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Infographic: Wells Fargo/Gallup Investor And Retirement Optimism Index First Quarter 2014 (Graphic: Business Wire)

A majority of investors (57%) also believe the existing retirement vehicles, including the 401(k) and IRA, provide enough options to Americans versus 40% who think more choices are needed. However, this gap widens among those with access to a 401(k)-type plan: 62% say available retirement vehicle options are sufficient; 37% say more types are needed. Among those without access to a 401(k)-type plan 49% say available options are sufficient, and 46% say more types are needed.

“Nine out of 10 investors are telling us the tax deferral status of retirement accounts is something that is important, and they want to be able to put away more money on a tax deferred basis. People respond positively to this incentive, and we need to continue to encourage saving as a country,” added Ready.

Investor Caution about the Stock Market Persists

Given the strong stock market of 2013, investors were asked if looking at their retirement account balances makes them feel more confident about their retirement future. Among all investors, 40% say their outlook for retirement is “no different,” while over a third (36%) report they are “a lot more” or a “little more” confident about the future. When analyzing the responses of retired investors, 40% say their retirement outlook is “a little” to “a lot more” confident than it has been, as opposed to 35% among the non-retired; whereas 36% of the retired and 41% of the non-retired say looking at their accounts has caused “no difference” in their outlook.

Also among all investors, 55% say the “uneven distribution of wealth” in the country is a “major problem” and among non-retired investors, a third (34%) say income inequality will make it “harder” for them to retire.

Despite a bull market in 2013, 62% of investors report that their fears about sustaining significant losses in a repeat of the 2008/2009 stock market downturn have not eased. Just a third (30%) of all investors say that last year’s market gains have made them less fearful of a significant market downturn, which is unchanged since last summer.

“In the past five years of recovering from the depths of our recession, 2013 was a banner year for stocks, but it does not appear to have mitigated the strong skepticism that I think still exists among average investors; investors appear willing to trade off double-digit stock market growth to avoid the risk of bruising losses so many experienced in 2008 and 2009,” said Ready.

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