Older Americans are emerging from the economic recession with a different view of retirement, according to a new study released Tuesday.

The SunAmerica Retirement Re-Set Study, conducted in April by Harris Interactive, interviewed 1,001 Americans ages 55 and older about their emotional mindset, attitudes and expectations of pre-retirees and retirees nationwide post-recession. What it found was that 81% say they have learned important lessons regarding retirement preparation in the past few years.

The study — available at www.retirementreset.com — found a significant shift in attitudes and actions since 2001, when SunAmerica conducted its initial retirement study with Age Wave. Key findings about today’s pre-retirees and retirees include:

  • A new outlook: Today, 54% view retirement as a new chapter in life, rather than a winding down — a significant increase over the 38% that held a similar view a decade ago.
  • Retirement is being postponed: Pre-retirees say they now intend to delay retirement by five years — from 64 to 69 — triggered in part by increasing longevity, as well as the recession and financial need.
  • Retirement no longer means the end of work: Almost two-thirds say they would ideally like to remain productive and include some work in retirement to stay active and involved.
  • Financial peace of mind is now six times more important than accumulating wealth: 82% name it their key financial goal.
  • Unexpected multi-generational family assistance has become the new retirement wild card: Pre-retirees must balance their retirement plans with the possibility of having to support aging relatives, adult children, grandchildren and siblings. Nearly half of Americans 55 and older expect to provide this support, and in a new twist on childcare, 70% of those believe their adult children will need financial assistance.

“Emerging from the recession, Americans are beginning to define retirement differently than previous generations of retirees,” says Dr. Ken Dychtwald, gerontologist, founder and CEO of Age Wave. “Having been jolted by the last several years, Americans have adopted more realistic and pragmatic views of the possibilities before them. They now see retirement as a time for new priorities, new opportunities and new strategies for today’s challenges.”

Delving deeper into the study, 76% of respondents said the last few years provided a financial wakeup call, and 84% now exercise more cautious investment strategies. Two-thirds said they now want investments that are guaranteed not to lose value, and 60% want to protect their income from market loss. Dychtwald says Americans now realize retirement is not a do-it-yourself project and that additional education and professional guidance are needed.

This is all good news for the industry, as life insurance and annuity products are ideal vehicles to protect and preserve assets, and older Americans are more actively seeking help with their retirement planning.

For more on retirement readiness, read:

Working with advisors leaves pre-retirees more confident

Retirement!

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