Rural workers often lack 401(k) plans and have less retirement savings than their urban and suburban counterparts, putting them at risk of retiring later or not at all.
According to research from the nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies (TCRS), in collaboration with Transamerica Institute, rural workers have lower median household incomes than suburban and urban workers ($65,000, $88,000, $90,000, respectively).
Suburban and urban workers are more likely to have saved $250,000 or more (30%, 26%, respectively), compared with only 18% of rural workers. Of concern, 13% of rural workers have no household retirement savings, which is a significantly higher proportion than that of urban and suburban workers (8%, 6%, respectively).
“In recent decades, economic activity in the U.S. has become increasingly concentrated in urban and suburban areas. As a result, rural workers are getting left behind regarding employment opportunities and retirement preparations,” said Catherine Collinson, CEO and president of Transamerica Institute and TCRS.
Rural workers account for about 16% of all workers in the U.S., according to research from the University of New Hampshire.
Only 66% of rural workers are offered a 401(k) or similar plan by their employer, and 72% of them participate. In comparison, 74% of both urban and suburban workers are offered a plan, and about 8 in 10 participate, the research found.
Rural workers have saved $33,000 in total household retirement accounts, while urban workers have saved $67,000 and suburban workers have saved $82,000 (estimated medians).
Rural workers also lack confidence in their ability to retire with a lifestyle they consider comfortable. Nearly three in four urban workers are confident in their ability to retire with a comfortable lifestyle, compared with 71% for suburban and 58% for rural workers.
Only 45% of rural workers expect to retire at age 70 or older or do not plan to retire, and 30% expect Social Security to be their primary source of retirement income.
“Amid concerns about Social Security, the disappearance of traditional defined benefit pensions, and intensifying expectations that workers self-fund a greater portion of their retirement income, many workers are inadequately saving and are at risk of not achieving a financially secure retirement,” Collinson said. “Enhancing retirement security involves addressing demographic disparities, removing structural barriers, and future-proofing the system so everyone can retire with dignity.”
When asked about current financial priorities, more than half of all three demographics cited paying off debt as a main goal. Suburban workers were more likely to cite saving for retirement as a goal compared with urban and rural workers. About four in 10 workers across the three demographics cited building emergency savings as a financial priority.
Rural workers (38%), however, were more likely to cite just getting by to cover basic living expenses, compared with urban and suburban workers (25%, 24%), the study found.
Workers across all the three demographics had different retirement fears, with rural workers more likely to fear Social Security being reduced or ceasing to exist (45%) and not being able to meet the basic financial needs of their families (35%).
In comparison, suburban workers are somewhat more likely to fear possible long-term care costs, cognitive decline, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and losing their independence. Urban workers are somewhat more likely to fear feeling isolated and alone, lack of affordable housing, and finding meaningful ways to spend time in retirement.