BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — According to the latest Country Financial Security index, Americans have lost confidence in their personal level of financial security, but it does not seem to have dampened their optimism about the year ahead.

Officials explained that despite a 1.1-point dip in December, 72 percent of Americans think next year will be the same or better for them financially.

The drop in index to 68.8 is the result of Americans' greater pessimism about nearly all aspects of their current financial security, especially about their ability to meet long-term financial goals for college funding and retirement, executives indicated.

"The uncertainty of the economy has hit home with Americans and is definitely having an effect on how they feel about their present situation," said Keith Brannan, vice president of financial security planning at Country.

"While optimism about 2008 is encouraging, it is important that people turn their optimism into action," he added.

The company found:

—Just 64 percent are confident they will have the resources to send their children to college, a dramatic six point decline since October and the lowest level recorded this year.

—Those confident in their ability to enjoy a comfortable retirement slipped three points to 63 percent in December.

"It's sometimes difficult to think about long-term financial goals when there are so many near-term pressures during the holidays," Brannan noted. "But with a little planning and discipline it's possible for Americans to spread some holiday cheer and save for the future at the same time."

Country's index averaged 69.2 for the year, with its highest reading in February at 70.2 and lowest in June at 68.2.

Of all measures comprising the Country index, college funding and asset protection sentiments fluctuated most throughout the year, according to officials.

Most stable were people's perception of their overall level of financial security and their ability to set aside money for retirement, savings or investments.