WASHINGTON (AP) — Younger Americans in their late 30s are now the group most likely to doubt they will be financially secure after retirement, a major shift from three years ago when baby boomers nearing retirement age expressed the greatest worry.

The survey findings by the Pew Research Center, released Monday, reflect the impact of a weak economic recovery beginning in 2009 that has shown stock market gains while housing values remain decimated.

As a whole, retirement worries rose across all age groups — roughly 38 percent of U.S. adults say they are "not too" or "not at all" confident that they will have sufficiently sized financial nest eggs, according to the independent research group. That's up from 25 percent in 2009.

But the concerns are increasing the greatest among younger adults approaching middle age, whose equity in their homes represents most of their net worth. About 49 percent of those ages 35-44 said they had little or no confidence that they will have enough money for retirement, more than double the 20 percent share in that age group who said so in 2009.

Baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 also reported having more retirement anxieties than before, but now to a lesser degree compared to their younger counterparts. About 43 percent of Americans ages 45-54 expressed little or no trust in their retirement security, up from 33 percent in 2009. Among Americans ages 55-64, the share expressing little or no confidence was 39 percent, up from 26 percent.

Broken down by smaller groups, the Pew analysis found that retirement worries peaked among adults in their late 30s; a majority, or 53 percent, of Americans ages 36 to 40 lacked confidence that they will have large enough nest eggs. Just three years ago, it was baby boomers ages 51 to 55 who had the most anxiety over whether their income and assets would be sufficient.

Richard Morin, a senior editor at Pew who co-authored the report, said the shift in attitudes was somewhat surprising.

"I think most people would expect those on the cusp of retirement — ages 55 to 64 — would be the most concerned about financing their retirement, (so) the finding that the peak is now occurring among adults roughly 20 years younger is notable," he said. "Moreover, the wealth data showing those approaching or in early middle age had lost the most in the past decade suggests that their concerns are not misplaced."

Morin said that it is hard to predict whether 30-somethings will continue to express the most retirement worries in the years to come, but said it was a "real possibility" given that housing values aren't expected to fully recover anytime soon.

The latest findings come as the presidential campaigns focus most often on retirement issues such as Social Security and Medicare when appealing to older voters. In recent weeks, President Barack Obama has pounded Republican challenger Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, saying their plan to replace Medicare with vouchers won't keep up with health care costs. Ryan has sought to reassure seniors by saying that he and Romney won't alter Medicare for those in or near retirement.

An Associated Press-LifeGoesStrong.com poll in late 2011 also found that concerns about retirement were increasing across all age groups, a reflection of the continuing hard economic times.

According to the Pew report, the inflation-adjusted net worth of Americans ages 35 to 44 fell roughly 56 percent from 2001 to 2010, the sharpest decline for any age group and more than double the 22 percent rate of decline for boomers ages 55 to 64. Net worth, also referred to as wealth, is the sum of all assets such as a house, car, stocks and 401(k)s, minus the sum of all debts including mortgage, credit card debt, car and tuition loans.

In dollars, the median wealth of Americans ages 35 to 44 fell by $56,029 to $43,698 over the past decade. In contrast, those ages 45 to 54 and 55 to 64 lost about $50,000. The median wealth of those 65 and older over the past decade increased slightly — the only age group to experience a gain.

The 35 to 44 age group has been hit the hardest in terms of wealth because they were the ones most likely to have purchased a home at bubble prices during the housing boom, only to see values shrivel in the housing bust. This younger to middle-aged group also largely stayed out of the stock market from 2001 to 2010 and as a result missed out on the stock run-up that began in 2009, according to Pew's analysis of Federal Reserve data.

The S&P 500 index peaked above 1,500 in October 2007 but then fell to a closing low of 676.53 in March 2009. It has risen significantly since then, closing above 1,200 in December 2010 and is now back above 1,400.

Broken down by education and income, adults holding a high school diploma or less were less likely to express confidence in their retirement finances than college graduates, 53 percent vs. 71 percent. Those with family incomes of less than $50,000 also were less confident compared to those making $100,000 or more, 51 percent vs. 79 percent.

The Pew study is based on interviews with 2,508 adults by cell phone or landline from July 16 to 26, as well as an analysis of the Survey of Consumer Finances, which is sponsored by the Federal Reserve. The Pew poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points, larger for subgroups. The AP-LifeGoesStrong.com poll was conducted Oct. 5-12, 2011, by Knowledge Networks of Palo Alto, Calif.


AP Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.



Link to Pew report: http://tinyurl.com/96295h5

AP-LifeGoesStrong.com poll from 2011: http://tinyurl.com/8v8qrwh

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • 10. Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC

    <strong>Job access rate:</strong> 19.8 percent <strong>Public transportation coverage:</strong> 57.9 percent (8th lowest) <strong>Zero-vehicle households:</strong> 7.3 percent <strong>Zero-vehicle households with low-income:</strong> 71.2 percent Only 58% of households in the Augusta metropolitan area without cars are located near public transportation. As a result, less than 20% of jobs are reachable in at least 90 minutes for those households. A major reason for these low rates is the cost of the city's bus system. In June 2011, it was decided that the bus system would be privatized, a move that is expected to save the city $400,000 a year, according to The Augusta Chronicle. According to its proponents, privatization may also improve overall availability of transportation. <a href="http://247wallst.com" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 9. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL

    <strong>Job access rate:</strong> 19.7 percent <strong>Public transportation coverage:</strong> 97.2 percent (8th highest) <strong>Zero-vehicle households:</strong> 8.6 percent <strong>Zero-vehicle households with low-income:</strong> 63.4 percent Miami has one of the lowest rates of job access despite having one of the best coverage for public transportation in the country. The metropolitan area has an exceptionally large bus network that reaches the majority of neighborhoods. However, due to Miami's size, many households are located a great distance from job centers. There is also a lack of rapid transit, which prevents people from being able to reach jobs in a reasonable amount of time. <a href="http://247wallst.com" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 8. Orlando-Kissimmee, FL

