Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Recession Has No Effect on Mid-Income Retirement Hopes

/PRNewswire/ -- The recession has forced nearly two in five (39 percent) Americans to save less for their golden years, but it hasn't changed their perception about whether middle income families can save for retirement.

Thirty-five percent of Americans believe it is possible for a typical middle income family to save for a secure retirement, according to a new COUNTRY Financial Survey. While that percentage doesn't necessarily paint a positive picture, it's virtually unchanged from the prior two years - 36 percent in 2008 and 37 percent in 2007 - when the US economy was in a better state.

Yet, the recession is having an impact on people's plans as more than one-quarter of the adults (26 percent) surveyed say the effects of today's economy will cause them to delay their retirement.

"It's encouraging that all the bad news has not caused people to give up hope," says Keith Brannan, vice president of Financial Security Planning at COUNTRY. "If you're struggling, review and adjust your financial plan to get by in the short-term without losing sight of long-term goals like retirement. If you don't have a plan, you may want to talk to a professional who can help you create a tangible plan to get from where you are today to where you want to be in the future."

Genders split on best saving skills for the future
-- Overall, Americans think women (37 percent) are better at saving and
investing for the future than men (29 percent). However, men think
they are better at this task (42 percent) while women believe they
have the upper hand (49 percent).

Employers pull back on contributions
-- Nearly one-quarter of Americans (23 percent) who participate in a
work-sponsored plan like 401(k) say their employer has cut
contributions to their retirement account.

"If your employer has cut their contributions to your retirement account, you have several options to choose from to maximize your retirement plan," adds Brannan. "The worst thing you can do is to stop contributing to retirement just because you no longer have a company match."

Tips for maintaining retirement savings in tough times:
-- Establish and maintain an emergency fund. In these tough times, it's
important to have an emergency fund sufficient to cover at least three
months of your expenses saved in a highly-liquid account, such as a
money market mutual fund or a savings account.
-- Try not to borrow against your 401(k) account. Besides borrowing
against your future, if you leave your employer, you may still be
responsible for paying the loan back within 60 days. If you can't
repay it within that time, IRS penalties could be imposed.
-- If your employer stops matching your 401(k) contributions, consider
redirecting your contributions to a Roth IRA. In addition to
providing tax-free income once you retire, you can liquefy your
contributions at any time for any reason without IRS penalty or income
tax consequences.

For more information on Americans' sentiments about financial security, please visit www.countryfinancialsecurityindex.com.

The March COUNTRY Retirement survey is based on a national telephone survey of 3,000 Americans and is compiled by Rasmussen Reports, LLC (www.rasmussenreports.com), an independent research firm. The margin of sampling error for this survey is approximately +/- 2 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.

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