With the volatility of the stock market (which fell to a new 5-year low today), it’s no wonder the top financial priority for Americans is guaranteed income.

AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company’s October consumer study reveals the attitudes and behaviors of Americans have shifted considerably within the past six months.

“It’s no surprise that attitudes and behaviors have changed, especially given the period of economic instability we’re experiencing,” says Barbara Goodstein, executive vice president and chief innovation officer for AXA Equitable. “What is striking, however, is the heightened priority being placed so quickly on securing a stream of lifetime income.”

The study also found that those placing a priority on protection from outliving retirement savings increased dramatically, from 59 percent six months ago to 71 percent in October. Securing protection against market conditions also increased considerably with 68 percent ranking it as a priority, compared to a little more than half (53 percent) back in April.

Other findings from the study include:

  • Slightly more than half of those polled (54 percent) said they have not made financial changes, nor do they intend to do so. For the 25 percent of those who have thought about doing something, the actions most considered included meeting with an advisor (62 percent), reallocating investments (47 percent) or making withdrawals (24 percent).
  • Of the 21 percent who have actually taken action amid the volatility, 67 percent said they reallocated investments, 56 percent bought products like annuities, life insurance and stocks, and 24 percent made withdrawals from 401(k) or 403(b) accounts or liquidated personal investments.
  • Of all the sources to learn about finances, almost half of those polled (48 percent) sought information from news and financial Web sites. Other preferred sources included newspapers (45 percent), financial professionals (35 percent) and magazines (15 percent).
  • Consumer perception shifted when polled on trust, as 61 percent ranked financial professionals the most trustworthy – 10 percentage points more than financial Web sites (51 percent) and 20 percentage points more than news Web sites (41 percent).
  • Women are more concerned amid the current market turmoil about their retirement savings than male counterparts. Specifically, 84 percent of women polled rated having a guaranteed source of lifetime income as “extremely important,” compared to just 73 percent of men.
  • Women are also significantly more concerned about protecting retirement income from market downturn as 75 percent viewed it as “extremely important,” compared to just 60 percent of men.
  • Although more concerned than men about the future, the study found women are less likely to make changes in response to current market conditions. Specifically, more than half of men polled (55 percent) said they have re-allocated money in an employer-sponsored account, compared to just 40 percent of women. In addition, 29 percent of men have either withdrawn money from an employer-sponsored account or mutual funds, or sold stocks, compared to 19 percent of women.