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Americans fret over retirement

- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 7, 2009

America's baby boomers are getting jittery, and they aren't alone.

Two recent surveys reveal how unsure Americans - not just seniors - are about their retirement accounts as the recession deepens.

A survey conducted by Harris Interactive last month reveals that four in 10 Americans believe the current economic situation will force them to delay retirement up to 10 years later than planned, or that retirement will not be an option at all.

Another survey, America Saves, released last month shows that the number of people saving for retirement declined from 52 percent last year to 49 percent this year.

"The current economic roller coaster is making people queasy about their retirement," said Arkadi Kuhlmann, president of ING Direct USA, the business that commissioned the Harris survey. "As a result, more people think the bright lights of their golden years are fading further into the sunset."

Stephen Brobeck, director of the Consumer Federation of America, said: "Tens of millions who still have their jobs and have suffered little or no loss of retirement savings worry that a deepening recession will eventually cost them ... income or even their jobs."

The Harris survey reveals that 47 percent of Americans are completely unaware of how much money they will need to retire, and one in five are still depending on their Social Security benefits to be the main source of their retirement funds.

Sixty-five percent of Americans have not adjusted their retirement investments, despite the obvious economic struggle that has persisted within the past two years. Additionally, one-fifth of Americans are contributing less to their retirement accounts than they were last year.

Of the 1,000-plus participants in the America Saves survey, 77 percent of respondents were concerned about how the recession has affected their finances. Fifty-one percent said that they are saving for retirement in employer programs, a four-percentage-point decline from last year.

Americans who believe they will pay off their mortgages before retirement declined from 76 percent to 74 percent. The survey also reveals that Americans who are debt-free and own property fell from 67 percent to 62 percent.

"Now is the time to stop brushing the topic of retirement under the rug and take matters into your own hands," Mr. Kuhlmann said. "Review your long-term financial goals and develop a responsible retirement plan that works well for you."