TIAA-CREF Survey Reveals Majority of Americans Miss Opportunity to Contribute to IRAs for Retirement Savings

Women and baby boomers are more likely to contribute up to the maximum, while younger Americans unaware of the benefits of IRAs

New York, NY, March 26, 2012 – Only 22 percent of Americans say they are saving for retirement by contributing to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), according to a survey released today by TIAA-CREF, a leading financial services provider.

An IRA can provide a tax-advantaged way to save for retirement. For the 2011 and 2012 tax years, investors can contribute up to $5,000 — or up to $6,000 for those age 50 or older — to a traditional IRA and/or a Roth IRA.

Yet the research – which polled 1,007 adults age 18 years and older nationwide – found that only about four in 10 (38 percent) Americans who own an IRA are contributing up to the annual limit, and 55 percent are investing less than the maximum allowed amount each year – missing out on the opportunity to maximize their tax and savings benefits. Seventy-six percent of those polled say they are not currently contributing to an IRA.

The survey also revealed that 62 percent of investors were unaware of two noteworthy IRA features: catch-up contributions that allow investors age 50 and older to contribute more than the annual maximum, and Roth IRA withdrawal guidelines that allow contributors to withdraw money without paying taxes or penalties.

Other notable survey findings include:

  • Women and baby boomers most likely to contribute to the maximum
    Among those currently contributing to an IRA, the survey found that women (41 percent) are more likely than men (34 percent) to contribute up to the annual maximum for an IRA. At 52 percent, baby boomers of both genders are most likely to fully fund their IRA each year, and 45 percent of college graduates of all ages report they invest the maximum allowed amount annually.
  • Younger Americans unaware of the benefits of an IRA
    Younger Americans (ages 18-34) who responded to the survey knew the least about the benefits of using an IRA as a retirement investment tool. Nearly three-fourths (73 percent) of those age 18-34 were unaware of the maximum amount of money you can contribute to an IRA annually – which was 12 percentage points higher than the average of all adults who participated in the survey. Fifty-eight percent of those in this age range did not know that IRA contributions grow on a tax-deferred basis.
  • Income levels also play a significant role in saving for retirement
    Just 8 percent of Americans earning less than $35,000 a year contribute to an IRA, and 13 percent of Americans earning $35,000 to $50,000 annually contribute to an IRA.

Survey Methodology
The 2012 TIAA-CREF IRA survey polled 1,007 adults age 18 years and older between February 2 and 5, 2012. The nationally representative telephone survey was conducted by a third-party research firm. 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 $464 billion in assets under management (as of 12/31/11) and is the leading provider of retirement services in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields.

Media contacts
Jeannine DeFoe, TIAA-CREF
212 913-3501

Chad Peterson, TIAA-CREF
704 988-6811

TIAA-CREF Individual & Institutional Services, LLC, and Teachers Personal Investors Services, Inc., members FINRA, distribute securities products. Annuity contracts and certificates are issued by Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association (TIAA) and College Retirement Equities Fund (CREF), New York, NY.

TIAA-CREF products may be subject to market and other risk factors. See the applicable product literature, or visit for details.

©2012 Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund, New York, NY 10017


© 2014 and prior years, Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association - College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF), New York, NY 10017