More than half of affluent Americans report losing sleep over financial concerns, according to a new survey by Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.
And, in a development that both surprised and concerned investment managers, the recession has frightened the youngest group -- those 18-34 -- into being nearly as conservative about their investments as those over 65. In all, 50% of the younger group surveyed said they have a low tolerance for risk -- up 56% from a year ago -- compared with 55% of seniors.
"The risk is that this is a depression generation," said Sallie Krawcheck, president of Global Wealth & Investment Management at Bank of America, in a teleconference. She noted that their worldview has been influenced by two seminal events of their lifetimes: the dot.com bust and the recession. But while seniors typically should invest conservatively, the younger group does so at great risk to their future solvency.
"If they are putting money only into cash vehicles...these individuals could essentially be moving backward year after year," Krawcheck said.
Though better situated going into the recession than other Americans, the June survey -- which polled 1,000 people nationwide who had $250,000 or more in assets available for investing -- clearly showed economic strain is taking its toll on the affluent.
Top concerns robbing them of sleep include maintaining their family's standard of living, health care costs and saving for retirement. A third cited monthly expenses and a quarter said they are worried about paying their mortgage.
A large proportion -- 45% -- also are juggling financial responsibility for a parent or elderly relative and more than a third have responsibility for an adult child who remains in school, has significant debt or -- one in five said -- could not find work after graduating.
More than half of couples said the financial strain is affecting their relationship because they disagree about money, particularly about staying within a family budget and whether to buy luxury items.
The things people care about at work have shifted to the practical as well. Most listed retirement and medical benefits as the reasons they stay in a job, ranking far less important a good boss, compensation or promotions. Women were more likely to remain loyal to a company because of personal and family influences.
"It's easy to lose perspective on the fact that one of corporate America's long-term challenges is ... too few workers," said Andy Sieg, head of retirement and philanthropic services at Bank of America. As a large proportion of Americans near retirement, he said, corporations need to recognize "how important retirement and health care benefits are in terms of winning the war for talent."
One in five said at least half of their time managing their personal finances occurs at work and the same proportion said stress about finances has caused them to be less productive at work.
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