    <strong>Job access rate:</strong> 19.6 percent <strong>Public transportation coverage:</strong> 78.9 percent (36th lowest) <strong>Zero-vehicle households:</strong> 4.9 percent <strong>Zero-vehicle households with low-income:</strong> 59.6 percent Although a relatively small portion of Orlando households do not own a car, the majority of them are located extremely far away from work. This is especially true for households in the suburbs, where the rate of jobs reachable within 90 minutes is less than half of that which those in the city have access to. To address the issue, Governor Rick Scott approved a new $1.2 billion high speed rail project. The SunRail project has been highly controversial in the Orlando area, mainly due to its cost and low ridership projections. The rail is expected to be fully completed by 2015. <a href="http://247wallst.com" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 7. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL

    <strong>Job access rate:</strong> 18.5 percent <strong>Public transportation coverage:</strong> 88.2 percent (38th highest) <strong>Zero-vehicle households:</strong> 6.6 percent <strong>Zero-vehicle households with low-income:</strong> 62.5 percent Tampa faces a situation similar to to Orlando's. The metropolitan area suffers from significant urban sprawl, making it more difficult for those living in the city's far reaches to get to jobs. According to Tampa Bay on Track, a branch of the Tampa Bay Partnership, Tampa Bay lacks "premium" public transportation options such as "high quality bus, bus rapid transit, or rail." The organization blames a lack of funding for the city's problems, an issue caused in part by the falling home values' impact on property taxes. <a href="http://247wallst.com" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 6. Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC

    <strong>Job access rate:</strong> 18.3 percent <strong>Public transportation coverage:</strong> 88.5 percent (37th highest) <strong>Zero-vehicle households:</strong> 6.8 percent <strong>Zero-vehicle households with low-income:</strong> 73.5 percent Virginia Beach has an exceptionally high rate of low-income households among its zero-vehicle households. This implies a strong connection between the two. In July of 2011, the Norfolk Tide light-rail system began operations in Norfolk, a city included in the Virginia Beach metropolitan statistical area. According to the Richmond-Times Dispatch, there are plans for the train to eventually extend into Virginia Beach. <a href="http://247wallst.com" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 5. Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA

    <strong>Job access rate:</strong> 15.7 percent <strong>Public transportation coverage:</strong> 55.6 percent (6th lowest) <strong>Zero-vehicle households:</strong> 7.3 percent <strong>Zero-vehicle households with low-income:</strong> 57.4 percent Western Reserve Transportation Authority runs the Youngstown's public bus service. According to Brookings data, the system is underperforming. Less than 16% of jobs are accessible within 90 minutes for those without cars. Worst still, public transportation barely covers more than half of households in the metropolitan area. Coverage is the sixth worst in the country. <a href="http://247wallst.com" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 4. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX

    <strong>Job access rate:</strong> 15.3 percent <strong>Public transportation coverage:</strong> 63.5 percent (13th lowest) <strong>Zero-vehicle households:</strong> 8.0 percent <strong>Zero-vehicle households with low-income:</strong> 67 percent The McAllen, TX metropolitan area is extremely poor. The city has the lowest median household income in the country -- $34,984. This makes the area's low rate of job access all the more troubling. Job access is especially bad in the suburbs, where a mere 6% of jobs are accessible within 90 minutes. Ridership for McAllen's public bus system is at all time highs, however, according to local newspaper The Monitor. <a href="http://247wallst.com" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 3. Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, NY

    <strong>Job access rate:</strong> 9.1 percent <strong>Public transportation coverage:</strong> 78.6 percent (34th lowest) <strong>Zero-vehicle households:</strong> 7.7 percent <strong>Zero-vehicle households with low-income:</strong> 67.3 percent Although Poughkeepsie has one of the lowest job access rates in the country, the city is working to solve the problem in an intelligent way. According to to the Mid-Hudson News Network, city officials are planning to create a "Transit Oriented Development in and around the Poughkeepsie Metro-North train station." This development would increase density of homes and businesses around the train station, making it easier for residents to reach jobs. <a href="http://247wallst.com" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 2. Riverside-San Bernadino-Ontario, CA

    <strong>Job access rate:</strong> 9 percent <strong>Public transportation coverage:</strong> 87.7 percent (42nd highest) <strong>Zero-vehicle households:</strong> 5 percent <strong>Zero-vehicle households with low-income:</strong> 57.8 percent Only 9% of jobs are reachable in 90 minutes for those in Riverside without a vehicle. This is partially due to the state's financial troubles. The Riverside Transit Agency is currently facing funding cuts. Nevertheless, the agency is expecting to spend $50 million over the next three years on new natural gas buses, according to Riverside's Press-Enterprise. <a href="http://247wallst.com" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 1. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL

    <strong>Job access rate:</strong> 8.3 percent <strong>Public transportation coverage:</strong> 82.6 percent (45th highest) <strong>Zero-vehicle households:</strong> 4.7 percent <strong>Zero-vehicle households with low-income:</strong> 60.5 percent The Palm Bay metropolitan area provides the lowest rate of job access to households without vehicles in the country. Just over 8% of jobs can be reached within 90 minutes. This is the result of a number of factors. The Palm Bay area is physically long, making rapid transit difficult. Also, funding has been an issue in the area. Finally, the majority of middle and low-income jobs are located in the downtown area, decreasing accessibility for those living further out in the suburbs. <a href="http://247wallst.com" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>