WASHINGTON (6/2/08)--If you’ve been trying to stretch your paycheck a little further these days, join the club. In a recent AARP survey, 81% of respondents said the U.S. economy is in fairly bad or very bad condition, and nearly 75% believe the economy is getting worse (AARP
May 6). AARP commissioned the nationwide survey to assess how Americans age 45 and older are responding to the economic downturn. The results showed more middle-aged and older Americans are worried about the economy, and are changing their habits as a result:
* One of four (26%) had trouble paying their mortgage or rent; * Two-thirds (66%) had trouble paying for essential expenses like food, gas, and medicine; and * More than half (53%) had trouble paying for utilities.
Roughly 60% of respondents tried to make up for these budget shortfalls by eating out less and spending less money on entertainment. Almost half had postponed plans to travel or make a large purchase. The struggling economy also has affected retirement plans. One-third of survey respondents stopped putting money into their retirement accounts, and 23% withdrew funds from investment accounts prematurely. In addition, more than one-fourth of all workers age 45 and older have postponed their retirement start date. The difficult economic decisions Americans face may affect their decisions at the polls in coming elections. The majority of survey respondents (74%) believes elected officials are not doing enough to help people hurt by the economic downturn. A CNN/Opinion poll revealed that nearly half (49%) of Americans consider the economy the most important issue when deciding whom to vote for in November’s presidential election. Seek help now if you’re struggling financially:
* Prevent foreclosure: Visit hopenow.com or call 888-995-HOPE (995-4673); * Seek credit counseling: Visit nfcc.org or call 800-388-2227; and * Map out a spending plan: Contact your credit union, or the local cooperative extension service via csrees.usda.gov/Extension/.