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Recently retired Americans generally are facing the future with more money and assets than their elders, according to a Florida researcher.

Nearly 60 percent of retirees aged 55 to 64 are financially "comfortable," compared to just over half of those 65 to 74 and only 38 percent of the 75 and over group, reports Charles F. Longino of the University of Miami.Longino, director of the Center for Social Research in Aging, reports his findings in the June edition of American Demographics magazine.

"The World War II GIs who reaped the financial rewards of a 20-year economic expansion are now retiring," he said, producing "an expanding number of upscale retirees."

The World War II veterans, Longino points out, reaped the benefits of government programs that provided education and home loans, cost-of-living escalators for their Social Security benefits and federal laws protecting private pensions. In addition, many were able to invest in stocks and bonds during a booming economy.

Longino's study was based on an analysis of 1980 Census data, the most recent available in sufficient detail for the study.

Just over half - 51.1 percent - of those in the middle group, aged 65 to 74, were listed as comfortable, which he defined as having income double the poverty level. In addition, 12.3 percent were "pension elite," with income from three sources: Social Security, pensions and assets.

For the younger group, 59.1 percent were comfortable but only 4.7 percent fit into the elite class. They were less likely to qualify as elite since few were receiving Social Security in addition to other retirement benefits.

The oldest group included 37.5 percent listed as comfortable and 8.5 percent as elite. Few in this group had income-generating assets and most completed a large share of their working lives before World War II, when pension benefits were less common and lower.

Elderly affluence isn't spread evenly across the nation, Longino noted.

"There are a cluster of states with a large share of the comfortably retired," he said.

These states include Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Nevada and New Jersey for those listed as comfortable, while the so-called pension elite made strong showings in Connecticut and Washington, Longino found.

Longino found the comfortably retired of the 65 to 75 age group in such resort and retirement states as Florida, Nevada and New Jersey; in Connecticut, where many New York executives have retired, and Hawaii. The Aloha state has a large Asian population in which extended families are more common, an arrangement that boosts the household income measure used in the study, Longino noted.

For the pension elite, Connecticut and Washington placed well, as did Florida, Maryland and New Jersey. Longino also found clusters of affluent elderly in some metropolitan areas.

He cited as examples Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach, Fla., San Diego and Palm Springs, Calif., and along Mobile Bay, Ala.

Longino's work was partially funded by the American Association of Retired Persons. American Demographics concentrates on population matters.

Here is a state-by-state rundown of the percentage of Americans aged 65 to 74 who are considered comfortably retired, or among the pension elite.