Americans Neglect, Misuse IRAs in Retirement Planning

How much do Americans dislike financial planning? They spend far more time selecting a restaurant or buying a flat-screen TV, according to a new survey.

How much do Americans dislike financial planning? They’d prefer to spend their time choosing what restaurant to eat at, according to survey results.

The annual survey of 1,000 adults regarding their attitudes, preferences, and behaviors toward IRAs found that last year more Americans spent less time planning their IRA investment than choosing a restaurant, flat screen TV or tablet.

Just 15% of Americans spent 2 hours on planning an IRA investment for their retirement years, according to the financial services provider. Meanwhile 55% said they spent an hour or less planning.

“An IRA can be an incredibly powerful savings tool that can boost retirement security and offer immediate tax and savings benefits,” Doug Chittenden, executive vice president of Individual Business at TIAA-CREF, said in a statement. “IRAs can also serve as a valuable supplement to an employer-sponsored plan and help fund a first home or education.”

However, the survey found that use of IRAs is declining. Just 17% currently contribute to an IRA, which is down from 22% in 2012, and the number of Americans who would consider an IRA for retirement saving has fallen sharply. Less than half (47%) of those not currently contributing said they would consider an IRA as part of their retirement strategy, down from 57% in 2013.

Chittenden pointed out that today’s workers will bear much more responsibility for their retirement savings compared to previous generations and an IRA can provide long-term benefits for Americans of all ages and income levels.

Of those contributing to an IRA, 60% also have an employer-sponsored plan, like a 401(k) or a 403(b); however, they may not have a sound strategy for putting money into these accounts. According to TIAA-CREF, 53% said they contribute to their IRA regardless of whether they have reached the contribution or matching limit for their employer-sponsored plan, which might mean they’re leaving money on the table.

“Retirement planning can feel confusing and even overwhelming, but individuals should feel empowered to take charge of their financial future,” Chittenden said. “We encourage people to meet with a financial advisor and take advantage of online tools to learn about their options and help guide their savings strategy. Employers who sponsor retirement plans also play a critical role in helping educate employees about their retirement options.”