Financial Security looking to be on the up

Americans with assets of more than $250,000 said they’re more financially secure today than a year ago, after a recovery in the stock market increased confidence that the worst effects of the recession are over, according to Bank of America Corp.

The Merrill Lynch Affluent Insights Quarterly, which surveyed 1,000 people with investable assets of at least $250,000 from Sept. 13 to Oct. 7, found that 41 percent said they’re better off this year compared with the same period last year. About 39 percent of Americans said they’re risk-averse about investing, down from 50 percent in the previous survey.

“The headline is people are feeling better,” Sallie Krawcheck, president of Bank of America’s Global Wealth & Investment Management unit, told Margaret Brennan on Bloomberg TV.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained about 23 percent in 2009 and 6 percent this year, compared with a 38 percent drop in 2008.

“There’s a very clear split in terms of how affluent Americans see their own personal financial fortunes and the larger U.S. economy,” Andy Sieg, head of retirement and philanthropic services for Bank of America, said in an interview. “They view their personal financial picture as being far rosier.”

About 78 percent of those surveyed are confident their economic circumstances will improve in 2011, the study said. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News earlier this month projected the unemployment rate will average 9.6 percent this year and 9.3 percent in 2011.

Women and Retirement

More women considered themselves conservative investors, with 44 percent favoring lower-risk investments, compared with 34 percent of men, the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank said. Six percent of women said they were aggressive investors, compared with 17 percent of men.

“This is something that we as an industry need to think through, particularly as investors are concerned about their ability to save enough for retirement,” said Krawcheck on a conference call discussing the results.

Sixty-one percent of those surveyed expect to retire later than planned, compared with 29 percent in January. During the past year, 20 percent of respondents used savings to meet short- term expenses, according to the bank.

Health Care Costs

Rising health care costs remain an issue for Americans, with 60 percent citing them as a top concern, down from 62 percent in an April survey, Merrill Lynch said. An estimated 47 percent of Americans born between 1948 and 1954 may not be able to afford basic expenses and uninsured health-care costs through retirement, according to the Washington-based Employee Benefit Research Institute.

Conditions have gotten better for owners of small businesses with 56 percent saying they saw improvements from the previous year. “You’ll see small business owners taking on risks as well,” Krawcheck said on BTV.

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