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Many boomers expect to stay put after they retire, poll finds

| Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011

WASHINGTON -- As baby boomers look ahead to retirement, they would prefer a home that is affordable, accessible to medical care and close to family. But an Associated Press-LifeGoesStrong.com poll finds that amid a shaky economy, few think it's likely they'll move in retirement.

Shelley Wernholm, 47, a single mother of two who works for a health insurance company in Cleveland, said she wanted to retire and move to a new home by 60. But her pension was eliminated five years ago, her personal investments tanked during the recession, and her home of 21 years has lost more than half of its value.

"I was hoping I'd be moving to a beach somewhere, anywhere, preferably a warm one," Wernholm said. "But I'm not moving. I can't. It's hard to remain optimistic."

The 77 million-strong generation born between 1946 and 1964 is increasingly worried about retirement and their finances amid the economic crisis of the past three years.

Just 9 percent say they are strongly convinced they will be able to live comfortably in retirement.

Overall, about 6 in 10 baby boomers say their workplace retirement plans, personal investments or real estate lost value during the economic downturn. Of this group, 53 percent say they will have to delay retirement because their nest eggs shrank.

Financial experts say those losses, including home prices that have dropped by a third nationwide over the past four years, have left boomers anxious about moving and selling their homes.

"There's a mistrust of the real estate market that we didn't have before," said Barbara Corcoran, a New York-based real estate consultant. "There's a concern about whether people will get money out of their house. They envision the home as a problem, not an asset, and this unshakable belief in homes as a tool for retirement has been shaken to the core."

Fifty-two percent of boomers say they are unlikely to move someplace new in retirement, unchanged from March. And 4 in 10 say they are very likely to stay in their current home throughout all of their retirement.

Older baby boomers are more apt to say they are settled in for their golden years; 48 percent say it's extremely or very likely they will stay in the home they live in now throughout their retirement, compared with 35 percent among younger boomers. The same is true of those who have lived in their current home for 20 or more years.

Midwestern and rural baby boomers also are more inclined to stay put.

Not surprisingly, higher-earning boomers who make more than $100,000 a year are more likely to buy a new home during retirement.

Boomers are more deeply attuned to their retirement years than other age groups, and many say they will keep working during retirement. A total of 73 percent of those polled said they would keep working, compared with 67 percent in March, a bigger percentage than any other generation.

Sherry Wise, 53, an agricultural economist in Lorton, Va., a suburb of Washington, said she is worried she will have to work well into her 60s and beyond in order to continue paying her mortgage, keep up an investment property in New Mexico and look after her two daughters.

"The one thing I know is that you can't count on anything anymore. This economy has gotten so screwed up," Wise said. "We're just going to try to earn as much money as possible."

The AP-LifeGoesStrong.com poll was conducted Oct. 5-12 by Knowledge Networks of Palo Alto, Calif. The poll involved online interviews with 1,095 people born between 1946 and 1964, as well as companion interviews with an additional 315 adults of other age groups. The margin of sampling error for baby boomers was plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

Knowledge Networks used traditional telephone and mail sampling methods to randomly recruit respondents. People selected who had no Internet access were given it for free.

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