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Future of Retirement: Surprisingly Optimistic

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Americans' perceptions and desires surrounding retirement planning are evolving rapidly.

In response to the recession, many Americans -- in word, if not deed -- have readjusted their expectations for where retirement income will come from. They are planning to live longer, work longer and have more modest expectations about their quality of life.

Living longer means new challenges and strategies for your retirement.

A 2010 Gallup survey of nonretired Americans showed more people expect to rely heavily on Social Security and fewer expect 401(k)s or IRAs, home equity and pension plans to be major funding sources. Overall, nonretirees still most commonly say IRAs and 401(k)s will be a major source of retirement income (45%), followed by Social Security (34%), work-sponsored pension plans (23%), saving accounts or CDs (22%), home equity (20%) and individual stock investments (20%).

The 34% of nonretirees who say Social Security will be a major source of income in their retirement is the highest Gallup has measured since 2001. The survey also showed new lows in the percentage of nonretirees saying home equity and pension plans will be major sources of their retirement income.

What's often missing in surveys and reporting about future retirement readiness may come as a surprise. It can be summed up in one word: optimism.

Despite the looming forces of longevity, frugality and economic turbulence, the future may not be so bad after all.

Insurance company The Hartford (HIG) and the MIT AgeLab recently released a study, Age of Opportunity, measuring the opinions and concerns of Americans in and approaching retirement. It found most retirees are pleased with their life, and both pre-retirees and retirees have a positive attitude about retirement overall.

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