WASHINGTON BUREAU – Americans seem to be feeling better about the economy and the state of their own finances.

Principal Financial Group Inc., Des Moines, Iowa (NYSE:PFG), published survey results documenting the improvement in confidence here today at a seminar sponsored by the Financial Services Roundtable, Washington.

Principal found that 72% of employees and 56% of retirees say they are very concerned about their long-term financial future.

The percentage of working survey participants who said they feel better off financially than they felt at the beginning of the year has increased to 40%, from 37% a year ago, and the percentage who said they expect to spend less money during the holiday season this year than they spent last year has decreased to 31%, down from 46% a year ago and down from 53% 2 years ago.

“We are seeing some confidence return as Americans are starting to feel better about their finances and the economy, which is resulting in some positive behavior for long-term savings,” Principal Chairman Larry Zipleman said.

But near retirees – members of the Silent Generation and older baby boomers — are understandably more pessimistic than others, according to Cathy Weatherford, president of the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI), Washington.

Weatherford said about 70% of boomers within 5 years of retirement, and nearly 80% of boomers outside of that window, are concerned about having adequate income during retirement.

“Troublingly, 55% of boomers more than 5 years out from retiring do not know how much they need to save for retirement,” Weatherford said. “Our survey found that more than half of all unretired boomers plan to rely on Social Security for their retirement income. This is a clear indication that financial professionals, elected officials and the media all need to better educate consumers.”

During a conference call, seminar participants said baby boomers are turning to income annuities to provide guaranteed retirement income.

“At New York Life, we are seeing strong consumer interest in guaranteed lifetime income, and retail investors are beginning to ask for retirement portfolios that behave like pensions,” said Chris Blunt, an executive vice president at New York Life Insurance Company, New York. “With the first of nearly 80 million Baby Boomers now entering retirement, financial advisors are more focused on this area than at any time in history. It’s a great opportunity for our industry to deliver meaningful solutions that are in the public interest.”