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Tougher Road to Economic Recovery for Older Americans

June 20, 2011

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Making ends meet is of top concern for many Americans, and a recent survey by the AARP suggests weak confidence among Americans age 50 and older in a turnaround of their personal finances.

Scott Wegenast, AARP Kentucky director of communications, says economic recovery for most 50-plus workers is expected to be long and slow. With gutted 401-Ks and job losses, Wegenast says, older Americans are questioning their financial futures.

"This is like recovering from a major illness, this recession. People have taken a hit on their retirement savings. They've been laid off. They've not been able to get back into the work force. And they're worried."

Nearly 30 percent of older Americans sampled were either unemployed or looking for work. Another 13 percent reported giving up on the job hunt they'd been on in the last three years.

Nearly one-third of people over age 50 watched their home values take a dive; many fell behind on credit card payments or racked up more credit card debt; and some have filed for bankruptcy. Insecure about having enough money to retire, Wegenast says, many older job seekers are ramping up their skills.

"Some have successfully reinvented themselves, taken on a different career track altogether. They've gone back to school. They've gotten different certificates and different degrees to try and re-enter the workforce successfully."

Wegenast says many are adjusting to new financial realities by downsizing and delaying retirement.

"Almost 50 percent of the 50-plus population said that they were going to be less secure in their retirement than their parents' generation. So, they were going to live a lifestyle that was less than their parents."

Wegenast says an earlier AARP survey found that, among older Kentuckians, 78 percent were very concerned about Social Security being there when they retire.

More on the latest survey can be found at www.aarp.org

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY