Can This Be the Worst Economic State in America in 60 Years?

September 10, 2008 ( - Fifty-three percent of Americans over age 60 say today's economic conditions are worse than those they have experienced in the past.

A new poll from the MetLife Mature Market Institute reports that an overwhelming majority of this group is feeling the pinch in the current economy and it has affected the way they spend their money, but not their plans for retirement.

A MetLife press release said 87% of respondents say they are curtailing their spending, with 70% cutting back on essentials like food and transportation and 82% spending less on non-essentials like dining out and vacation. In addition, 17% report having had to provide more financial assistance to family and/or friends as a result of the current economy, according to the announcement.

However, of those who are working, 73% said they would not postpone their planned retirement date because of the state of the economy. Only 16% of all respondents are withdrawing or plan to withdraw more from their retirement funds than they originally planned.

“We discovered an increased appreciation of Social Security among one in five of the respondents. It is apparent from this data that, as a result of a volatile economy, many older Americans better understand the importance of guaranteed income,” said Sandra Timmermann, director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute, in the press release.

Ninety-two percent of those polled by MetLife classify the current state of the economy as "headed for" or "in the midst of" a downturn, and 50% predict the poor economy will linger for an additional 12 months or longer. Sixty-three percent of those polled hold Washington responsible.

Democrats polled are far more negative about economic prospects compared to their Republican counterparts with 62% of the Democrats believing that the downturn will last more than 12 months, compared with 34% of Republicans.

Other findings of the MetLife study, according to the press release, include:

  • With regard to increased fuel costs, a contributing factor in the economy, 60% of those polled are cutting back on auto transportation.
  • More women have cut back on essentials than men (75% vs. 63%).
  • Ninety-four percent of those who earn less than $35,000 a year have cut back on spending, compared to 72% of those who earn $75,000 or more a year.
  • Twenty-three percent say they are currently taking more positive action over finances (i.e. reading more about finances, seeking help from a financial adviser).
  • Fifty percent say what keeps them up at night is money-related.

Harris Interactive fielded the study from July 24-28, online via its QuickQuery online omnibus service, interviewing a nationwide sample of 538 U.S. adults ages 60+.