Retirement Outlook Hopeful -- If You Have a Plan

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Retirement confidence is up from the record lows of the last five years — especially for those with actual retirement plans.

The Employee Benefit Research Institute's 24th annual Retirement Confidence Survey released earlier this month finds the percentage of workers confident about having enough money for their golden years increased in 2014 after record lows between 2009 and 2013. The survey finds 18% of respondents are now very confident in their ability to afford a comfortable retirement — up from 13% in 2013. More than twice that amount, 37%, are somewhat confident.

Only about a quarter of those surveyed say they don't feel at all confident about their retirement prospects.

However, there is a caveat. While confidence is going up, it only may be limited to those with retirement plans — as workers' savings remain low, and few appear to be taking even the very basic steps of planning for their later years.

"Retirement confidence is strongly related to retirement plan participation," said Jack VanDerhei, EBRI research director and co-author of the report. "In fact, workers reporting they or their spouse have money in a defined contribution plan or IRA or have a defined benefit plan from a current or previous employer are more than twice as likely as those without any of these plans to be very confident."

The increase in confidence between 2013 and 2014 is primarily among those with a plan. Some 24% of those respondents with a retirement plan were very confident, while only 9% without a plan felt that way.

VanDerhei said a possible explanation for improved confidence is a stock market and increasing property values.

The confidence among those with actual retirement plans may make sense. According to Towers Watson's recently released annual Global Pension Assets Study, values of pension funds increased 12% in 2013 — and in sharp contrast to a 22% decline during 2008.