The number of today’s workers who are confident they’ll enjoy a secure, comfortable retirement continues to grow—while at the same time, their actual preparedness appears to be declining. That’s a central finding from the latest annual Retirement Confidence Survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).

According to the 2015 survey, 58% of today’s workers are somewhat or very confident about having enough money to live comfortably throughout their retirement years. That’s up from 55% in 2014. However, among workers age 55 or older, just 39% said they have more than $100,000 in savings and investments—down from 42% in 2014.

There are two other retirement-related gaps that today’s workers should be mindful of: the gap between when today’s workers plan to retire and when today’s retirees actually retired, and the gap between today’s workers’ expectations about being able to work for pay during retirement and the number of retirees who have actually generated work-related income.

Over the years, EBRI has seen a steady increase in the number of current workers who expect to either retire later than age 65 or never retire—from 23% in 2000 to 46% today. However, 50% of today’s retirees stepped out of the paid workforce earlier than they expected to. Of those, 60% did so because of a hardship such as a health problem or disability.

As for generating income from paid work while retired, 67% of today’s workers expect to do so—up from 65% in 2014. However, just 23% of today’s retirees have worked for pay since retiring—down from 27% in 2014.

Bridging the gap

How can today’s workers more realistically set their retirement-related expectations? Here are a few recommendations.

  • Use one or more of the many free online retirement planning calculators to estimate your future needs and how much you need to invest each month to get there. This is not a precise science, but by running some numbers you can get a feel for what you need to be doing now in order to adequately prepare for your later years. Unfortunately, the SMI retirement planning calculator is currently unavailable as we are making some improvements to it. However, there are other options out there, including the super simple myPlan Snapshot from Fidelity. After creating your “snapshot,” you’ll have an opportunity to run some more detailed numbers.
  • Plan vocationally, emotionally, and spiritually to work past age 65, while you plan financially to retire by age 65 at the latest.
  • Be on track to pay off your mortgage by age 65.
  • Give careful consideration to your potential need for long-term care insurance.

To what degree is your confidence about having enough money to live comfortably in retirement in synch with your actual preparedness?