Roughly a third of workers have tapped retirement accounts, survey finds

Transamerica study warns that 'leakage' from plans could threaten retirement

Almost one-third — 31% — of full-time workers have taken a loan or made an early withdrawal from their 401(k) or IRA account, according to a study from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.

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This ‘leakage’ from tax-advantaged vehicles that encourage savings “can severely inhibit the growth of participants’ long-term retirement savings,” the study said, adding that from a policy perspective these early withdrawals should be discouraged.

Other survey findings confirm several common sense assumptions about savings and retirement: higher income workers save more, are more prepared for retirement and are more likely to use a financial adviser.

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Still, even among higher earners, savings seem inadequate for the expected longevity of today’s workers. Those with an annual household income of $100,000 or more have saved $222,000, compared with the estimated median savings of $50,000 in all household retirement accounts and just $3,000 among those earning less than $50,000. College graduates have saved $160,000, compared with only $23,000 among nongraduates.

The survey found that only 65% of workers are offered a 401(k) or similar plan by their employers, including 71% of full-time workers and just 45% of part-time workers.

[More:​ Stop coming up with ideas to raid retirement savings]

The report suggested expanding access to workplace retirement plans and encouraging wider adoption of automatic enrollment by retirement plan sponsors to increase participation rates among workers.

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