Survey: Financial Stress on the Decline

September 6, 2005 ( - A majority (53%) of working Americans employed with a company that offers a retirement plan reported they experienced moderate to high levels of financial stress.

That was a key finding of the 2005 National Survey on Financial Stress and Individual Plan Health by Ameriprise Retirement Services. An Ameriprise news release said the latest figure was down from highs of 60% in 2004 and 61% in 2002.

Conducted in conjunction with Synovate and Ameriprise Financial’s Global Marketplace Insights, results from the 2005 survey showed the most frequently cited source of stress was saving enough for retirement (39%). Also cited was affording health care in retirement (31%), which was up slightly from 2004. In addition, high on the list were stressed by dealing with debt (37%), affording a big ticket item (32%), and paying their regular budget or bills (30%).

“A stronger economy since 2002 has certainly contributed to some moderation of stress. However stress still remains a very significant factor as people contend with an increasing array of consumer-based benefits decisions,” Rusty Field, vice president – Ameriprise Financial Education and Planning Services, said in the news release. “Over the course of all three of these studies the results consistently show that people are most concerned about their financial future in retirement.”

Being nervous about the state of their retirement nest egg continues to push many workers into getting expert financial help, according to the survey. There was a dramatic increase from 2004 in the number of workers indicating some need for assistance in deciding how to allocate their plan assets. Nearly two out of three (65%) workers are looking for help, versus just more than half of all workers in 2004 and 2002.

The 2005 study found, on average, people believed that their income needs in retirement will be 62% of their earnings before retirement (versus a widely recognized and recommended level of 70% to 80%).

Beyond the overall average, however, significant percentages believe they can get by on far less: 44% believe they can live on just 50% of their pre-retirement earnings or less and 17% believe that 30% or less of their pre-retirement earnings will be sufficient.

The idea of adding automated features to retirement plans had appeal with 59% stating that they were very or somewhat interested in an automatic program to diversify their retirement plan investments. Coupled with 65% of workers indicating an overall need for assistance in deciding how to allocate their plan investments, “this shows there is strong demand for investment products and services that make the management of retirement plan portfolios easier for people to deal with,” Ameriprise wrote in the announcement.

A slight majority of respondents also felt automatic diversification would have a beneficial effect on their level of financial stress, with 42% stating it would help a little, and 14% stating it would help a lot.

More information about Ameriprise is here .