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Retirement concerns restrain overall optimism

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Has financial security sentiment hit bottom? It’s too early to tell, according to an analysis by COUNTRY Financial. Even though it may seem to Americans that things couldn’t get any worse, retirement concerns will continue to suppress all-around optimism in the near future, analysts say.

The COUNTRY Financial Security Index dropped nearly a point to 64.9 in April almost entirely due to a decline in the number of people who are confident about their retirement, according to findings released Tuesday. After holding relatively stable for the last year, the number of people who feel confident they will have the money for a comfortable retirement dropped five points in April to a record low 54 percent.

While outlook remains bleak, it’s not getting worse, indicating a possible level-off, according to the Index. The number of Americans rating their overall level of financial security as poor is at a record high (20 percent). April marks the first time since last summer this number has not worsened. Forty-seven percent of Americans were recently able to set aside money for savings or investments, a one-point uptick since February and the first since last June. After concerns about college funding spiked in February, they remained relatively stable in April. A total of 59 percent are confident they will have the financial resources needed to send their children to college.

“Until now, Americans’ concerns have been focused primarily on day-to-day money matters. As the recession wears on, it is understandable that people are now significantly more worried about the long term,” said Keith Brannan, vice president of Financial Security Planning at COUNTRY in a released statement.

A similar survey released this week by AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company finds retirement concerns paramount – which is sharply followed by an all-too-repeated warning that boomers and the rest of the U.S. population are not taking the appropriate route to secure their long term goals.

“The fact that people are still concerned about the health of their retirement during the market volatility we are experiencing makes it clear that they still understand the importance of preparing for their financial future,” said Christopher Condron, chairman and CEO of AXA Equitable, in a statement. “What is alarming however, is that so many are still not taking the steps needed to achieve those goals.”

The latest AXA Equitable study found although meeting day-to-day financial obligations is clearly more important, securing guaranteed income for life remains the top priority for 69 percent of Americans polled. A sense of inertia follows that focus, as half of the respondents indicated they have done nothing to change their financial picture.


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