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Mercer Workplace Survey 2012 provides insights into 401k/benefit plan participant attitudes

Date: December 5 2012

Mercer recently published the results of its 12th annual 2012 Mercer Workplace Survey, a nationally representative cross section of US workers who participate in their employers 401k and health benefit programs. Key highlights include: 
Despite perceived economic recovery, US employees are still concerned about saving enough for retirement
  • 73% expect either “weak” or “robust” economic growth in the next 12 months, while the number anticipating a recession has declined sharply, from 40% in 2011 to 27% in 2012
  • 36% are still concerned about losing their jobs and a survey record 44% have considered delaying retirement
  • Only 53% believe they will be ready to retire financially, down two percentage points from last year
  • This concern may have caused an increase in commitment to save more in 401(k) plans – an average of $7,995 up 7% from 2011
Workers who are age 50 and over are more concerned than younger workers about their job security and have significantly lower retirement expectations
  • Concern about job loss for those ages 50+ reached 36%, its highest level since 2007 (25%)
  • 59% of older workers are considering delaying retirement, up from 55% in 2011, while those under age 50 considering delayed retirement remained flat at 37%
  • 62% of those over 50 believe they will have to work at least part time in retirement compared to 48% of younger workers
401(k) participants who use “in-plan” advice have rosier retirement outlooks
  • Only about one-fifth (18%) say they engage in online or in person advice within their 401(k)
  • But those that do use such resources are much more likely to feel they have enough money for retirement (49% versus 35%), expect to live as well or better as when working (40% versus 29%), and believe they will not have to delay retirement (34% versus 44%)
Although still very important, participants perceive the value of their benefits has dropped
·          Only 36% of respondents agreed that their health benefits are definitely worth what they pay out of pocket, the lowest level since 2008
  • Understanding health plans is getting more difficult -  although 75% say that understanding the features and choices in their health plan is very or somewhat easy, this is down from 83% in 2011
These are just a few of the many data points and insights that can be found in the 2012 Mercer Workplace Survey. Attached is the executive summary, which can also be downloaded at Mercer has also created an engaging “infographic” derived from the survey that can be viewed at
If you would like more information found in the Mercer Workplace Survey or if would like to interview a Mercer leader about the findings and its implications for employers, please contact me at or 212-345-0553.
About the Mercer Workplace Survey
The Mercer Workplace Survey tracks employee attitudes toward, and experiences with, employer-sponsored retirement, health and benefits programs. 
The survey represents a national cross-section of active 401(k) participants, defined as those currently contributing to a 401(k) plan irrespective of balance or having a 401(k) balance of $1,000 or more with their current employer whether or not they are currently contributing. Eligible non-participants and those only holding balances at previous employers are not included in this research. Respondents are also required to be enrolled in their employer’s health plan. Online interviews were completed with 1,656 participants between June 6 and June 21, 2012. The survey’s margin of error is plus/minus 2.4%.

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