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Dem, GOP boomers agree: Health care is the top worry

October 19, 2012

| Money Rates Columnist

As the election approaches, there is one issue both Democratic and Republican transitional boomers are uniting behind. According to a recent survey, members of both parties who are within 10 years of retirement agree that health care costs pose the greatest threat to their financial security in retirement.

The 2012 Retirement & Politics Survey, conducted by Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, examined the views of transitional boomers between the ages of 55 to 65. While the survey revealed some differences between Democratic, Republican and independent voters, the following were the top issues raised by all survey respondents:

  • Health care expenses: 67 percent
  • Social Security: 53 percent
  • Tax payment changes: 31 percent
  • National debt: 26 percent
  • Unemployment: 19 percent
  • Education: 4 percent

Transitional boomers, regardless of party affiliation, agreed health care expenses were their No. 1 concern. Of Democratic respondents, 69 percent identified health care expenses as having the greatest impact on their retirement outlook, compared to 66 percent of independents and 64 percent of Republicans.

The prominence of health care concerns in the survey echoes the findings of a recent MSN/MoneyRates.com poll, which indicated that Americans would prefer having free health care over a number of other workplace benefits.

Retirement savings philosophy varies by party

While boomers across party affiliations may agree on the issues of concern, they do differ when it comes to retirement savings strategies.

Republican respondents were more likely to characterize their retirement savings philosophy as being conservative or moderately conservative. Nearly 60 percent of Republicans used these terms to describe their retirement savings, compared to 36 percent of Democrats. Meanwhile, 39 percent of independents and 29 percent of those with no party preference said they use a conservative or moderately conservative approach to retirement savings.

The outcome of the November presidential election has the potential to change savings strategies for some transitional boomers, however. Should Republican nominee Mitt Romney win the election, 30 percent of Democratic respondents say they will become more conservative in their approach. Conversely, should President Barack Obama be re-elected, 42 percent of Republicans say they will become more conservative with their retirement funds.

More Republicans begin retirement planning early

While most transitional boomers began saving for retirement in their 40s or earlier, the Allianz survey found Republicans were more likely to begin planning at an early age.

The survey found 79 percent of Republicans had begun their retirement savings prior to age 50. Only 71 percent of independents and 69 percent of Democrats said the same.

In addition, only 12 percent of Republicans surveyed said they had not yet begun saving for retirement. Higher numbers of Democrats and independents -- 19 percent for both groups -- reported not yet putting away money for retirement. Those with no political preference were most likely to have failed to put money aside for retirement, with more than one in five saying they had yet not begun saving.

While nothing seems to highlight differing philosophies quite like a presidential election, the Allianz survey shows there is common ground between those of both parties when it comes to the some of the challenges facing individuals nearing retirement age. Regardless of this election's outcome, the need for workers to plan carefully for retirement appears unlikely to diminish.

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