Half of Baby Boomer clients who have postponed retirement due to the economic downturn expect to work at least four years longer than they originally planned, according to a new survey of CPA financial planners.

The survey, by the American Institute of CPAs, found widespread pessimism about retirement plans, even with resurging confidence in the stock market, which, with recent gains, is helping replenish retirement accounts. Fifty-two percent of CPA financial planners said their clients—who typically have between $500,000 and $5 million in assets—are at least somewhat confident in the stock market now. That’s a turnaround from a year ago when 54 percent said their clients were not very confident.

“Boomers have been scarred by the economic turmoil of the past few years and face complex challenges going forward,” said Clark M. Blackman II, chair of the AICPA’s Personal Financial Planning Executive Committee. “While more optimistic about the markets, many Boomers remain uncertain about the U.S. economy and their own situations as they contend with job loss—their own and their children’s—lower home values and rising education costs.”

This year is a significant milestone for the Baby Boomer generation, the time when the first of them turn 65 and begin to retire. Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, number 77 million and represent about 37 percent of the nation’s total population age 16 or older, according to government statistics.

In the AICPA survey, conducted between January 12 and February 1, 79 percent of CPA financial planners said they had at least one Boomer client who has delayed retirement because of the economy. Asked how many extra years those Boomer clients expect to work, 32.3 percent of CPA financial planners said one to three years; 39.3 percent said four to six years; 9.8 percent said seven to 10 years; and 3.7 percent said more than 10 years.

Financial concerns are also prompting changes in education decisions. Half of CPA financial planners surveyed said that compared with five years ago, more of their clients’ children are opting for state universities or community colleges over private schools because of  cost.

Other survey results found that 48 percent of CPA financial planners said their typical client is somewhat or very pessimistic about the U.S. economy amid gaping budget deficits and high unemployment. Fifty-one percent of CPA financial planners said at least one client was turned down for a mortgage or refinance in the past year. The most common reasons were lower home values and higher underwriting standards. Forty-four percent of CPA financial planners said their average client emerged from the recession with increased net worth and 17 percent saw their net worth stay the same.

“These survey results show optimism tinged with some caution,” said Lyle K. Benson, president of L.K. Benson & Co. in Baltimore, Md., a member of the AICPA’s Personal Financial Planning executive committee. “Having weathered the economic storm, clients are turning to CPA financial planners to help make sense of the new reality and get back on track toward their financial and personal goals.”

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