Government Reform

The Public Is Conflicted Over Where to Place Responsibility for Retirement Savings


The results from the latest Reason-Rupe poll show ostensibly conflicting results about where Americans place the primary responsibility for retirement savings and for health insurance costs during retirement.

When the questions avoid the polarizing context of "entitlement reform" or the explicit mention of Social Security, a clear majority of Americans (60 percent) believe that they are primarily responsible for saving enough money to meet their own basic expenses in retirement. Roughly a third of Americans believe they should primarily expect help from the government to meet basic expenses in retirement.

When the question becomes who "should be primarily responsible for saving enough money to purchase health insurance in retirement," just 43 percent of respondents believe they should be primarily responsible. Fifty percent believe they should primarily expect help from the government to acquire health insurance. This attitude may stem in part from the current regulatory framework, which makes it easier to obtain health insurance through employers. Thus it might not be clear to many Americans just how they would go about obtaining competitively-priced health insurance in the private market.

Despite these somewhat conflicting numbers, a substantial percentage of Americans do nonetheless believe they are primarily responsible for saving enough money to meet their own basic retirement expenses, including health insurance. This finding should prompt further discussion about reforming these massive programs, since nearly half—if not more than half—of Americans believe responsibility for retirement should lie with the individual.

NEXT: Fifty Seven Percent of Americans Believe Cutting Government Spending Will Help the Economy

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  1. Not enough witty sidebars…

  2. And the Reason blog posters are conflicted as to when they posted, and if they will take credit for their writing.


  4. What about the other 6-7%? WHAT DID THEY ANSWER?

  5. Dem pie charts be missin’ slices.

    1. Oh, the slices are fine, it’s the numbers that are bitched.

  6. I want an age breakdown of respondents. I suspect that there’s a lot more silver hair in the 33% of the first chart and almost no college students…..

  7. What if the question asked whether they should primarily expect help from “other people” rather than “the government” since the government only acts as the hold up man intermediary and not the actual source of the money.

    1. What if the question asked whether they — not “the government” — should primarily expect to help other people?

  8. The power of Commerce Clause compels you!!! The power of Commerce Clause compels you!!!

  9. Wrong question. The question isn’t what people think they should do, but what they will do. And we know what they won’t do, which is save for retirement.

    1. Except, you know, for all the people saving for retirement.

      1. The value of which the government is actively reducing.

        The only thing the government hates more than irresponsible citizens is responsible citizens.

  10. I’d like to see the age breakdown on those stats.

    People who’ve had what would have been their retirement savings sucked away from them for decades, and now feel retirement breathing down their necks? Probably feel like the government owes them something for all that stolen money…

    And people who are just entering the workforce are probably a lot more likely to feel like they’d rather opt out of social security so they don’t get run over like their parents did…

    Which, probably means that a nice chunk of the people who think the government should fund their retirement now–are probably a lot of the same people who would have opted out of the system when they were younger if they could have done so.

    I know that’s one of the things that’s always motivated me–the idea that if I didn’t bust my ass that someday I’d end up completely dependent on the government. …to the point that I’d be afraid somebody would take those shitty government services away from me?

    What a pathetic existence that must be!

    The other thing that always strikes me about this stuff is that it used to be in this country–like it is just about everywhere else that doesn’t have a senior citizen “security net”. …where the people who are really responsible for providing a security net for the elderly–are the elderly’s children.

    I mean–we’re all pretty much universally disgusted by people who don’t take care of their children’s basic needs, and that’s the way people elsewhere in the world look at those who don’t or won’t take care of their own elderly parents…

    Pawning your children off on the government to take care of because you’re too poor or pathetic to take care of them yourself? Really isn’t much worse than shirking your responsibility to take care of your elderly parents.

  11. Lack of obligation to one’s parents is a result of atomistic individualism, aka libertarianism.

    1. “Lack of obligation to one’s parents is a result of atomistic individualism, aka libertarianism.”

      No, lack of obligation to one’s parents is predicated on the bizarre assumption that taking care of one’s parents is the government’s responsibility…

      It’s the same sickness that makes people think it’s the government’s responsibility to educate, house and feed their children too!

      It’s the same sickness that makes people think it’s the government’s responsibility to bail them out of their home loan.

      Taking care of oneself and one’s own responsibilities–is a natural product of individualism. Pawning one’s own responsibilities off on the government–does not come from individualism. It comes from the welfare mentality. People who save nothing for their retirement, provide nothing for their parents, help themselves to student loans and grow up to send their children to public schools–are welfare queens. …and whether they top it off with food-stamps is completely beside the point.

      No, I don’t owe you–or your parents–a living. And people who act like parasites their whole lives end up thinking like parasites. I’m sure all parasites imagine themselves entitled to what they feed on–that’s what being a parasite is all about! …that and imagining that everyone else is a parasite too.

      1. So while you’re busy morally judging people for not being prudent enough to afford retirement, their parents’ healthcare costs, and 13 years of education for their children, lots and lots of people will simply fail and lots of old people and children will be screwed. What do you propose to do about that? Continue pointing the finger of moral condemnation? It’s worked so well for the Christians after all these years.

        Do you not realize that no matter how much you lecture people about their choices (assuming it’s all a matter of choice–as if everyone could be wealthy if they just tried hard enough), people will slip through the cracks and there’s nothing you can do about it? Seems that leaves two choices: leave their fates (oh, and the fate of their children) up to natural selection, or provide a safety net.

        1. people will slip through the cracks and there’s nothing you can do about it

          Indeed this is true, but the least the government can do is to stop encouraging it.

  12. For practical purposes, they should have asked, “Would you vote for a politician who plans to cut medicare benefits?”

    When you take it out of the abstract, Joe Voter suddenly becomes a strikingly more staunch defender of government social welfare programs. Although, I do understand the point above about older people, having spent decades seeing taxes subtracted from their paychecks, feeling like medicare is owed to them.

  13. I’d also like to see a follow up question which does bring Social Security back into it by asking whether the individual answering the question considers Social Security to be the government giving them money, or them saving money themselves and the government simply handling it for them. Because I have a sneaking suspicion that the latter would be the majority answer.

  14. What is more boring than the results of one Reason-Rupe poll? The results of two Reason-Rupe polls! But keep up the good work, guys! By conducting useless polls, you’re creating jobs! If only the government would do this! Then we could get out of this damn recession!

  15. This question would have an easier answer if it were not complicated by the fact that many of us have been compelled to pay a substantial portion of our incomes into the SS system for all of our working lives. It’s one thing to say “take care of yourselves”, which is fine. It’s something else to say that you are required to pay into a retirement system, but asking to get that money back is, somehow, an entitlement. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t tax people for their retirement and then say – take care of yourselves.

    1. Sounds logical. However, that is a large chunk of money that the top 1% doesn’t yet have its hands on, and as we all know, they are the best at allocating resources. Even though we could leave the system exactly as it is and still make every payment for the next 25 years, eventually it will need to be transferred to the top 1% so that we know the money is being spent on useful things like mother-of-pearl inlay, and not wasteful things like feeding old people.

  16. Those pie charts looks like the work of government.

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