Retirement & Financial Planning Report

Being provided with an estimate of how retirement savings will translate into income in retirement in general is helpful to investors but typically doesn’t change their behavior unless it is surprising to them, a study has found.

The study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute focused on a trend among employer-sponsored retirement savings programs to provide estimates of how an account would translate into monthly income in the form of an annuity. The Thrift Savings Plan offers investors a similar service in the federal government—which some participants consider an encouragement to withdraw accounts in the form of an annuity, although the TSP says that is not the intent.


In a survey of participants in similar plans, 36 percent found such an estimate to be very useful and another 49 percent said it is somewhat useful. However, 58 percent said the number was in line with their expectations and “perhaps because of that, relatively few (only 17 percent of the respondents) said they would increase their retirement savings contributions as a result of hearing the monthly income estimate.”

But of those whose estimated value was much lower than their expectations, more than a third said they would increase their savings.

The report noted that relatively few investors in 401(k) plans convert their entire accounts into annuities, a pattern that also is true in the TSP, where that is done by only about 2 percent of participants. However, annuity estimates still are worthwhile because they provide a convenient method of illustrating the result of the investor’s course, it said.