People who work in higher education tend to be conservative with their retirement planning investment strategies, whether they are young or old, according to a new survey.

The survey, by Fidelity Investments, polled approximately 600 higher education employees across three different generations: Gen Y (ages 21-32), Gen X (ages 33-46) and Baby Boomers (ages 47-65).

Forty-nine percent of the higher education workers surveyed described themselves as “conservative” investors when it comes to retirement, regardless of their age. The survey found that younger employees used basically the same asset allocation strategies as their older counterparts, with Gen Y using a similar asset mix of 50 percent stock, 35 percent bonds and annuities, and 15 percent cash, compared to Gen X employees and Baby Boomers.

According to Fidelity, the investment strategies should be very different for different age groups.

“Time until retirement is one of the biggest factors that should be considered when determining asset allocation,” said John Ragnoni, executive vice president of Fidelity’s tax-exempt business, in a statement. “While we recognize many investors are feeling cautious in these uncertain markets, the asset mix of a participant with decades until retirement should look very different from that of someone who is on the verge of tapping into his or her retirement savings.”

However, so-called “target date funds,” which are supposed to adjust asset allocations as participants get closer to retirement age, have attracted controversy in recent years. Many of them were found to have performed relatively poorly during the financial crisis and have also been associated with comparatively high management fees.

Fifty-five percent of all the higher education employees surveyed by Fidelity said they consider themselves to be “beginners” at investing, including 71 percent of the Gen Y survey respondents, 50 percent of Gen X respondents, and 51 percent of the Baby Boomers polled. In addition, 63 percent of the survey respondents said they are concerned they will not be able to live comfortably in retirement.

The survey showed Baby Boomers rely mostly on guidance from financial professionals (42 percent) and employer-provided education materials (37 percent) for help with their retirement savings. In contrast, Gen X respondents said they rely primarily on educational materials from employers (37 percent) and Web sites (36 percent). Gen Y respondents said they rely more on friends and family (54 percent) and online planning tools (41 percent).

When asked to describe their personal plan for retirement, only 24 percent of the survey respondents indicated they had a formal plan in place. Even among Baby Boomers, only 27 percent said they had a formal plan in place.

When asked about their plans for retirement, 46 percent of the survey respondents said they would delay retirement or never retire at all. The likelihood of delaying retirement was even greater among faculty employees, with more than half (54 percent) indicating they would delay retirement or never retire. This trend was even higher among older faculty members, with 68 percent saying they would either delay their retirement or never retire at all.

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