Findings from the Retirement Confidence Survey of College and University Faculty

Paul Yakoboski, TIAA-CREF Institute

October 2005 |

Issues regarding retirement planning and preparations among college and university faculty are of importance to both the faculty themselves and administrators of higher education institutions. Faculty have a self-interest in ensuring that they have a financially secure retirement. Administrators are interested from the strategic planning perspective of attracting and retaining quality faculty, along with managing the orderly flow of faculty out of the institution.

With such issues as motivation, the TIAA-CREF Institute developed the Retirement Confidence Survey of College and University Faculty to better understand the retirement planning and saving behavior of college and university faculty, as well as to gauge faculty perceptions regarding various aspects related to their retirement preparations. This report summarizes the key findings from the survey, analyzes how they compare with findings for all working Americans, and discusses differences that emerged by faculty and institutional demographics.

Survey results indicate that America’s higher education faculty are confident in their prospects for a comfortable retirement and, relative to all working Americans, they are doing a good job of preparing for retirement. Among higher education faculty, 35% are very confident in their retirement income prospects and an additional 51% are somewhat confident. Two-thirds (65%) expect employer-sponsored retirement plans to be their largest source of retirement income. Almost all (95%) of faculty have personally saved money for retirement and 66% have tried to determine how much they need to save so they can afford a comfortable retirement.

By comparison, only 25% of all working Americans say that they are very confident that they will have enough money in retirement, while an additional 40% are somewhat confident. Only 69 percent of all working Americans have begun to save for retirement and only 42% have tried to do determine how much they need to save for retirement.

While higher education faculty tend to be older, have higher incomes and have higher education levels relative to the general working population, all of which would account for some of their better preparation and greater confidence, they also benefit from the retirement systems in place within the higher education community. There are important differences in retirement plan availability and design in higher education that would contribute to better outcomes.

The following fact sheets provide summaries of survey results segmented by selected faculty classifications:

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