Surveys show concerns about retirement, economy

Getty Images/Alistair Berg

Despite the economic recovery now in progress, with continued COVID troubles, inflation and roiling financial markets, some recent survey research conducted by the Harris Poll shows deepening anxiety among Americans over their financial health and retirement prospects.

Inflation and erosion of retirement savings have emerged as leading worries across the country, as part of continuing slippage in economic confidence overall.

Now, an analysis of two surveys done last year also shows a distinct downward trend in faith in preparedness for retirement.

The most recent of the two polls—conducted in late 2021 by the Harris organization for Empower, a financial tech company, and Personal Capital, an online retail investment firm—only 34% of those surveyed report feeling “very financially healthy,” down sharply from 48% earlier in the year.

The uncertainty has hit in relation to retirement. The portion of respondents who say they have the ability to retire when they want dropped from 41% to 35%.

The COVID-19 pandemic—and its extreme threat to the health of people and the economy—provoked a brutal but short-lived recession      in early 2020, when the virus first took off. Since then, the economy has come roaring back—with the official unemployment rate now at 3.9% and economic growth higher than it was before the crisis began.

Despite the massive rebound, the stinging personal losses from the period along with still-diminished personal savings and continued roiling financial markets, the average family’s sense of readiness for retirement remains diminished.

In commenting on the plunge, an official with Personal Capital, described the survey’s findings.

“It’s a complicated picture to describe what’s happening to the economy,” says Craig Birk, Chief Investment Officer at Personal Capital. “The labor market is strong and retail growth is ticking upwards, but we’re also dealing with recent market volatility and record high inflation. It’s unsettling for many.”

The pessimistic trend in the Harris Poll is found in another recent poll, focused on women and retirement. But it is part of a mixed and sometimes confusing picture seen in recent polls on consumer and retiree confidence.

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