A recent survey of people with retirement plans, covering a wide range of ages, revealed a significant drop in confidence in the soundness of their retirement strategies and lack of confidence in their financial future in general. The survey was conducted by Spectrem Group, a Chicago-based research and consulting organization specializing in affluent and retirement markets, and compared financial confidence in May and last January. The results showed a significant drop in only five months.
   Those surveyed were asked if they expected their personal financial situation to be better one year from the time the survey was taken. In January, 77% felt their finances would improve. By May that number had dropped significantly to 53%. The decrease was most significant in the over-50 age group, with a decline from 68% in January to 48% in May.
   At the same time, the survey indicates the number of people who feel they have a sound retirement investment policy also is declining. In January 2006, only 43% believed they had a sound retirement policy. That meager percentage dropped to 39% a year later in January 2007, and further declined to 31% in May. Those with larger retirement accounts felt somewhat more confident in their investment strategy than those with smaller accounts of less than $100,000.
   The pessimistic attitude is blamed in part on rising gasoline prices, the slow job-growth rate that is at its lowest level in three years, and all-time high personal debt levels, according to the Spectrem report.
   "Advisors should treat these numbers as a warning flag alerting them to talk to their clients," said Spectrem director Gerry O'Connor.