Baby boomers are less confident than ever that they will have enough money for a secure and comfortable retirement, according to a new study that highlights the key role advisors can play in helping clients plan for their post-work years.

In the Insured Retirement Institute's latest report on boomers' attitudes toward retirement, just 24% of respondents say they are confident they will have enough money to last through their lifetime, the lowest mark since the group began conducting the annual survey in 2011. That year, 37% of respondents expressed confidence about their retirement security.

"That's not good news. This measure has dropped every year since we commenced the study," Cathy Weatherford, IRI's president and CEO, told reporters on a conference call. "Probably even more discouraging, our study found few boomers are saving for retirement and/or taking important retirement steps."

The IRI study was based on a survey of 800 Americans aged 53 to 69.

The top-level findings of the survey may not be encouraging, but they do make a case for working with an advisor. Of the survey respondents who say they consult with a financial professional, 78% report they have at least $100,000 in savings for retirement.

Overall, however, 45% of boomers polled say they don't have any retirement savings, and of those who have do have savings, 42% say their nest egg is less than $100,000, with many indicating they expect to fund their golden years largely through Social Security.

Devising strategies around Social Security is another area where advisors can be a boon to the retirement-planning process, according to Kevin McGarry, director of the Nationwide Retirement Institute, who said that just about a third of advisors offer Social Security counseling through their planning services.

"At the end of the day, filing for Social Security is a very important decision for individual investors, and they need to be aware of how and when to file," McGarry says.

The release of the report coincides with the IRI's National Retirement Planning Week, which will include a series of workshops and online presentations for retirement professionals and a luncheon on Capitol Hill focused on some of the policy issues the trade group is working on.

In addition to the general pessimism boomers expressed about their retirement security, just 46% say that leaving money to heirs is a high priority, down from 67% in 2013.

Fifty-nine percent of respondents say they are looking to Social Security as a major source of income, up significantly from 43% in 2014.

Jaimie Hopkins, a professor of taxation at the American College, sees a potential silver lining in the latest IRI study and other similar research. He attributes some of the declines in boomers' confidence levels to an increasing recognition of what it will take to fund a secure retirement.

Still, stark findings including the 30% of boomers who say they have stopped contributing to a retirement account altogether suggest a disconnect between people's attitudes and actions.

"People are becoming much more aware of the challenges they're going to face in retirement, because, really, their preparedness hasn't changed a whole lot but their confidence has — it's dropped significantly, which could be seen as a good thing," Hopkins says. "It would be seen as a good thing if we actually saw people having better offsetting behaviors. Unfortunately, we haven't seen that yet."

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