Poll: Boomers anxiety about retirement grows
WASHINGTON — A majority of baby boomers say they have taken a financial hit in the past three years and most now doubt that they will be financially secure after they retire, according to a new poll.
So much for kicking back at the lake house, long afternoons of golf or pretty much anything this generation had dreamed about in retirement. The Associated Press-LifeGoesStrong.com poll found a baby boom generation planning to work into retirement years — with 73 percent planning to work past retirement, up from 67 percent this spring.
In all, 53 percent of boomers polled said they do not feel confident they'll be able to afford a comfortable retirement. That's up from 44 percent who were concerned about retirement finances in March.
"I'm not confident at all," says 63-year-old Susan Webb of West Liberty, Iowa.
Webb — one of the 77 million boomers born between 1946 and 1964 — had long hoped to retire at 65 from her job as a real estate broker. Not anymore, not since the economic downturn that led to depressed housing prices, wild stock market swings and an unemployment rate hovering at or above 9 percent for all but two months since May 2009.
Webb and her husband, who's 67, are both still working full time. They hope to ratchet back to part time at some point, but plans for a scenic lake house where they can go fishing and spend time with their two grandchildren will likely mean selling their current home — not part of the original plan.
At 50, Cheri Hubbs of Norfolk, Va., is on the younger side of the boomer spectrum. Even so, she knows she'll work in retirement.
"I just feel like I'm going to work until the day I die," says Hubbs, an administrative assistant.
Hubbs had little saved for retirement when she went to see a financial planner a few years ago. Now, she and her husband are socking away as much money as they can. She's also cut back drastically on her little luxuries — trips to the nail salon and Starbucks.
In the poll, 41 percent of boomers said they are expecting to have to scale back their lifestyle in some way in retirement and 31 percent believe they will struggle financially.
Retirement expert Olivia Mitchell says working longer and cutting back are two practical ways for boomers to save more.
"It's a kind of downscaled consumer society that I see in the next five years at least," said Mitchell, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and executive director of the Pension Research Council. "Consume less and tighten the belt."
Downsizing is part of the plan for software designer Greg Schmidt of Carlisle, Mass.
Schmidt, 53, says there's no doubt he'll be working longer, likely into his 70s. With a daughter in high school and twin 12-year-old boys, he's got college tuitions to worry about as well as an aging father and father-in-law.
He plans one day to move to a smaller home, maybe in the mountains of Vermont. Almost one-quarter of boomers in the poll — 23 percent — said retirement will mean they'll have to move.
For Schmidt, the stock market is another source of anxiety.
"I am most concerned that we're going to be entering a different time and equities aren't quite as valued," he said. "I am afraid I'm a little heavy into equities."
The span between the two AP-LifeGoesStrong.com polls coincided with a 10 percent drop in the Dow Jones industrial average, which recovered most of those losses by climbing this week to above 12,000 before plunging again amid concerns about Europe's debt crisis.
In all, 62 percent of the boomers polled lost money on at least one of four core parts of retirement savings:
—A workplace retirement savings plan, 42 percent.
—Personal investments outside of an IRA/workplace savings, 41 percent.
—An IRA (individual retirement account), 32 percent.
—Real estate, 29 percent.
The AP-LifeGoesStrong.com poll was conducted Oct. 5-12 by Knowledge Networks of Palo Alto, Calif. It involved online interviews with 1,095 baby boomers, as well as companion interviews with an additional 315 adults of other age groups. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points for baby boomers and 4.8 percentage points for all adults.
Knowledge Networks used traditional telephone and mail sampling methods to randomly recruit respondents. People selected who had no Internet access were given it for free.
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