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Worried you haven’t saved nearly enough money for retirement? You’re not alone. A new study by the Pew Research Center finds fewer Americans feel confident they have enough to last through retirement.

While Baby Boomers worried the most about their retirement nest eggs in 2009, this new study finds those in their late 30s most concerned about their retirement outlook.

So why are 30-somethings more worried? Here’s what researchers found:

In terms of wealth, adults ages 35 to 44 were hit disproportionately hard by the Great Recession. At the same time, this age group has disproportionately failed to benefit from the Great Rebound in stock prices that began after the recession ended three years ago. The reason is that a larger share of 35- to 44-year-olds got out of the stock market between 2001 and 2010 and were on the sidelines as stock prices began to increase in 2009, according to the Pew Research analysis of data from the Survey of Consumer Finances.

The S&P 500 Index peaked at 1,576 in October 2007 but then fell to a modern low of 667 in March 2009. Since then, the stock market began a steady rise, closing at 1,258 on the last day of December 2010. It now stands at about 1,450, nearly back to its earlier peak.

The magnitude of these fluctuations nearly matches the collapse of the market just a few years earlier when the S&P 500 hit its previous high of 1,553 in March 2000, only to lose half its value to finish at 769 in October 2002.

During this decade of wild market swings, ownership of stocks and retirement accounts, such as 401(k) and thrift accounts, fell among most age groups. But the declines were greatest among those ages 35 to 44. Read More

Income inequality in America has been building for decades. Just last year, income inequality set a  modern record—and the roots of the problem are the jobs deficit, the acceleration of low-wage jobs, and the tax code. As discussed in the latest issue of Prosperity Watch, income inequality is widespread and growing in North Carolina, with the top fifth of households holding over half of all state income. For more details, visit Prosperity Watch.

In this space yesterday, I provided an overview of how widespread income inequality is in North Carolina. As a brief reminder, North Carolina households in the top fifth hold more income than all of the remaining households combined in the state. Although income inequality hit a modern high last month in the United States, a 2011 study found that a lot of Americans’ hold a perception that does match up with this reality.   

Duke Professor Dan Ariely and Harvard Professor Michael Norton asked approximately 5,500 Americans (whose median income was $45,000) how they thought wealth is actually distributed in the nation. The study found that Americans perceived the distribution of wealth to be more equal than it actually is. In fact, 92 percent of respondents said their optimal level of inequality was even more equitable than their flawed perceptions, meaning they want to live in much more equal communities. Read More

Income inequality—the extent to which income is distributed unevenly—is widespread and growing in North Carolina, according to a recent report by the Budget and Tax Center. In a free market economy, a certain level of inequality is to be expected. However, we are experiencing historically high levels of income inequality—levels that are limiting and eroding the equality of opportunity, a core tenet of the American Dream.

Research shows that 42 percent of Americans born into the bottom fifth of the income distribution remain there as adults. This means that one’s financial standing as an adult is largely dependent upon their parents’ financial standing. This is certainly problematic considering 1 in 4 of North Carolina’s children live in poverty. More troubling, the average North Carolinian experiences lower-levels of absolute and upward mobility compared to the average Southeasterner and American. Read More