Retire with Style

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Ever since government officials started telling Americans there wouldn't be enough money left in the Social Security pot to fund their retirement years, many have begun stashing cash with serious intent to build their nest eggs. But do Americans feel they are saving enough? Will they be swinging seniors leading lives of leisure or still toiling just to make ends meet?

More workers today - 26 percent - are very confident they'll have enough dough to live comfortably during their golden years, compared with the 19 percent who felt that way in 1993, according to the "2000 Retirement Confidence Survey" (RCS), co-sponsored by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), the American Savings Education Council (ASEC) and Matthew Greenwald & Associates (MGA). Perhaps that's because 76 percent of workers surveyed say they are saving for retirement today, compared with 61 percent who said they did so in 1994.

The fact that more working folk have recognized the value of saving has led to an increase in the number who calculate, strategize, and save for retirement, says Dallas L. Salisbury, president and CEO of the EBRI. Accordingly, 53 percent of participants in this year's study say they actually sat down with their bankbooks to calculate their retirement finances, compared with 35 percent who did so in 1993. And 51 percent of the devoted number crunchers decided to do something about it, either by socking away more cash or rethinking their investments.

In a separate RCS study of minorities, the percentage of Asian Americans who say they are "very confident" that they'll have enough money to live comfortably throughout retirement was 31 percent, five percentage points more than the average worker. The percentage of African Americans who say they are "very confident" is slightly lower than the average: 24 percent. Just 19 percent of Hispanics reported being "very confident" and they are the group doing the least amount of saving today, according to Salisbury.

"Hispanics have the least confidence in financial institutions and are reluctant to work with them," says Salisbury. "There is clearly a need for financial institutions to build public confidence that they're secure."

In a separate survey, Keyport Life Insurance Company in Boston pinpointed yet another problem. Philip Polkinghorn, president of Keyport, says that most people run out of money within four to five years of retiring. The Keyport study found that 26 percent of working Americans think they will need less than $100,000 to retire, but Polkinghorn says this figure seems a paltry amount of money for most. And 52 percent say they can't estimate the amount of money they need to save for retirement. Still, 77 percent of current laborers think their post-retirement standard of living will be the same or better than it is today, while 66 percent of retirees say their current standard of living is at least on par with what they had in their salaried lives. Perhaps that's because 50 percent of workers today expect to continue punching the clock after "retirement," whereas just 22 percent of today's retirees still have some sort of gig.

So, maybe the best advice for would-be retirees is: Don't quit your day job just yet.

For more information about the "2000 Retirement Confidence Survey," visit www.asec.org. For information on the Keyport retirement survey, visit www.keyport.com.

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