Sour U.S. economy has put 40% of Americans on edge

Her angst eased around Christmas, when instead of layoffs, her company handed out yearly bonuses. But a month later, she and three others were let go.

Her spirits sagged during those first days, but soon she began to pursue freelance editing. The work has flowed in since.

"If it continues to be this steady," says Clark, "I will be better off financially than I was as a full-time employee."

So, for now, she is not worried.

"In one way it was a bad thing to lose my job," she says.

"But it's created room for all these other things that so far have proven very fruitful and fulfilling."

Seniors not as stressed

The worry gap between those younger than 65 and those entering their senior years was stark. Only 19% of those 65 and older were stressed about money the day before.

"In retrospect, (it) makes sense," Harter says of the relative calm among seniors. "They may have been less invested in the markets ... and that group may be less susceptible to all of the things that happened in the last year with the economy."

Frey added that the oldest Americans have lived through many national crises and may be more stoic.

"They've seen the ups and the downs," he says.

Floyd Schultz, 75, of Coral Springs, Fla., was a child of the Depression. Born in 1933, he faintly recalls his parents receiving aid so they could buy food.

That experience shaped him, making Schultz a conservative investor. A pharmacist, he still works part time, and his 67-year-old wife, Marcia, works full time as a psychologist.

Having a job has helped keep his worry in check.

"We're basically living off current income, plus Social Security," says Schultz, noting that they have been able to leave their retirement funds untouched. "If we had to dip in, we'd be in trouble."

Perhaps more than worry, he feels anger.

"Frankly, I would like to see some people in jail," says Schultz, of the government officials and bankers whose actions, he believes, helped precipitate the current crisis. "It's unconscionable."

With at least 25% of their retirement savings gone in the slumping market, Schultz says his wife probably will have to postpone her plans to retire this year. Still, he remains an optimist.

"You have to believe our country ... will come back," he says.

"If it doesn't, none of this is going to matter."

TELL US: What worries you the most about your household finances?

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