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Boomers Feel The Squeeze

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Members of the generation born between 1946 and 1964 are worrying about the effects of cuts in government programs and employee benefits.

Researchers at a unit of MetLife Inc., New York, have published figures comparing how members of different generations view their finances in a summary of results from a November 2006 survey of 1,567 U.S. residents ages 19 and older.

In addition to looking at baby boomers, the researchers looked at members of the Silent Generation, who were born between 1933 and 1945; Generation X, who were born between 1965 and 1975; and members of Generation Y, who were born between 1977 and 1994.

Responses to many questions were similar for participants of different ages, but the boomer participants showed signs of feeling far more financial pressure.

About 72% of the boomers said they feel as if they are financially “on their own,” 79% of the boomers worry about whether they will be able to count on Medicare and Social Security benefits, and 68% said they worry about employer-sponsored retirement benefits, the MetLife researchers report.

Meanwhile, only 65% of all participants said they feel as if they are on their own, only 73% said they have serious concerns about government benefits, and only 61% worry about employer-sponsored benefits.

Members of the Silent Generation show the most confidence in their finances: Only 53% say they feel as if they are financially on their own, only 65% worry about government benefits, and only 42% worry about employer-sponsored benefits.

Members of the Silent Generation were the most likely to say, “I have it good compared to my parents’ generation.”

Boomers were most likely to say, “I am carrying more of the financial burdens for my family than my parents’ generation had to” and also most likely to report that their financial life is going in the wrong direction.

Members of Generation X and Generation Y also are showing some signs of stress: GenXers were the most likely to worry that the financial “burden shift” will interfere with children’s and grandchildren’s ability to live a comfortable life, and GenYers were the most likely to cite “having enough money to take care of elderly parents or in-laws” as an important part of “financial security.”

“The financial burden shift is having profound implications on how Americans define and approach the American dream,” MetLife Chairman Rob Henrikson said today at a press conference held to unveil the survey results. “Where previously the American dream was defined as a combination of homeownership, a happy family life, and financial security stemming from a stable career, the defining theme now is almost a singular desire for financial security.”

Worry about government benefits is “the central domestic policy issue of our time,” said Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D.

The MetLife survey results are consistent with recent polls that show 71% of Americans feel the country is “not on the right track,” even though the stock markets continue to hit new highs, Pomeroy said.

He said he will try to address that concern by reintroducing a bill that could create a lifetime payout annuity that would make part of the annual payout tax-free.


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