Achieving retirement security can be a complex and confusing process. For the past 20 years, the proportion of private sector workers who do not have access to retirement savings benefits through the workplace has held steady at about 30 percent. And these workers aren’t saving on their own: Fewer than 15 percent of households save for retirement outside of work. Moreover, so-called contingent workers—those who operate outside of traditional employment relationships—now number more than 15 million, but they have especially low levels of retirement savings. In addition, the first waves of workers who have saved for retirement wholly through plans such as 401(k) accounts are retiring and deciding what to do with their savings. And although the financial choices at the end of a career can be daunting, not every retiree is financially positioned to face them. These developments are contributing to an aggregate savings shortfall of more than $4 trillion, a cost that taxpayers will ultimately bear in increased spending on social services for retirees without adequate savings.

The Pew Charitable Trusts retirement savings project focuses on the following areas of research and support to help address these issues:

  • Retirement savings policy initiatives. Several states have begun implementing programs to increase retirement plan coverage. The most common approach involves automatically enrolling workers without a workplace plan in an IRA administered by a private sector firm, with the ability to opt out. The retirement savings project provides data, analysis, and technical assistance to help these states develop effective savings plans that do not overburden employers. 
  • Preserving retirement assets. The fees associated with retirement savings, which include both investment and administrative costs, can reduce Americans’ retirement savings. As retirees leave the workforce, many face a complex set of financial choices on their own and turn to advisers for guidance. Unfortunately, unsuitable financial products and services cost retirement account holders an estimated $17 billion in higher fees annually. The retirement savings project examines the feasibility of policies or market practices to help improve retirees’ financial choices and decisions, such as promoting low-fee investment options, making it easier to keep savings in employer-provided plans at and through retirement, and improving the portability of benefits through low-fee vehicles for workers who change jobs.
  • Contingent workers and barriers to saving. Americans typically rely on employer-sponsored plans for retirement savings, yet nearly half of U.S. firms—and 70 percent of small businesses—do not offer workers this option. Furthermore, people in contingent or alternative work arrangements, such as independent contractors and freelance workers, now represent roughly 16 percent of all U.S. workers. Contingent workers do not have easy and efficient access to a retirement savings plan and, as a result, most are not saving on their own. The retirement savings project is working to identify barriers to businesses establishing retirement plans for workers, as well as segments of the workforce—especially contingent workers—that are most likely to want and need an effective retirement savings program. The project will also assess the potential effectiveness of policies and market practices that would connect workers to such options.

Meet the team

John Scott

Director

John Scott directs Pew’s research on barriers to retirement savings, retirement policy initiatives, and the disclosure of retirement plan fees.

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Alison Shelton

Senior research officer

Alison Shelton is a senior research officer on Pew’s retirement savings team. She has written and spoken extensively about retirement security, Social Security, and unemployment. Shelton has authored or co-authored numerous papers on aspects of America’s retirement system, the Social Security program, and proposals for reform. She also has modeled the impact of various proposals.

Before joining Pew, Shelton worked at AARP’s Public Policy Institute, the Congressional Research Service, and the U.S. Treasury Department, where at one point she served as special assistant to the undersecretary for domestic finance. She has a master’s degree in public policy from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor’s degree in history from Smith College.

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Andrew Blevins

Principal policy associate

Andrew Blevins is a principal associate for policy with Pew’s retirement savings project. He provides research and analysis on barriers to retirement savings, retirement policy proposals, and retirement plan fees to policymakers, regulators, and other stakeholders at the state and federal levels. Earlier, Blevins worked with Pew’s consumer banking project, researching the accounts that Americans rely on to manage their daily finances. Before joining Pew, he conducted research at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago with a focus on community development. Blevins holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Lawrence University and a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy.

Mark Hines

Senior research associate

Mark Hines is a senior research associate with Pew’s retirement savings project. He uses survey research and program and administrative data to study the barriers to, and motivations for, saving for retirement. These include the role of plan fees, public perceptions of state and federal retirement policy proposals, and attitudes toward participation in retirement savings programs. Before joining Pew, Hines was a policy analyst at the U.S. Social Security Administration, where he worked on policies related to insurance benefits for children and surviving spouses, and the implementation of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision. Hines holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and political science from Washington University in St. Louis, a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, and a Ph.D. in government from Georgetown. 

Theron Guzoto

Senior research associate

Theron Guzoto is a senior research associate with Pew’s retirement savings project. He investigates the barriers to saving for retirement, the implications of current state and federal policy proposals for increasing saving, and the impact of retirement plan fee disclosures. Before joining Pew, Guzoto was a policy fellow at the Center for Community Change, conducting research and analyses on the Social Security program. He has researched political economy and governance at Georgetown University. Guzoto holds a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy and a bachelor’s degree in politics, philosophy, and economics from Western Washington University.