Despite tightening their wallets, Americans are now further from achieving their retirement goals amidst the weakening economy. That’s the word from Bank of America in its new 2008 Retirement Savings Survey which says that a growing number of Americans are concerned that the current economic crisis is threatening to leave them further behind on their retirement plans. This survey finds that 60 percent of Americans are spending less than they were three months ago as a result of the current economic climate and more than half (51 percent) of the general public and 40 percent of affluent Americans are also saving less than they were, also three months ago; in fact, one in five say it is “much less.” Although the majority of respondents (69 percent) with at least one retirement account say that they have not withdrawn assets from their account(s) prematurely, recent economic conditions have caused 18 percent to withdraw assets prematurely. The leading reasons for these early withdrawals are near-term financial obligations, such as credit card debt (26 percent), and mortgage payments (22 percent), with an additional 22 percent citing recent job loss. Keep in mind that these numbers may increase significantly if the economy worsens because many more people will be dipping into their retirement savings and that could have profound implications for the country’s economic well-being. Moreover, this study shows that many Americans now (a nice 43 percent) believe they face more years in the work force than they expected just a year ago. By the same token, 36 percent of affluent respondents said that the current economic conditions have pushed back their own expected retirement age. The survey also confirms what many of us in the financial planning area already suspected: Americans need better guidance and education regarding how best to plan for retirement and manage their retirement assets. Actually, 59 percent of the general public and 52 percent of affluent Americans don’t know or don’t even have a good idea of how much they’ll need to save in order to maintain their current standard of living in retirement. That’s where the financial planner can enter. Taking it a step further, the findings point out that 47 percent of retired Americans currently do not believe or are unsure if their retirement assets will cover their financial needs throughout their lifetime. And, they are already retired. That’s frightening! So, the bottom line on this latter subject is that many individuals may not be receiving the financial guidance necessary to fully realize the opportunities that retirement presents. Need I say more?
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