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Retirement money fears now grip a record majority of working Americans

April 25, 2011 |  5:22 am

a Cemetery

Great news for America's psychiatrists, attorneys and scam artists preying on the elderly:

Now, in addition to soaring gas prices, college tuitions, inflation, home values sinking beneath mortgages, layoffs of older workers, unfinanced federal debts, increasing taxes and stubbornly high unemployment, deadlocked government, healthcare cost savings tan elderly American politicianhat don't materialize and whimsical wars in meaningless places abroad, a majority of Americans now believe they won't have enough money to live comfortably in retirement.

If there is such a thing by the time they get there. If they get there.

A new Gallup Poll out this morning finds a record 53% of Americans who aren't retired figure by the time they reach their so-called golden years they won't be able to afford it.

That percentage is up about 20 points since 2002.

This isn't just some hypothetical political discussion point.

Polls and interviews show an almost palpable sense of unease across the country these days as one-time givens -- a family's home is its largest and safest investment, for instance -- turn to mush in a new era of perpetual fiscal and partisan political uncertainty.

On the right hand, this could feed Republicans' hopes to claim the mantle of change to believe in come 2012 when, among other challenges, Democrats must defend 23 of the 33 scheduled Senate contests. Initial congressional recess reports from the homefront indicate some Republicans are encountering resistance to their tough budget plans, which have +/- 0 chance of passing the Senate.

On the left hand, President Obama and Democrats are counting on inflaming such fears among future seniors to help their election cause next year when the former state senator attempts to become only the second White House Democrat to win two terms since a generation before Obama was born somewhere.Social Security Logo

This as the GOP in Congress earnestly attempts to address the $14 trillion federal deficit by pushing for cost-saving reforms in sacred but encrusted entitlement programs such as Medicare that are rapidly outrunning the ability of the aging and shrinking workforce to underwrite them.

Lowered expectations are also creeping through the nation's mindset.

While Washington politicians pontificate and argue over preserving Social Security as a sacred trust, fully six out of ten American workers have already decided that after an entire working life contributing from every paycheck, they will actually receive no benefits from Social Security upon retirement.

That's the most pessimistic level in nearly a quarter-century.

Gallup has also detected a change in expectations about retirement age.

Sixteen years ago when Gallup asked that question, only 12% said they would have to work past 65. That percentage has now more than tripled (37%). 

Likewise, the proportion that says it will retire before age 65 has plummeted from 47% down to 28%, who are still fooling themselves.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: St. Joseph County Ancestry; Mark Wilson / Getty Images (an elderly politician).