Investors haven’t given up on retirement savings, but they aren’t expecting their portfolio balances to be restored anytime soon, Age Wave and Harris Interactive found in a survey of 2,082 investors they call “Retirement at the Tipping Point: The year That Changed Everything.”

“A new era of cautious self-reliance is emerging from a truly unnerving fiscal dilemma," said Dr. Ken Dychtwald, founder and CEO of Age Wave. “For many people, their retirement dreams have vaporized. Each of the four generations polled is trying to alter its game plan in fascinating ways to seek peace of mind and to make the best of the years ahead.”

Respondents, 60% of whom have lost money in the market over the past year, believe it will take seven years for their investments to return to their pre-crisis levels. The single-biggest worry among those age 55 or older, cited by 46% of respondents, is that they won’t be able to afford medical expenses. This is now a greater concern that lack of personal savings (18%) or uncertain entitlements (11%).

Americans expect to delay retiring by an average of 4.2 years. Eighty-one percent said teaching children to live within their means is the most important financial advice parents could pass on to their children, up from 69% who said so a year ago. That was followed by 65% saying, begin saving at an early age.

Ninety-five percent believe that financial management should be taught in high school and a standard subject, and 56% said the best thing about having money saved was security.

However, 58% said having a loving family and relationships is the most important thing, but 33% cited being wealthy.

Despite the dire outlook for the markets currently and what it has done to Americans’ savings, 60% said they view retirement as “a new, exciting chapter of life,” up from 52% last year. Seventy percent hope to work in some capacity in their retirement, not just to pay the bills but to remain stimulated and to continue to contribute to society.

“While we discovered both disturbing and encouraging signs about retirement from each generation,” said David Baxter, SVP at Age Wave, “there are indications that of all cohorts, it’s the Millennials [Gen Y] that are coming out of this financial storm a wiser, more cautious and more responsible generation.”

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