TIAA-CREF Survey: One in Three Americans Say Guaranteed Income Is Top Retirement Priority

However, 72% do not have or are unaware of lifetime income options through their employer retirement plans
New York, January 29, 2014 – A new study by TIAA-CREF shows that more than one-third (34 percent) of Americans who participate in a retirement plan say the primary goal of their plan is to generate guaranteed monthly income. Another 40 percent want to ensure their savings are safe regardless of what happens in the financial markets. Yet 72 percent of respondents either do not have or are unaware if their retirement plan has a lifetime income option,i which can help provide the retirement security they seek.
The survey was conducted by an independent research firm and polled a random sample of more than 1,000 adults nationwide on their retirement plans.

Ensuring income lasts through retirement

Forty-four percent of survey respondents are somewhat concerned (20 percent) or very concerned (24 percent) they may run out of money in retirement. But just 21 percent expect to receive income from annuities, even though these products offer one of the best ways to guarantee a consistent income stream in retirement that cannot be outlived.ii
Fifty-three percent plan to use savings withdrawals as one of the sources of monthly retirement income, yet TIAA-CREF researchiii shows that if retirees make withdrawals from their retirement savings that are equal to the income payments they would receive from a lifetime annuity (assuming the same interest rate), there is a greater than 50 percent chance that the retiree will outlive his or her savings — whereas the annuity payments continue for as long as the retiree lives.
“All workers deserve a secure retirement, but many need help in setting realistic plans to achieve that goal,” explains Teresa Hassara, executive vice president of TIAA-CREF’s Institutional Business. “With life expectancies increasing rapidly, lifetime income options are essential to sustaining financial well-being over a retirement that could last for 30 or 40 years. Plan sponsors play a key role in educating employees on the value of these options.”

Struggling to build adequate retirement savings

Most experts agree that Americans will need 70 percent to 90 percent of their pre-retirement income to maintain their standard of living in retirement, yet one-third (33 percent) of respondents who haven’t retired believe they will need only 25 to 50 percent of pre-retirement income, and another third (33 percent) believe they will need 50 to 75 percent. Only one-fifth (21 percent) of those surveyed believe they will need more than 75 percent of pre-retirement income to live comfortably in retirement.
Experts also recommend saving at least 10 to 15 percent of income for retirement annually. However, the TIAA-CREF survey found that 44 percent of those who haven’t retired are saving 10 percent or less of their annual income – and another 21 percent aren’t saving for retirement at all.
“The survey shows that most Americans underestimate the amount of retirement income they will need,” Hassara adds. “But a bigger concern is that more than one-fifth of Americans are not saving at all for retirement, and many more are not saving enough.”
TIAA-CREF is committed to helping employers administer retirement plans that are specifically designed for their needs and help provide retirement security for employees. By offering lifetime income products within retirement plans, employers can help employees build an income floor that cannot be outlived and, when combined with other sources of retirement income, can help them reach their retirement goals.
For more information about the survey, read the executive summary. TIAA-CREF also has prepared a report for plan sponsors, “Helping Participants Generate a Lifetime of Income ,” that goes into more detail on the importance of lifetime income in retirement plans and best practices for offering these options.


TIAA-CREF ( is a national financial services organization with $564 billion in assets under management (as of 12.31.13) and is the leading provider of retirement services in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields.
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Survey Methodology

The survey was conducted by KRC Research by phone among a national random sample of 1,017 adults, age 18 years and older, between January 3 and 5, 2014. The margin of error for the entire sample is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
i A “lifetime income option” is defined as a monthly payment for the length of your retirement.
ii Guaranteed lifetime income is subject to the insurance company’s claims-paying ability.
iii Source: TIAA-CREF Institute: TRENDS AND ISSUES (10/06). The payout annuity assumes a 65-year-old retiree, single-life annuity with 10 years guaranteed, 4% rate of return, and the mortality assumptions used in computing current total income under TIAA or CREF payout annuities.