Changing behavior for a safer retirement

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One of the keys to financial security in retirement is behavior; especially before retirement, and the sooner the better. That was the underlying message from a panel of experts at a recent webinar on preparing for retirement.

In “Retiree Reflections: Lessons Learned for The Next Generation,” a June 22 webinar from the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI), panelists discussed retirees’ perspectives on their situation and the how their decisions led to them, as well as what employers can do to empower future retirees to build a strong financial and retirement future.

Panelists included Bridget Bearden, Research and Development Strategist, EBRI; Demi Hannon, Senior Director, Global Financial Benefits and Wellbeing, Boeing; and Stephen Rubino, Senior Vice President, Head of Workplace Innovation, Edelman Financial Engines.

Could we should we

Bearden cited research by EBRI and Edelman Financial Engines of 1,109 retirees between the ages of 55 and 80 with assets of $50,000 to $5,000,000.

Key findings include:

  • Current retirees wish they had saved more and planned for retirement earlier.
  • Twenty-five percent of retirees said their former employer offered help with financial planning, which could reflect jet lag or a lack of awareness.
  • Many retirees do not have a formal financial plan for retirement.

Half of respondents said they would have changed their financial habits if they had known it would have improved their current situation, Bearden said. This figure rose to 53% of those without a financial plan and 57% of those with less than $500,000.

About half — 49% — said they wish they had started planning for retirement sooner, Bearden said, and 55% of those with $500,000 or less said so. Additionally, 40% of those with between $500,000 and $2,000,000 and 57% of those with less than $500,000 said they would have changed their financial habits during their working years to improve their financial situation in retirement. And 72% of those who said they would have changed their behavior said they would have saved more or started saving sooner.

Inflation

As retirement neared, Bearden said, retirees’ top concern was not saving enough, and inflation was the third biggest concern. That has changed, however – inflation has risen to the top and was the biggest concern for 54% of retirees after retirement and was the most frequently cited concern.

Financial plans

The study, as well as the panelists, discussed the vagaries of respondents’ approaches to financial planning and highlighted its importance.

Bearden noted that in the study, 81% of retirees said they had identified their financial goals for retirement. However, for an informal majority, 53% said they did not have a written financial strategy or plan.

The reasons cited by those who had not identified financial goals for retirement were:

  • lack of knowledge;
  • procrastination;
  • prefer to live spontaneously;
  • not seeing the need to define them; and
  • unexpected events that got in the way.

Action steps

Panelists had a wide range of suggestions for what employers can do to help employees prepare for a more financially secure retirement.

Rubino identified three things that can help employees approaching retirement and prepare for it more actively:

1. Complete and personalized income planning. “It’s very clear that employees are having a hard time putting it all together,” Rubino said.
2. Assistance from a trusted professional advisor.
3. Take advantage of a range of 401(k) investments and payment flexibility.

Financial health. Hannon also stressed the importance of financial health. “Financial health is just as important as physical and mental health,” she said, adding that often the discussion of financial health is “another important piece that’s missing.”

Start early. Hannon suggested that teaching about the importance of finances and financial health should begin early. “It’s important to start teaching about finances and the importance of financial health earlier in schools,” she said.

Plan design. Hannon said Boeing’s approach is to start by making sure employees have and use the right plane design. And in doing so, she says, they look through the lens of what the outcome will be for the employee.

Personalized packages. Hannon and Rubino emphasized the importance of employees having personalized plans for financial health and retirement readiness. “Employees should have something tailored,” Rubino said. He reported that Edelman meets people who think they have to meet a financial threshold to be eligible for a financial plan. “Part of it is getting rid of that misnomer,” he said, adding that “the beauty of offering something like this is that they have access” to such a plan. And those with a personalized plan, Hannon said, may have a higher risk tolerance.

Technology. Improving the digital experience can help, Rubino suggested. “Access to aid must be modernized. We can do a lot in the area of ​​technology, making it easier to access,” Hannon said. She noted that younger employees are on the phone when thinking about financial planning and argued that access to them should therefore be quick and easy. “We have the ability to make all of our tools stylish,” she said.

Remember those who are close to retirement. Hannon said it’s also important to engage people as they approach retirement and “make sure they understand the myriad of decisions that need to be made in retirement.”

A note of hope

Hannon is optimistic about the younger generations and said they see new employees at Boeing not wasting time and “making their investment choices and saving right away.”

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