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Retirement confidence drops

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Posted: 1 pm ET

If you're nervous about your prospects for a comfortable retirement, you have lots of company.

A retirement confidence survey released today by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, or EBRI, a think tank primarily supported by the financial services industry, reported that the percentage of workers who say they are not at all confident that they'll have enough money to live comfortably in retirement has climbed to a new high of 27 percent (up from 22 percent in 2010, and the recent low of 10 percent in 2007 -- before the economic meltdown). Only 13 percent of those surveyed are confident that the stars have aligned and they'll have enough money to enjoy their old age. The rest of us are in the middle -- 36 percent say they are "somewhat confident" and 23 percent are "not too confident."

EBRI calls uncertainty about retirement planning, "the new normal." It outlines a long list of concerns that have undermined worker confidence in their ability to hang up their work boots at the age they wanted to -- or even the age their parents did.

The factors that make people unsure aren't surprising:

  • Rising health care costs with no clear path to control.
  • Longer life expectancies.
  • Low interest rates and investment returns.
  • Less job security.
  • Federal, state, and local government fiscal crises that are described as requiring permanent changes in programs and policies.
  • The call for changes to Social Security, including later retirement ages and lower benefits.
  • Decline in home values.

At least we baby boomers won't be eating kibble alone. More than 21 percent of the population will be older than 65 by the time the last boomers, born in 1964, retire.

What's going to happen to us? I think that despite all the doom and gloom about economic prospects going forward, we'll muddle through. Baby boomers will prevail.

We'll work longer. We'll live more simply. We'll pool our resources. And we'll continue to be a political force to reckoned with. When more than 75 million grannies and grandpas go out to vote, we won't be ignored. You can have confidence in that.

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