Skip to Content

Would you pick better retirement benefits over a pay raise?


If you could go back in time and have a chat with your younger self—say, you at age 22, or 25—what would you say? It seems most of us would advise ourselves to start thinking about retirement. Roughly 80% of 2,031 employees in a new survey from American Century Investments agreed that they “wish I could have talked to the young me and told myself to save more than I did.”

That helps explain another of the study’s findings: When given a choice between two identical job offers—one with a higher salary, and the other with a lower salary but a more generous retirement plan—employees aged 55 to 65 are five times more likely to pick the job with the better retirement plan.


But people in that age group aren’t the only ones worrying. About 90% of employees aged 25 to 54 told the researchers they haven’t saved enough and started later than they should have. A majority even called this “one of the biggest mistakes of their lives,” notes Diane Gallagher, an American Century vice president. “In fact, not saving enough for retirement was mentioned more frequently than not doing better with personal relationships or careers.”

Despite those regrets, the survey found that 60% of employees under age 54, and almost as many (50%) ages 55 to 65, admit they’re still saving less than they should. That’s probably why, when asked about what level of income they foresee after they retire, most people are realists. “They aren’t expecting to be rich,” Gallagher says. “They’re really aspiring to independence, rather than affluence.”

Apparently so. About 70% of survey respondents ages 25 to 54, and 90% of those 55 to 65, expect their standard of living after they retire to be “the same or worse” than it is today.