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Despite the complexities of retirement planning, most Americans rely on gut instinct to figure out how to best build their nest eggs. Roughly 63 percent of adults in a survey by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) say they have never discussed their retirement needs with a professional financial advisor. When asked why not, 29 percent say they would rather plan on their own and 27 percent believe they don't have money to invest. The 65-plus population is even more likely to resist consultations with retirement advisors. Thirty-seven percent of seniors prefer to handle their financial affairs independently.

A lack of confidence in choosing a good advisor may be one factor holding them back. The NCOA study, Myths and Realities of Aging 2000, finds that 43 percent of consumers 65 and over are not at all confident in their ability to select a financial planner, compared to 32 percent of 40-to-54-year-olds. Seniors are also skeptical of making good decisions when choosing mutual funds or stocks. Roughly 57 percent say they are not at all confident when it comes to picking stocks.

Not surprisingly, seniors are not relying on a Wall Street windfall in order to fund their retirement.

Nearly 40 percent expect Social Security will be their biggest source of income in their golden years, followed by pensions (24 percent) and personal savings (12 percent). The under-65 crowd, meanwhile, has little faith in Social Security. Forty-two percent of 18-to-64-year-olds believe their main source of income in retirement will be money saved in a 401(k) or similar plan.

A 401(k) plan, however, leaves it up to the individual to create an investment portfolio. And few consumers in their prime earning years believe they are up to the task: One out of three respondents aged 40 to 54 say they are not at all confident in their ability to choose mutual funds. "When we ask people what the most important factor will be in their decision to retire, number one is accumulation of savings," says Neal E. Cutler, NCOA's director of survey research. "Yet many people lack confidence in financial planning, even with mutual funds, which were invented to take some out of the guesswork out of investing."

Most seniors are quite optimistic about their future quality of life. Nearly 60 percent of respondents aged 71 and over aren't worried at all that they will be denied medical treatments because of their age ten years from now. They are also less troubled by potential money woes. Only 31 percent are somewhat or very worried that they will outlive their pension and savings. In comparison, 54 percent of 18 to 70 year olds are worried that when they reach 75, they will have used up their pension and savings. The under-70 population also fears losing its place in society - 56 percent are somewhat or very worried about not having enough opportunities to be productive when they hit 75.

For more information about Myths and Realities of Aging 2000, call The National Council on the Aging at (202) 479-1200 or visit

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