Despite significant monetary losses, Fidelity Investment Executive John Sweeney said there's good news coming out of the economic downturn of the last five years. "Investor behaviors have really changed. What we see is 58 percent of the people we surveyed actually feel more confident now than they did going into the downturn," Sweeney said.
The Fidelity study titled "Five Years Later" reveals Americans are taking more control over spending and saving. "42 percent said they had reduced their household debt and almost half said they had increased their savings," Sweeney said.
The study shows people are investing directly from paycheck to savings. Sweeney said that's a good sign these changes are going to stick.
"When people learn to live on what's left after they've already paid themselves in order to contribute to a savings account, then those changes tend to work within their household budget and tend to be long-lasting," Sweeney said.
Moving forward, investors need a plan to weather future economic storms.
"Young investors should start contributing to a 401k or an IRA with their first paycheck and their first job," Sweeney advises.
Sweeney also gives direction for people entering into retirement.
"You want to be planning for a 30 year time horizon. So we ask folks, even at age 65, to have about half their portfolio in stocks. Stocks are the most likely place you're going to have growth that outpaces inflation," Sweeney said.
There are also opportunities investors have now, right before the tax filing deadline.
"They can make contributions to their IRA. If you're over 55 you can make catch-up contributions for 2012," Sweeney said.
Also, it's not too soon to think about next year. "Think about how you can contribute every month out of a paycheck into your ira or 401k to prepare for 2013 tax returns as well," Sweeney said.