Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change
Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change

What retirement train wreck?

Kirby Hamilton | E+ | Getty Images

News about retirement since the financial crisis has been decidedly negative. Workers aren't saving enough. Pensions are underfunded. Long-term investment strategies to make up the difference are far from obvious.

But new research suggests that the state of retirement in America isn't as disastrous as thought.

Towers Watson, a global professional services company that consults on financial management, has two new studies out that provide signs of improvement.

First, the financial health of large U.S. corporate pension plans improved sharply in 2013.

The analysis found that the 100 largest public company pensions improved their funding levels by 13 percentage points, from 78 percent at the end of 2012 to 91 percent at the end of 2013. That's the best funding level since the end of 2007, when the average stood at 103 percent, according to the report.

Reasons for the improvement include rising interest rates, which lowered liabilities, and investment returns that averaged 10.8 percent in 2013.