Although the scars are still visible since the economy’s near-collapse, investors today are more optimistic than they have been since 2007.

However, many still don’t find themselves any better off than they were five years ago, meaning workers are still struggling to commit to deeper involvement in employer-sponsored retirement savings offerings – and leaving unused benefits on the table as a result.

The Wells Fargo/Gallup Investor and Retirement Optimism Index jumped to 46 in the third quarter, its highest level in seven years. And much of the gains stem from investors’ heightened optimism about economic growth and the labor market, according to a recent survey. However, six in 10 say they are doing no better financially than they were five years ago, signaling limited progress during the U.S. economy's gradual recovery.

“Investors are saying they’re more optimistic about the economy and the job market. But non-retirees worry about their ability to earn more in their lifetime, and they are skeptical the stock market is the place for them to grow their savings,” says Karen Wimbish, director of retail retirement at Wells Fargo. “Clearly, average investors have not forgotten their recession experiences.”

When taking into account total savings and Social Security income, a slight majority, 69%, of investors are “highly” or “somewhat confident” they will have enough to maintain a desired life style in retirement.

However, nearly half are “very” or “somewhat” worried about outliving their savings, including 50% of non-retirees and 36% of retirees.

Also see: 6 areas of caution with frontier market investments

“Clearly, Social Security plays a key role in thinking about retirement income, and concerns about the government’s ability to address the system’s financial problems exist for both retirees and non-retirees,” Wimbish says.

When asked how their finances today compare to five years ago, 58% say they are doing “about the same,” or “worse” than five years ago, while 42% say they are “doing better.” Similarly, just 37% say they are saving and investing more money in recent months than they did prior to the recession.

Wells Fargo says these figures are “essentially unchanged” from two years ago, and indicate that investors have not been able to make much financial headway in the economic recovery.

Data also indicates that younger investors, GenY and millenial — a market that has been difficult to tap into for retirement investing — have a similar outlook as the older baby boomer generation.

Also see: Smart, timely communication on retirement may be key to engaging younger generation

Data does point to a younger generation having slightly more confidence in making current investments. According to Gallup, 59% of those 18 to 34 years in age think now is a good time to invest, while only 49% of those 55 and older think now is good.

Gen Y’s saving habits are going to determine the future asset base of financial service firms, Cerulli, a global asset management and distribution analytics, said recently. “Plan sponsors and recordkeepers must be aware of these realities and use a wide range of resources to help plan participants save more.”

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