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Older Workers Worried About Promised Medicare and Social Security Benefits, Watson Wyatt Survey Finds

Many Do Not Expect to Receive Full Benefits After Retirement

WASHINGTON, Oct. 2 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Many older workers, particularly those without employer-sponsored retirement plans, retiree medical plans or other financial resources, do not expect to receive their full Social Security or Medicare payments after they retire. Confidence is especially low among those who are relatively younger, female or have a lower level of education, according to an analysis by Watson Wyatt (NYSE, Nasdaq: WW), a leading global consulting firm.

Roughly six out of 10 (61 percent) older workers -- those 50 to 64 years old -- are not confident of receiving their promised Medicare benefits and 51 percent are not confident of receiving promised Social Security benefits after they retire. The analysis is based on a 2007 Watson Wyatt survey of 5,000 older employees.

Confidence in these government programs is partly associated with how secure workers are in their own financial resources for retirement. Ninety-six percent of older workers who are confident of having adequate personal resources to live on comfortably five years into retirement are also somewhat or very confident they will receive their Medicare and Social Security dues. However, among those who are worried their own resources will not be sufficient, only 87 percent are confident of receiving their full Medicare benefits, and 85 percent are confident of receiving their full Social Security benefits.

Confidence falls farther along the horizon: Of those who are confident of having sufficient personal resources to last 20 years into retirement, 67 percent and 66 percent are also confident of receiving their promised Medicare and Social Security benefits respectively. Of those who worry their retirement resources won't stretch that far, these numbers fall to 44 percent and 41 percent respectively.

"People with less overall confidence in their retirement resources are likely to worry more about Social Security and Medicare because they cannot rely on personal savings. And these fears may be further exacerbated by the recent turmoil in financial markets," said Alan Glickstein, a senior retirement consultant at Watson Wyatt. "Yet, this anxiety is not based only on current market pressures: With an aging U.S. population, both systems are starting to pay out benefits to a rapidly growing older population while the pool of workers paying into each is growing much more slowly."

Confidence in having enough resources to live comfortably

5 years into retirement More than 20 years into


Confident Not confident Confident Not confident

Medicare SS Medicare SS Medicare SS Medicare SS

Not at all/

Not too

confident of

receiving due

benefit 4% 4% 13% 15% 33% 34% 56% 59%


confident of

receiving due

benefit 96% 96% 87% 85% 67% 66% 44% 41%

The Watson Wyatt analysis further showed that older workers' attitudes towards their promised Medicare and Social Security benefits differ by age, gender, education and income level:

-- Workers at the lower end of the age range are less confident about their future benefits: Those 50-54 years old are much less confident of receiving their due than those aged 54-64, when it comes to both Social Security and Medicare.

-- Women tend to be less confident than men about the government making good on its Medicare promises -- roughly 64 percent of responding women had no confidence in the system compared with roughly 58 percent of men. The trend was similar for Social Security.

-- Generally, workers with more education have more confidence in the system -- roughly 78 percent of respondents with less than a high school education have little to no confidence in Medicare, compared with 64 percent of those with a college degree and 57 percent of those with a graduate degree. The trend was similar for Social Security.

-- The effect of income and marital status was mixed -- these factors seem to have less impact than age, gender and educational background on retiree confidence.

"Retirement income has traditionally been likened to a three-legged stool consisting of government plans, employer plans and personal savings," said Mark Warshawsky, director of retirement research at Watson Wyatt. "With the future of Medicare and Social Security uncertain, it is critical for employers and their employees to adequately prepare for future retirement needs." For more information, read the September 2008 Insider article on Older Workers' Confidence in Social Security and Medicare:

About Watson Wyatt

Watson Wyatt (NYSE, Nasdaq: WW) is the trusted business partner to the world's leading organizations on people and financial issues. The firm's global services include: managing the cost and effectiveness of employee benefit programs; developing attraction, retention and reward strategies; advising pension plan sponsors and other institutions on optimal investment strategies; providing strategic and financial advice to insurance and financial services companies; and delivering related technology, outsourcing and data services. Watson Wyatt has 7,000 associates in 32 countries and is located on the Web at

SOURCE Watson Wyatt
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