteed lifetime income options, differences appear among 401(k) and 403(b) providers when it comes to retirement plan design. The survey found 403(b) plan sponsors see income replacement as the biggest influence on their plan decisions (46 percent vs. 30 percent) and consider the retirement income replacement ratio (41 percent vs. 21 percent) and retirement readiness (37 percent vs. 19 percent) as key metrics of their plan's success. 403(b) providers are also more inclined than 401(k) providers to believe their participants would be interested in a guaranteed lifetime income annuity (82 percent vs. 67 percent).

Beyond guaranteed lifetime income, the survey also suggests that employees are eager for tools and solutions from their plan sponsors that can help them achieve their retirement savings goals. Of employees who increased their plan contributions in 2020, nearly half (48 percent) said they were motivated to do so by a retirement income calculator or projection and among those who saw a retirement income projection, 61 percent considered it extremely or very helpful.

Key findings from the survey also suggest employers should consider:

  • Viewing retirement savings plans as an employee retention tool: Employers most often cite attracting and retaining talent as the top reason they offer retirement plans, though more 401(k) providers (51 percent) than 403(b) providers (32 percent) see this as one of their top two reasons.
  • Expanding customized retirement plan offerings: Six in ten employers consider their plan to be highly customized to the specific demographics of their employees and overall retirement offering. However, more than half (51 percent) of employees say they would prefer more personalization.
  • Offering more financial education resources: Employees are very interested in almost all types of financial education or support that might be offered in the workplace, with nearly three-quarters saying they’d like more information about their plan or retirement savings in general. While there is a tremendous amount of interest in guaranteed lifetime income from participants, only 26% are extremely or very familiar with annuities, illustrating a significant opportunity for increased employer education on the topic.
  • Increasing online communication and updating content: Seventy seven percent of participants have checked their retirement account balance this year, and 61 percent say they have visited a provider website, highlighting engagement likely driven by the dramatic uncertainty of 2020. About half pay close attention to the performance of their retirement investments and plan statements.

To see the full survey results, visit The TIAA Retirement Insights Survey.Opens pdf in new window

About TIAA

With an award-winning2 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 $1.3 trillion in assets under management (as of 12/31/20203) and offers a wide range of financial solutions, including investing, banking, advice and education, and retirement services.

Press contact

Lauren Post
media@tiaa.orgOpens Email

1 Any guarantees are backed by the claims-paying ability of the issuing company.

2 The Refinitiv Lipper Fund Awards are based on the Lipper Leader for Consistent Return rating, which is a risk-adjusted performance measure calculated over 36, 60 and 120 months. Lipper Leaders fund ratings do not constitute and are not intended to constitute investment advice or an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any security of any entity in any jurisdiction. For more information, see Lipper Fund Awards from Refinitiv, ©2020 Refinitiv. All rights reserved. Used under license. The Award is based on a review of risk-adjusted performance of 39 companies for 2016, 36 for 2017, 35 for 2018 & 2019, and 30 for 2020. The award pertains only to the TIAA-CREF mutual funds in the mixed-asset category. Without such waivers ratings could be lower. Past performance does not guarantee future results. For current performance, rankings and prospectuses, please visit

3 Based on approximately $1.3 trillion of assets under management across Nuveen affiliates and TIAA investment management teams as of 12/31/20.

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