Americans Increasingly Have Access to Retirement Benefits
In 2018, 71% of workers had access to public and private employer-provided retirement benefit plans and 55% of workers participated in an employer-provided plan (Fig. 49). Employees at smaller employers, defined as having less than 100 workers, had access to retirement benefits 55% of the time in 2018, compared to 86% of employees at large employers. Union employees are more likely to have access to retirement benefits than non-union employees: 95% of union workers receive retirement benefits compared to 67% of non-union workers. However, union participation is on the decline; 22% of workers were represented by a union in 2018, compared to 28% in 2000.
Retirement plans for most Americans are changing. Access to pensions with a defined benefit is declining, from 31% in 2008 to 26% in 2018 (Fig. 50). Over this same period, access to defined contribution plans, such as 401(k)s, has risen from 52% in 2008 to 60% in 2018. As of 2016, 21 million people were participating in public pension programs from state and local government agencies, 5.3 million in public pension programs from federal government agencies, and as of 2015, 40.1 million in private employer-provided pension programs.
As of 2017, 8.4 million households, or 6.5% of all households, were unbanked (Fig. 51). Unbanked households do not have access to financial services, such as savings accounts, credit or debit cards, or non-employer-based retirement accounts.