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Hope Yen

Retirement anguish higher among younger workers

Younger Americans in their late 30s are now the group most likely to doubt they will be financially secure after retirement, a major shift from three years ago when baby boomers nearing retirement age expressed the greatest worry.

The survey findings by the Pew Research Center, released Monday, reflect the impact of a weak economic recovery beginning in 2009 that has shown stock market gains while housing values remain decimated.

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As a whole, retirement worries rose across all age groups — roughly 38 percent of US adults say they are ‘‘not too’’ or ‘‘not at all’’ confident they will have sufficiently sized financial nest eggs, according to the independent research group. That’s up from 25 percent in 2009.

But the concerns are increasing the most among younger adults approaching middle age, whose equity in their homes represents most of their net worth. About 49 percent of those ages 35 to 44 said they had little or no confidence they will have enough money for retirement, more than double the 20 percent share in that age group who said so in 2009.

Baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 also reported having more retirement anxieties than before, but now to a lesser degree compared to their younger counterparts. About 43 percent of Americans ages 45-54 expressed little or no trust in their retirement security, up from 33 percent in 2009. Among Americans ages 55-64, the share expressing little or no confidence was 39 percent, up from 26 percent.

Richard Morin, a senior editor at Pew who coauthored the report, said the shift in attitudes was surprising.

‘‘I think most people would expect those on the cusp of retirement — ages 55 to 64 — would be the most concerned about financing their retirement,” so the finding “that the peak is now occurring among adults roughly 20 years younger is notable,’’ he said.

Morin said that it is hard to predict whether thirty-somethings will continue to express the most retirement worries in the years to come, but said it was a ‘‘real possibility.’’

According to the Pew report, the inflation-adjusted net worth of Americans ages 35 to 44 fell roughly 56 percent from 2001 to 2010, the sharpest decline for any age group and more than double the 22 percent rate of decline for boomers ages 55 to 64.

The 35 to 44 age group has been hit the hardest in terms of wealth because they were the ones most likely to have purchased a home at bubble prices during the housing boom, only to see values shrivel in the housing bust. This younger to middle-aged group also largely stayed out of the stock market from 2001 to 2010 and as a result missed out on the stock run-up that began in 2009, according to Pew’s analysis of Federal Reserve data.

Broken down by education and income, adults holding a high school diploma or less were less likely to express confidence in their retirement finances than college graduates, 53 percent vs. 71 percent. Those with family incomes of less than $50,000 also were less confident compared to those making $100,000 or more, 51 percent vs. 79 percent.

Hope Yen writes for the Associated Press.
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