The financial downturn has prompted Americans to make some improvements where their finances are concerned, namely to reduce spending and increase savings, but when it comes to revolving debt outside of their mortgages, they are doing little to improve their situations.

And their focus on the present might also cause other long-term goals such as saving for retirement to suffer.

Those were some of the key findings of the 2009 Survey of Financial Values and Debt, sponsored by Securian Financial Group.

Eighty-two percent are carrying debt outside of their mortgages, and one-fifth of them have debt of $50,000 or more. Yet at the same time, there is a disconnect between what they are doing and what they are worried about, for 75% are concerned about the heavy amount of debt they might carry into retirement.

“Consumers are clutching cash and postponing debt reduction,” said Kerry Geurkink, director of individual annuity marketing at Securian. “They are wisely adjusting their spending and borrowing, but the ultimate goal of debt-free retirement will be more difficult to achieve without a better balance between saving and debt reduction.

“It is encouraging that Americans are willing to shun new debt and adopt more cautious attitudes toward spending,” Geurkink continued. “But consumers need effective debt-reduction strategies to set themselves up for debt-free retirement.”

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