Be they young or be they old, people across America are worried about their financial prospects in retirement and the economic direction of the nation, a survey of Gen X, Gen Y and baby boomers by The Guardian Life Insurance found.

Although 92% of all respondents said they are confident in their personal financial decision making, 39% overall, 52% of Gen Y and 33% of Gen X say they don’t know where to begin when it comes to planning for retirement.

“The survey results clearly indicate a national need for comprehensive, lifelong financial education to equip the public with the guidance and tools they need to build a sound strategy for financial security, from young adulthood to retirement, in turbulent times and calmer cycles alike,” says Michael Ferik, senior vice president of individual life at Guardian.

Ferik says he hopes the findings of the survey “will serve as a springboard to a national agenda on how the public and private sectors can better serve Americans at every stage of life to feel that they have some control over their financial destiny.”

The survey also found that 82% of Gen X believes the economy is headed in the wrong direction, compared with 75% of the general population. Nearly half, 47%, of Gen X does not feel financially secure — the highest percentage of any group.

Gen X is also the most concerned (56%) that they will not have enough money saved for retirement — “perhaps reflecting the sequence of economic forces that have impacted the continuum of their working lives, from the 1987 stock market crash to unprecedented levels of college debt, to the current housing slump,” Guardian says.

The survey also shows that 65% of the general population are more likely to keep their money in a savings account than to invest it — counterintuitive to the fact that 62% agree that a down market is an opportunity to invest.

Sixty percent say with the economy less stable, it is more important than ever to contribute to their retirement fund. Gen X doesn’t agree, however. Forty-seven percent of this group believe investing in their retirement fund is less important during this time of economic instability.

“Members of Gen X may have been disproportionately impacted by the turmoil of the economic landscape, but this Guardian survey indicates that all Americans are exhibiting uncertainty and, at worst, complete inertia when it comes to financial decision-making,” Ferik says. “Our challenge is in breaching the cacophony of information and helping people move past inaction. That is the conversation we have started today, and it’s one that we must continue, because our society’s future may well depend on it.”

Lee Barney is the Editor of Money Management Executive, a Source Media publication.

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