Americans Spend Less Time Planning IRAs Than Choosing a Restaurant

Fewer than 1-in- 5 contributing to an IRA, potentially missing tax and savings benefits

NEW YORK, NY, March 14, 2014 – More Americans spent less time in the last year planning for an IRA investment for their retirement years than choosing a restaurant, flat screen TV or tablet, according to an annual survey by TIAA-CREF, a leading financial services provider.

The survey was conducted by an independent research firm and polled a random sample of 1,008 adults nationwide on their attitudes, preferences and behaviors regarding Individual Retirement Arrangements or IRAs.

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

Despite these benefits, the survey found that fewer than one in five (17 percent) of those surveyed currently contribute to an IRA, a decline from 22 percent in 2012.

Click here to learn about five things you may not know about IRAs.

The survey reveals that the number of Americans who would consider an IRA as part of their retirement strategy has fallen sharply since 2013. Fewer than half (47 percent) of those not contributing say they would consider an IRA, down from 57 percent in 2013.

It is possible that a lack of understanding is responsible for low IRA contribution levels. More than one-third (35 percent) of respondents do not understand what an IRA is or the difference between an IRA and an employer-sponsored plan. This percentage is even higher among the Generation Y (age 18-34) population surveyed (45 percent).

“More and more people are unaware of the ultimate value an IRA can have in a building a stable and secure retirement,” said Chittenden. “Americans today bear much more responsibility for their retirement savings than previous generations did. There is a pressing need to educate Americans from all age groups and income levels on the long-term retirement benefits that IRAs provide through compounded investment growth and tax savings.”

Even among those who already have an IRA, more than half (55 percent) said they spent an hour or less planning for the investment.

Americans today bear much more responsibility for their retirement savings than previous generations did. There is a pressing need to educate Americans from all age groups and income levels on the long-term retirement benefits that IRAs provide...

Sixty percent of those who are contributing to an IRA also have an employer-sponsored plan such as a 401(k) or 403(b). Among those with both plans, more than half (53 percent) say they contribute to their IRA regardless of whether they have reached the contribution or matching limit of their employer-sponsored plan. This means they could be leaving money on the table if they are diverting money to their IRA before contributing enough to get their employer match.

“Retirement planning can feel confusing and even overwhelming, but individuals should feel empowered to take charge of their financial future,” added Chittenden. “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.”

It is not too late for individuals to contribute to an account and potentially reduce their 2013 taxes. Americans can contribute as much as $5,500 ($6,500 for those 50 and older) for the 2013 tax year until April 15, 2014. If an individual has not previously made his or her 2013 contribution, he or she may contribute for both 2013 and 2014 – a total or $11,000, or $13,000 for those age 50 or older – between January 1 through April 15, 2014. (Learn more about age and income limitations on IRA contributions and deductions.)

For more information about the IRA survey, read the executive summary.

For more information and tools for retirement planning, visit the TIAA-CREF Advice and Guidance Center.





Survey Methodology
The survey was conducted by KRC Research, a third-party research firm, by phone among a national random sample of 1,008 adults, age 18 years and older, between February 13 and 16, 2014. Interviews were conducted over both landlines and cell phones. The margin of error for the entire sample is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

TIAA-CREF ( is a national financial services organization with $564 billion in total assets under management (as of 12/31/2013) and is the leading provider of retirement services in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields.