Around this time last year, I was sharing the news that Twin Cities residents were the most confident retirement planners in the nation and the third most prepared, according to Ameriprise's New Retirement Mindscape 2011 City Pulse index. A whopping 83 percent of residents said they had set at least some money away for their golden years.
This year, not so much. According to the index released Tuesday morning, we've fallen to number 18 out of the 30 metro areas examined in terms of confidence and preparation. Three-quarters of survey respondents said they're currently putting money aside for retirement. Far fewer are saving outside of their employer sponsored retirement plans (51 percent this year compared to 65 percent in 2010). And just 41 percent say they feel "on track," a drop from 48 percent last year. Despite the lower ranking, we are still above average when compared to the nation as a whole.
San Francisco topped the list of cities in 2011.
So what happened? It's not entirely clear.
The news release cites declining home prices, a tornado and the state government shutdown as possible reasons why other financial needs trumped retirement savings. But I think it's just as likely a case of volatility fatigue paired with a shift in focus toward debt paydown. The markets are scary, especially for workers nearing retirement. Americans who over-leveraged themselves during headier times are shifting their priorities, focused on the immediate financial rewards of paying down debt and saving a bit for emergencies. Yes, these are factors that would affect other cities as well. But we tend to be more conservative in our money mentality, and might have shifted more toward sure thing money moves such as paying off debt. I wonder if mortgage debt for existing homeowners is declining faster here.
It's important to point out that during the first week of August, when the online survey was conducted, the nation was in the midst of the debt deal and default talk. The Dow dropped 600 points in a single day during the survey period.
Use the interactive map below to explore other areas of the country and their feelings about retirement. Overall, sentiment is low. Only 18 percent of Americans believe they'll achieve their dreams in retirement. I wish Ameriprise had asked that survey question in 2006, when Ameriprise was advertising its services using commercials featuring Dennis Hopper goading people to start makig their dreams come true with Ameriprise's help. How times have changed.