The U.S. division of Sun Life Financial Inc. (NYSE:SLF)(TSX:SLF) today released new data from the Sun Life UnretirementSM Index that reveals almost half of American workers (48%), if offered the choice, would prefer to stop paying into the Social Security system even if it meant that they would not receive these benefits once eligible to receive them. The Index, released multiple times a year, gauges how economic, financial, and societal forces affect working Americans and their retirement decisions.
In addition, this preference for opting out of the Social Security system is present among all age groups.
- Workers in their 30s are most likely to favor not paying into the Social Security system, with 59% responding they would rather not pay the taxes and not receive benefits.
- 51% of workers age 40-49 prefer to not participate.
- 44% of workers age 50 to 59 prefer to not participate in the Social Security program, and 39% of workers 50 and older would rather not participate.
- Even a significant amount of respondents who are nearing traditional retirement age would choose to stop paying Social Security taxes. One in three (33%) workers over the age of 60 said they would stop paying Social Security taxes even if it meant they would not receive any benefits.
Income level was also not a strong factor impacting American workers’ attitudes toward Social Security. In fact, results were largely consistent across income levels.
- Almost half (47%) of Americans with a household income of less than $25,000 would choose to opt out of the system, and 48% of those making between $25,000 and $50,000 a year would as well.
- Slightly more than half (52%) of Americans making over $125,000 a year would choose to stop paying Social Security taxes and not receive the benefit.
The research also shows men are far more likely than women to say they would rather not pay into Social Security or receive any Social Security payments.
- 57% of men age 40 to 49 would opt out of Social Security, while 45% of women in that age group would choose to opt out.
- 62% of men age 30 to 39 would opt out. Just over half (56%) of women age 30 to 39 would choose to opt out.
“As American workers approach the traditional retirement age, they increasingly begin to see the value of some component of guaranteed income, whether or not they plan to keep working,” said Wes Thompson, President of Sun Life Financial U.S. “While the drop in the overall Unretirement Index number reflects a decrease in confidence in Social Security, future Index findings will determine the long-term effects of the current economy on American expectations of retirement.”
Lack of confidence in government benefits grows in recent months
As the global recession has continued over the past several months, the Unretirement Index has shown a growing lack of confidence among American workers in the future availability of government benefits. The Index most recently polled American workers in December 2008. When asked if they believed Social Security will be available to them at age 67, over half of Americans (54%) did not believe it would.
The group that showed the sharpest drop in confidence was forty-something Americans. In August, 52 percent of Americans age 40-49 believed that Social Security would not be available from them at age 67. Three months later the number spiked to 66 percent - a 14 point shift.
What it means to be Unretired
Unretirement is defined as working at least 20 hours per week after the age when one is eligible to receive Social Security benefits. Sun Life created this Index to learn more about the reasons why Americans are choosing to “unretire,” or continue to work full- or part-time after the age of traditional retirement. For the complete Unretirement Index results, visit: http://www.unretirementindex.com.
The most recent version of the Sun Life Unretirement Index was conducted between December 3 and 14 of 2008. Telephone interviews were conducted by Interviewing Service of America using a random-digit dial (RDD) sampling method. Quotas and weights were applied to gather a sample of 1,200 people working either full- or part-time, which was representative of the U.S. working population between the ages of 30 and 66. The sample was also representative in terms of gender and four-region census break. Analysis and construction of indices involved the application of factor analysis. Final indices are based on summated averages across the attributes which make up an index.
Age groups were divided by workers in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60+ and by three ranges of total assets, not including the net worth of the person’s place of residence (less than $100K, between $100K and $500K, and greater than $500K). This sample has a margin of error of 2.8 percent at the 95 percent confidence interval.
About Sun Life Financial
Sun Life Financial is a leading international financial services organization providing a diverse range of protection and wealth accumulation products and services to individuals and corporate customers. Chartered in 1865, Sun Life Financial and its partners today have operations in key markets worldwide, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, India, China and Bermuda. As of December 31, 2008, the Sun Life Financial group of companies had total assets under management of US $313.3 billion. Sun Life Financial Inc. trades on the Toronto (TSX), New York (NYSE) and Philippine (PSE) stock exchanges under ticker symbol SLF. Visit Sun Life Financial’s website at www.sunlife-usa.com.
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David Jacobson, 781-446-1955