Broad support for pensions for all workers

A new national survey finds that 77 percent of Americans agree that all workers, not just those working for state and local government, should have a pension. And even though the nation is deeply divided on many issues, support for pensions is consistent across political party lines. Eighty percent of Democrats, 75 percent of Republicans, and 78 percent of independents support pensions.

These findings are from the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), whose executive director, Dan Doonan, co-authored the report.

“From healthcare workers to first-responders to teachers, these employees have worked tirelessly and taken immense risks this past year” during the COVID-19 pandemic, Doonan said. “Our research shows that Americans understand that pensions offer more than retirement security – they are a key workforce tool to help attract and retain employees. State and local governments typically offer lower salaries than the private sector, so retirement and healthcare benefits act as employee magnets.

“We also found it interesting that nearly half of Americans say that public-sector retirement benefits are about right, while about one-third say the benefits are too low.”

While the majority of Americans aren’t on track for a secure retirement, most public employees pay into a pension plan that is their primary retirement benefit, which often is supplemented by individual savings and Social Security. Workers with these three sources of retirement income are best-positioned for a secure retirement, Doonan said.

Pensions are economically efficient and provide a sizable economic impact across the U.S. Retiree spending of public and private-sector pension benefits in 2018 generated $1.3 trillion in total economic output, supporting nearly 7 million jobs across the nation. Pension spending also added nearly $192 billion to government coffers at the federal, state and local levels, according to the NIRS study.

Conducted by Greenwald Research, the study involved interviews in December 2020 of 1,203 individuals 25 and older.

NIRS is a non-profit organization that supports retirement system policymaking. Membership includes financial services firms, employee benefit plans, trade associations, and other retirement service providers.