As if they didn't have enough to worry about with job security and meeting the family budget, Americans who are approaching middle age are more concerned today that their investment incomes will not be enough to sustain them after retirement.
A new survey by the Pew Research Center shows that concerns about retirement are reflected in all age groups across the board but the fact that younger Americans in the late 30s are now among the most anxious about their future marks a shift from three years ago, when that category was dominated by baby boomers nearing retirement age.
There are a number of reasons why younger Americans have surpassed boomers in the worry department. This weak economic recovery that we were told began having traction in 2009 has led to some stock market improvements but the returns are less visible in employment, manufacturing and housing.
Homes equity represents most of the net worth for those approaching middle age so when housing prices drop, it's natural that the the anxiety level would increase. About 49 percent of those ages 35-44 said they had little or no confidence that they will have enough money for retirement, more than double the level that age group showed in 2009.
There is also anxiety among baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964, but it's not as severe as their younger counterparts. In 2009, baby boomers aged 51 to 55 had the most anxiety over whether their income and assets would be sufficient.
The most recent survey shows about 43 percent of Americans ages 45-54 expressed little or no trust in their retirement security, a 33-percent increase over three years ago. Thirty-nine percent of Americans ages 55-64, expressed little or no confidence, up from 26 percent.
Richard Morin, a senior editor at Pew who co-authored the report, was surprised by the shift.
"I think most people would expect those on the cusp of retirement – ages 55 to 64 – would be the most concerned about financing their retirement, (so) the finding that the peak is now occurring among adults roughly 20 years younger is notable," he said. Moreover, the wealth data showing those approaching or in early middle age had lost the most in the past decade suggests that their concerns are not misplaced."
The Pew report also shows that the inflation-adjusted net worth of Americans ages 35 to 44 fell roughly 56 percent from 2001 to 2010, the sharpest decline for any age group and more than double the 22 percent rate of decline for boomers ages 55 to 64.
Net worth, also referred to as wealth, is the sum of all assets such as a house, car, stocks and 401(k)s, minus the sum of all debts including mortgage, credit card debt, car and tuition loans.
In dollars, the median wealth of Americans ages 35 to 44 fell by $56,029 to $43,698 over the past decade. In contrast, those ages 45 to 54 and 55 to 64 lost about $50,000.
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan are using that net worth statistic to hammer at Barack Obama's economic policies which many voters agree have been a dismal failure over the last four years.
By Jim Zbick