Americans Worry About Basic Expenses in Retirement, but Silver Lining for Advisors

Annual survey from The Hartford finds those who plan for retirement are more optimistic and likely more on target

Forget about dreams of the good life in the golden years, Americans today are most concerned about meeting basic living expenses in their retirement years, according to the 2009 Investments and Retirement Survey from The Hartford Financial Services Group. Keeping up with daily expenses for food, shelter, and other basic needs became the primary worry for 65.2% of respondents to this, the fourth annual, survey. Last year, that was the top concern for only 49.7%, which was double the 2006 figure of 24.5%.

"The financial turmoil of the last few years has taken a huge toll on America's confidence about the future and apparent readiness for retirement," said Jamie Ohl, senior VP and director of The Hartford's Retirement Plans Group.

Only 14.4% of respondents stated that their goal in retirement was "enjoying life" in 2009, down from 26.2% and 43.2% in 2008 and 2007, respectively.

Being able to afford healthcare was third on the list, with 14% identifying that as their primary concern. That figure is down from the 15.9% who listed that as number one last year, which could be due to optimism about healthcare reform or because other issues have become more worrisome.

The greatest risk found by the survey was fear of "outliving my money" (23%) and the number of respondents who saw the lack of a guaranteed income as the biggest risk nearly doubled to 19.2% from 10.2% in 2008.

There are some encouraging indicators in the survey as well, particularly for financial planners and other advisors including:

  1. * Those who planned for retirement were three times more likely to be confident that they will have sufficient income in retirement;
  2. * Those who said they had planned for retirement were three times more likely to rely on an independent financial expert for credible financial advice than those who said they did no planning;
  3. * More than 82% of respondents said they were less than confident in their financial planning knowledge and abilities, with 34.2% indicating they were "not too" or "not at all" confident;
  4. * Retirement and/or financial planning are viewed as too complex or too difficult by 50% of Americans.
The survey was conducted in the summer of 2009 and polled 751 consumers age 45 or older who were initially contacted by e-mail and then completed the survey online.
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