New Research from The National Institute on Retirement Security Finds Median Retirement Account Balance Dips to $2,500 for Working Age American Households, Down from $3,000; Nearly 40 Million Households Have No Retirement Savings.

A new research report calculates that the U.S. retirement savings crisis continues to worsen, and that the typical working household still has virtually no retirement savings. When all households are included-not just households with retirement accounts-the median retirement account balance is $2,500. The median retirement account balance was $3,000 for all working-age households as reported in a previous 2013 report.

For near-retirement households, the new analysis finds that the median retirement account balance is $14,500. Also, some 62 percent of working households age 55 to 64 have retirement savings less than one times their annual income, which is far below what Americans need to be self-sufficient in retirement.

These findings are contained in a new research report, The Continuing Retirement Savings Crisis , issued today by the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS). This report updates a previous NIRS report published in 2013 , and it examines the readiness of working-age households, based primarily on an analysis of the Survey of Consumer Finances from the U.S. Federal Reserve System.

The study analyzes workplace retirement plan coverage, retirement account ownership, and household retirement savings as a percentage of income, and estimates the share of working families that meet financial industry recommended benchmarks for retirement savings.

The full study is available here . A webinar to review the findings is scheduled for Wednesday, March 18, 2015 at 1:00 PM ET. Register here .

This report comes on the heels of the NIRS 2015 public opinion research released earlier this month, which revealed that an overwhelming majority of Americans – 86 percent – believe that the nation faces a retirement crisis. The opinion research also found that 75 percent of Americans are concerned about their ability to achieve a secure retirement.

“It’s no wonder Americans believe the nation faces a retirement crisis – the evidence is irrefutable that the hope of retirement is out of reach for millions of the middle class Americans,” said Diane Oakley, executive director of the National Institute on Retirement Security.

“Our research finds that the typical near-retirement working household has about $14,500 in retirement savings. This amount won’t even replace one year’s salary for millions of older Americans. Unfortunately, they just don’t have time to have catch up on their saving shortfall,” she said.

Oakley explained, “Two problems are at heart of the issue: lack of access to retirement plans -particularly among low-income workers and families – and low levels of retirement savings. These twin challenges amount to a severe retirement crisis that if left unaddressed will result in grave consequences for the U.S. economy and families.”

The key findings of this report are as follows:

1. Account ownership rates are closely correlated with income and wealth. Nearly 40 million working-age households (45 percent) do not own any retirement account assets, whether in an employer-sponsored 401(k) type plan or an IRA. Half of these households with no retirement savings are headed by someone between age 45 and 65, and may have too few year to catch up. Households that do own retirement accounts have more than 2.4 times the annual income of households that do not own a retirement account. While retirement account ownership improved for households in the third highest income quartile with 75.6 percent of households holding assets in retirement accounts, retirement account ownership in the lowest income quartile dropped to 21.4 percent in 2013 down from 25.7 percent in 2010.

2. The average working household has virtually no retirement savings. When all households are included- not just households with retirement accounts-the median retirement account balance is $2,500 for all working-age households and $14,500 for near-retirement households. Furthermore, 62 percent of working households age 55-64 have retirement savings less than one times their annual income, which is far below what they will need to maintain their standard of living in retirement.

3. Even after counting households’ entire net worth-a generous measure of retirement savings-two thirds (66 percent) of working families fall short of conservative retirement savings targets for their age and income based on working until age 67. Due to a long-term trend toward income and wealth inequality that only worsened during the recent economic recovery, a large majority of the bottom half of working households cannot meet even a substantially reduced savings target.

4. Public policy can play a critical role in putting all Americans on a path toward a secure retirement by strengthening Social Security, expanding access to low cost, high quality retirement plans, and helping low income workers and families save. Social Security, the primary edifice of retirement income security, could be strengthened to stabilize system financing and enhance benefits for vulnerable populations. Access to workplace retirement plans could be expanded by making it easier for private employers to sponsor defined benefit pensions, and national and state level proposals aim to ensure universal retirement plan coverage. Finally, expanding the Saver’s Credit and making it refundable could help boost the retirement savings of lower-income families.

This new NIRS report is authored by Dr. Nari Rhee, manager of the Retirement Security Program at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment/Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California at Berkeley and Ilana Boivie, research economist for the Communications Workers of America.

Source: International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans