As the baby boomer generation nears retirement age, the financial issues that weigh heaviest on their minds are shifting. According to a study released yesterday by AXA Financial, baby boomers have switched their financial focus from providing for children to planning for retirement.

The study compares the financial attitudes and outlook of the baby boomer generation in 2003 from a previous study done in 1993. Compared to 10 years ago, baby boomers are less focused on saving for a child’s education and more focused on retirement planning and long-term financial security. The study says boomers are more financially sophisticated as well, using a wider variety of financial vehicles, owing to the steady increase in involvement in the financial markets by average Americans.

Kip Condron, president and CEO of AXA Financial, said: “The findings indicate many boomers are interested in preserving more of what they’ve earned for the people and things they care about.”

Forty-three percent of boomers now say having adequate resources in retirement is their biggest concern, compared to 1993 when only 26 percent said that was so. They’re also less concerned about their children: Whereas in 1993, 57 percent guessed their children would not be better off than them, only 44 percent said that in 2003.

When it comes to the more basic aspects of money management, boomers seem to have improved their abilities. Seventeen percent cited balancing savings and financial security as their greatest financial concern in 1993, while only 9 percent said that was the case today.

Additionally, 90 percent today expect to live within their means, depending less on credit, compared to 81 percent then. Also, boomers are more apt to use more sophisticated vehicles—40 percent use IRAs as a primary investment, up from 17 percent, while reliance on CDs and money market accounts is down to 14 percent from 23 percent in 1993.

For other retirement income, 57 percent of boomers (up from 40 percent) placed high importance in the company pension plan. Also, 49 percent (up from 33 percent) placed equal expectation in privately created financial plans and company profit sharing plans (27 percent, up from 9 percent).

Not only have boomers switched their focus, they seem to be more willing to hand over the stewardship of their assets to a financial professional—75 percent said they have or would likely use a financial professional for planning advice.

In regard to life insurance, Condron says there is “an opportunity for life insurance to play a greater part in addressing their [boomers] desire for protection against a decline in lifestyle upon the loss of a spouse.”

Eighty-two percent of boomers said their spouses’ lifestyles would diminish upon their deaths. For women this prospect was particularly frightening—19 percent of women said the death of a spouse “would severely diminish” their lifestyle. Only 18 percent said lifestyle would not change. Condron says that life insurance is often overlooked as an investment vehicle, and perhaps would do better if thought of as “financial protection.”

The study, which sampled 700 people with incomes of $75,000, was done in August 2003.