In its annual Retirement Confidence Survey, it found that worker expectations for their later years withered in the face of high unemployment, government budget problems, rising health care costs, lower investment returns and other factors.
But the study's authors saw a silver lining in the findings because it suggests workers are finally facing up to the harsh realities of retirement, circa 2011.
"These are positive findings, said EBRI research director Jack VanDerhei, a co-author of the study.
"People's expectations need to come closer to reality so they will save more and delay retirement until it is financially feasible," he said.
The study, conducted annually by EBRI and consulting firm Matthew Greenwald & Associates, is funded primarily by financial firms that sell products and services related to retirement investing. And it is not exhaustive - for example, it asks workers about their savings' levels but doesn't include home equity or defined benefit pensions, two big categories that are likely to boost the retirement lifestyles of at least some respondents.