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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.

State CR PE

United States 51.1 12.3

Alabama 35.4 7.2

Alaska 59.3 10.4

Arizona 59.8 16.2

Arkansas 36.6 8.3

California 59.7 15.2

Colorado 55.8 14.0

Connecticut 62.7 18.5

Delaware 56.9 16.0

Dist. of Col. 55.3 12.3

Florida 61.0 15.7

Georgia 39.2 7.4

Hawaii 64.0 14.6

Idaho 48.9 10.5

Illinois 58.6 14.5

Indiana 54.1 15.4

Iowa 55.0 10.8

Kansas 53.9 11.0

Kentucky 39.9 9.1

Louisiana 38.5 6.7

Maine 45.5 12.9

Maryland 59.8 16.3

Massachusetts 54.6 14.3

Michigan 54.5 16.2

Minnesota 50.6 12.7

Mississippi 30.5 5.0

Missouri 48.6 12.2

Montana 47.5 9.6

Nebraska 51.7 8.2

Nevada 60.6 12.3

New Hampshire 51.8 15.3

New Jersey 61.6 16.5

New Mexico 48.1 11.4

New York 55.0 15.5

North Carolina 39.4 8.0

North Dakota 47.6 7.4

Ohio 55.2 16.2

Oklahoma 42.5 8.9

Oregon 56.5 16.3

Pennsylvania 55.3 16.8

Rhode Island 51.4 13.9

South Carolina 40.0 8.3

South Dakota 42.6 6.6

Tennessee 39.2 8.8

Texas 46.1 9.5

Utah 59.3 13.0

Vermont 50.3 15.5

Virginia 52.8 12.5

Washington 58.9 18.2

West Virginia 45.5 11.6

Wisconsin 54.4 16.2

Wyoming 52.4 9.3