American workers' trust in their future retirement has reached a four-year low, according to a release of the Unretirement Index, a poll of nearly 1,500 working Americans by Sun Life Financial Inc. After remaining stable for three years, retirement confidence dropped nearly 20% this September compared to a year earlier, according to the survey.

"This represents the most significant drop in retirement confidence we've seen in the four years we've compiled the Sun Life Unretirement Index," says Wes Thompson, president of Sun Life Financial U.S. "Although the recession officially ended in 2009, average Americans feel that the downturn has not ended for them, which is substantially eroding their trust in their retirement future." Sun Life Financial created the Unretirement Index in 2008 to gauge how changes in the economy, financial markets, societal forces and public policy affect working Americans' confidence about retirement.

Sentiment compared to last year deteriorated in all five of the Index's components, with the greatest drop (-31.7%) occurring in confidence about the benefits needed to retire, including defined benefits plans and employee health benefits.

Highlights:

* Only 23% of working Americans feel very confident that they will meet basic living expenses in retirement, plunging from double that number (42%) last year.

* One in five working Americans say they will never retire.

* Confidence in the future of Social Security has plunged over the last four years, to 9% in 2011 from over double that (22%) in 2008.

* Confidence about Medicare benefits has also plummeted, to 8% in 2011 from over double that (20%) in 2008.

* At all wealth levels, respondents who expect to receive guaranteed lifetime income from annuities by age 67, or who own long-term care insurance products, feel significantly more confident about retirement.

"We believe the higher confidence of respondents across all wealth levels who own either variable annuities or long-term care insurance vehicles provides a positive wake-up call: Americans can take action to help secure their future and feel more secure about their golden years," says Thompson.

The overall Index is a composite score based on five subject areas, which all revealed declines in confidence compared to last year. On a year-to-year basis, confidence dropped as follows in the following subject areas: employee benefits (-31.7%), the economy (-25%), government benefits (-21.6%), personal finances (-13.9%) and personal health (-13.2%).

The fall in sentiment across all five subject areas in 2011 represents a stark contrast from 2010, when confidence dropped regarding the economy, yet personal finances rose regarding personal health and employee benefits.

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