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Boomers expected to cut back on holiday giving, spending

Blame it on the Grinch - the market Grinch, that is. Many baby boomers expect to cut back on their 2008 holiday giving, spending and travel due to market concerns, according to a national survey of 947 Americans age 45-64.

The poll, conducted for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans in the midst of market turbulence October 20-23, found:

•?Nearly two in three boomers (63 percent) expect to cut back on overall spending now and for the holidays due to market worries.

•?One in three boomers (33 percent) expect to cut back on giving to charity.

•?One in five boomers (19 percent) expect to cancel holiday travel plans.

"Our survey suggests that retailers, nonprofits and the travel industry just might find a lump of coal in their Christmas stocking," said David Heupel, a senior equity portfolio manager with Thrivent Financial. "Consumers seem to be motivated to make short-term sacrifices to protect themselves against further market and economic worries."

Female boomers are slightly more apt than their male counterparts to report they will be cutting back on holiday spending (66 percent vs. 59 percent), giving to charity (37 percent vs. 29 percent), and holiday travel (21 percent vs. 17 percent).

Children living at home magnify respondents' Grinch-like attitude. Boomers with children still in the household were more likely to report they planned to cut back on holiday spending than were boomers without children in the house (71 percent vs. 60 percent).

Boomer holiday travel plans were influenced by household income. Roughly one in four boomers with incomes less than $50,000 reported they had canceled their holiday travel plans (26 percent of those with household income of less than $25,000 had cancelled travel plans; 27 percent of those with income of $25,000 to $49,999). In contrast, roughly one in seven boomers with incomes of more than $50,000 reported cancelling their holiday travel (14 percent of those with incomes of $50,000 to $74,999; and 15 percent of those with incomes of $75,000 or more).

"Short-term financial adjustments can be helpful and necessary at times," noted Jane Zilch, vice president of distribution strategy programs for Thrivent Financial. "But even decisions around issues like holiday spending, giving and travel should be weighed with a view toward one's values and long-term financial goals. Having a formal financial strategy in place can help."