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March 9th, 2010
03:21 PM ET

Financial Dispatch: Retirement savings down… millionaires up

The Employee Benefit Research Institute attributes the decline in current savings rates to job loss and other economic factors.

The Employee Benefit Research Institute attributes the decline in current savings rates to job loss and other economic factors.

Andrew Torgan
CNN Financial News Producer

The percentage of American workers who say they have less than $10,000 in retirement savings grew to 43% this year, up from 39% in 2009. It’s also the third straight year that number has gone up.

In addition, the percentage of workers who say they have less than $1,000 in retirement savings jumped to 27% from 20% in 2009, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute's annual Retirement Confidence Survey. Both readings exclude the value of primary homes and defined-benefit pension plans.

The EBRI's research director and co-author of the survey says Americans' attitudes toward retirement have clearly tracked the economy the last couple of years, and attributes the decline in current savings rates to job losses, mortgage problems and the suspension of corporate 401(k) matches in 2009. But he added that the economy isn't entirely to blame.

Other sobering highlights from the survey:

– Only 16% of respondents expressed confidence in their ability to save enough for a comfortable retirement.

– Only 46% of workers have tried to calculate what they need for a comfortable standard of living in retirement

– And 24% of workers said they have postponed their planned retirement age in the past year, up from 14% in 2008.

More millionaires minted

Nest eggs may be declining, but America's millionaires are on the rise again.

A new report from Spectrem Group says U.S. households worth $1 million or more grew to 7.8 million in 2009, up 16% from 2008 - a year when the market’s meltdown thinned the herd.

And the number of ultra high-net-worth households, worth $5 million or more, jumped 17% to 980,000 in 2009.

The report comes one year to the day after the Dow and the S&P 500 closed at 12 year lows in the thick of the financial crisis.

The market’s drop sent the number of millionaires plummeting 27% in 2008, Spectrem said. Even now, the number of millionaires is still well below an all-time high of 9.2 million in 2007.

Employers still skittish on hiring

Most employers are still cautious when it comes to hiring, planning neither to add nor cut jobs from their payrolls this spring, according to a survey released today by staffing firm Manpower.

About 73% of employers surveyed expect no change in their hiring plans from March to June this year.

But there were also signs of improvement in the hiring outlook. Only about 8% of employers said they plan to make cuts, down from 12% in the previous quarter, and 14% a year ago. About 16% of employers said they expect to add to their payrolls, up from 12% last quarter.

Of the 13 industry sectors that Manpower surveys, employers in leisure and hospitality, business services and mining reported the strongest hiring outlooks for the quarter.

Only the government sector reported a negative outlook, with 11% of government employers saying they plan to cut jobs, and 10% saying they plan to hire new staff.

All four regions tracked by Manpower expect modest hiring gains through June. Employers in the Northeast posted the highest hiring outlook, followed by the South and West, and finally, the Midwest.

Complaints about banks surge 42%

The Better Business Bureau is out with its latest survey on consumer complaints, which increased by nearly10% in 2009. That’s works out to nearly 1 million complaints filed by disgruntled customers last year

The cell phone industry received the largest number of complaints in 2009 with 37,477, a 2.1% increase over the previous year. The cable & satellite TV industry ranked second with 32,616 complaints, an 8.7% increase. Rounding out the top three, banks received 29,920 complaints, a 42.3% increase over the previous year.

The BBB says the significant increase in complaints regarding banks coincides with the 140 bank failures we saw in 2009 – the highest number of failures in 17 years.

You can also find an 82-page list at www.bbb.org of the wide variety of goods and services that consumers complained about, including:

– Dune Buggies (eight complaints)

– Magicians (five complaints)

-Glass Blowers (four complaints)

-Square Dance Callers (three complaints)

-Bagels (two complaints)

Follow the money… on Twitter: @AndrewTorganCNN


Filed under: Andrew Torgan • Economy
soundoff (One Response)
  1. Tim Gibson

    The story of those who have and those who have not. Even when careful plans for retirement were laid out over the years by the comman man, along came the meltdown that changed the whole picture and what you had yesterday is not what you are left with today. At least not on main street. There should be no question as to why any individual or business would be skittish.

    March 9, 2010 at 4:09 pm |