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Is your nest egg big enough to support retirement?

By MARCELLA S. KREITER   |   June 26, 2011 at 4:19 AM   |   Comments

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CHICAGO, June 26 (UPI) -- Think you've saved enough to retire in style? About half of Americans think so. Whether they're right or wrong depends largely on the economy and exactly how they define enough.

Keith Brannan, vice president of financial security planning for Country Financial of Bloomington, Ill., said about two-thirds of people queried think the magic number for retirement is $1 million.

"One-million dollars is a lot of money," Brannan said. "I think you can retire on $1 million. It all depends on the plan you have in place."

In the latest Country Financial Security Index, 51 percent of the 3,000 people queried said they think they have enough to retire comfortably, down 5 points from last year, and 58 percent said they have enough money to send their children to college, up 2 points from last year.

"What we've seen is a consistent decline since last October (in people's confidence about their retirement prospects)," Brannan said. "As the economy ebbs and flows, there's been a consistent decline."

The 51 percent response represents the lowest level of confidence since the poll began in February 2007.

Overall, Americans are getting more pessimistic about the economy despite all the cheerleading from the White House.

A national survey last week by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press indicated 29 percent of the 1,502 adults surveyed expect economic conditions will be better by next June but 23 percent said things will be worse. Last October, 35 percent said they expected economic improvement while 16 percent said they expected things to be worse.

The latest poll indicated 38 percent think their personal finances are excellent or good and 56 percent are expecting their situations to improve in the next year.

Twenty-nine percent said they had trouble paying for or getting medical care in the past year, 26 percent said they have problems paying rent or their mortgages, 16 percent said they had been laid off or lost their jobs and 27 percent said they're afraid of losing their jobs.

With the decline in defined benefit plans offered by companies, U.S. workers have put the bulk of their retirement savings into 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts -- and most people need the help of a savvy financial adviser to determine and get to their magic number.

"The burden of responsibility is now on the individual," Brannan said.

As a general rule, Brannan said, people will need to have saved enough to generate 80- to 85 percent of their current income, including Social Security benefits, which range from $500 to $2,000 a month, to live comfortably into their golden years.

"When you immediately retire, you have a long list of things you want to do," Brannan said. "As you age, the cost of healthcare absorbs what used to be expendable cash. That takes a fair amount of income."

The recent recession definitely has put a crimp in people's retirement plans. People who were hoping to retire at 60 three years ago are now shooting for 63 or 64.

"The economy keeps going up and down. Most concerning is the housing market. Many middle-class Americans have the lion's share of their assets in their homes. It (the decline in the housing market) hurts long-term. There's been a true wealth decline," Brennan said.

The Country Financial Security Index, which stands at 63.7 compared to 64.8 in June 2010, also found only 37 percent of those queried said they'd rate their overall financial security as excellent or good, compared to 41 percent last June and 45 percent said they are able to set money aside for savings and investments, down 1 point from last year.

Women are generally more confident than men with 53 percent saying they think they'll have a comfortable retirement, compared to 49 percent for men, and 78 percent of women said they'd be able to pay their debts on time, compared to 75 percent of men.

"When it comes to finances, men and women exhibit different attitudes and levels of risk tolerance. The sharper the divisions, the more important it is for couples to collaborate on their finances," Brannan said. "Despite differences, both men and women need to put equal focus on planning for their short- and long-term financial goals to achieve financial security."

The survey was conducted by Rasmussen LLC and had a margin of error of 2 points, with a 95 percent level of confidence. Full results are due out in August.

The Pew survey had an error margin ranging from 3.5 percent to 6 percent and a 95 percent level of confidence.

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