Survey finds older Americans cutting spending

WASHINGTON Tue Jan 6, 2009 10:21am EST

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WASHINGTON Jan 6 (Reuters) - Older Americans are spending less on entertainment and restaurant meals as the recession forces them to focus on paying for essentials such as food, gas and medicine, a survey released on Tuesday said.

A survey of Americans aged 45 and older conducted for the AARP, an influential advocacy group for people over 50, found many had suffered savings and investment losses and planned to postpone retirement.

About 57 percent of people aged 45-54 and about 63 percent aged 55 to 64 who suffered investment setbacks said they expected to work longer because of their losses.

The survey of 1,097 people aged 45 and older was conducted in December by Woelfel Research. About 91 percent of those surveyed said the U.S. economy was in bad shape, compared to 81 percent the previous April. The recession officially began in December 2007.

About 68 percent of those surveyed last month had cut entertainment spending and 64 percent were eating out less.

About 52 percent had difficulty covering basic expenses like food, gas and medicine last year.

"However, reports of such challenges were less common in December than in April, which most likely reflects the recent slowdown in inflation, including declining energy prices, during the second half of 2008," AARP said.

Thirty six percent of those surveyed stopped putting money into a 401K or other retirement saving account while 17 percent prematurely withdrew retirement funds.

(Reporting by Donna Smith, editing by Alan Elsner)

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