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Retirement Roadblocks: Hourly Workers

Hourly workers struggle to gain access to retirement savings

A recent survey commissioned by Human Interest and conducted by OnePoll of 1,000 salaried and 1,000 hourly-employed workers analyzed if Americans are saving enough – and if there’s adequate access to savings opportunities – to live a comfortable retirement. 

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Hourly employees are less confident they’ll retire comfortably

The results uncovered a deep uncertainty about how to plan for retirement across many segments of the workforce, especially among hourly workers.

Roughly one-third of hourly employees said they were “winging it” when it came to retirement, and they are less confident they will retire comfortably compared to salaried workers (53% vs. 63%).

That lack of confidence could be tied to a corresponding lack of access. A full quarter of all respondents said their employer did not offer access to retirement savings plans at all. Among those making $60,000 or less annually, lack of access is roughly 30% for hourly workers, compared to 21% for salaried employees.

Generation gaps

Some younger generations have big plans for retirement and “pretirement,” a phase when workers cut down on work hours and seek more flexibility as they transition to retirement. But based on the survey results, they may not be saving enough to do it:

  • A third of Gen Z and 37% of Millennials want to retire before they’re 60. But half of Gen Zers admit they haven’t yet saved $50,000 for retirement, while 54% of Millennials haven’t reached the $100K mark yet.  

  • Gen Zers want to pretire more than any other generation. 48% said they are likely to pretire, but Millennials and Gen Xers are less likely (31% and 20%).

  • Most Gen Zers are confident they’ll retire comfortably (61%) – they are more optimistic than Millennials (59%) and Gen Xers (47%).

Gender differences

Men were more confident they could comfortably retire compared to women (66% vs. 51%), which may be an indication of pay equity gaps and fewer savings opportunities for women. 67% of men said their employers offered a retirement savings plan, while only 59% of women said the same. More women said they were paid hourly (57%) compared to men (43%), making access even more difficult for this group. 

More men are also likely to pretire than women (79% vs. 67%). This may be a result of the pay equity gap – 52% of women have currently saved less than $100,000 for retirement, compared to 45% of men.

Path to more access

There are 56.5 million people without an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan. Employees at small and medium-sized businesses represent the majority (65%) of this group, roughly 37 million employees according to AARP data.1

By opening up access to these 37 million employees, Human Interest believes we could see a significant decrease in those who are just “winging it” on retirement. Extending access to this group through auto-enrolled plans and easy-to-use features like model portfolios could help empower more people to save for retirement.


The random double-opt-in survey of 1,000 salaried and 1,000 hourly employed Americans was commissioned by Human Interest between July 27 and July 31, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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