"Plan sponsors made great strides to shore up the financial condition of their pension plans last year," Dave Suchsland, a senior consultant at Towers Watson, said in a statement. "The rising stock market, combined with higher interest rates for the first time in five years, pushed funding levels significantly higher. This is good news for employers, as stronger pension fund balance sheets will reduce required cash contributions in the near term while lower pension costs will improve corporate earnings."
Corporate pensions are in a better financial condition than public plans. Those retirement systems were just 73 percent funded overall at the end of 2012, according to the latest data available from the Boston College Center for Retirement Research.
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A second positive signal is that more American workers are satisfied with their finances and confident about retirement.
Nearly half of respondents (46 percent) were "satisfied" with their current finances, up from 26 percent in 2009, according to a separate Towers Watson survey. Employees' confidence in their ability to retire also continued to climb: 23 percent were "very confident" of having enough income for the first 15 years of retirement.
Of course, those results are hardly a sign that the retirement problem is solved.
About 58 percent of workers remain worried about their financial future and only 8 percent are "very confident" of having adequate income 25 years into retirement, according to the same survey.
"Employees might be on firmer financial footing now than they were five years ago, but many remain nervous about their finances and prospects for a secure retirement," Shane Bartling, a senior consultant at Towers Watson, said in a statement. "This is especially true for older workers who are likely better positioned to assess their retirement income than workers overall. The financial crisis hit workers age 50 and above particularly hard, with the stock market fall creating a huge dent in their retirement savings and their confidence levels."
Read MoreRetirement confidence rises, but the data are grim