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February 2016

Is Retirement a Mixed Blessing?

MusingsThese days, many Boomers are uncertain if not downright pessimistic about "retirement." New research from Mintel points to some sobering opinions and conditions shared by Boomers:

  • 20 percent do not have any retirement savings
  • 41 percent have less than $250,000 in retirement savings
  • Of those with more than $250,000 in retirement savings, 52 percent are worried about whether they'll have enough money to retire
  • 31 percent are worried they will outlive their money
  • Only 10 percent manage their finances according to a written financial plan
  • 15 percent say they do not plan to retire
  • 47 percent worry that they'll have to work longer than desired to do everything they want in retirement.

In addition to money woes, Boomers also worry about -- you guessed it -- their health. Being healthy enough to enjoy retirement is a concern for 45 percent of Boomers. Having adequate health insurance is a concern for 30 percent of Boomers, as is paying for health insurance (29 percent).

Interestingly, however, Boomers still have aspirations for retirement. Even though 21 percent say they haven't thought about their plans after retiring, 47 percent indicate they plan to travel, 38 percent plan to spend more time with family, and 21 percent say they will work part-time.

According to Robyn Kaiserman, Senior Financial Services Analyst for Mintel, “Our research reveals that many Baby Boomers are facing a shortfall that will be difficult to overcome if they plan on retiring in the coming years. Even Boomers who have a substantial amount saved for retirement are concerned that they don’t have enough and are worried about the possibility of outliving their savings.”

Read more from Mintel here.

C'mon Brands, Recognize Us!

OnaWhimI've commented before about the fact that brands often neglect Boomers, even though we are the generation that has accumulated the most wealth in the U.S. Here is some hard data to support that contention.

Sonar, the proprietary research unit of J. Walter Thompson, a leading global ad agency, conducted a study of the 50+ market in December 2015. The results, according to the agency, "challenge deep-rooted age-based assumptions and signal a pro-aging shift... but they also signal that brands still have not done enough to prepare."

Some of the views shared by 50+ consumers in the study are fascinating. See if they mesh with your own:

  • They are adopting "more relaxed attitudes towards aging"
  • 94% say “I accept my age” and 87% embrace growing older
  • 75% browse and shop online at least monthly
  • An almost equal percentage say they prefer to shop in-store (23%) vs. online (24%)
  • 88% think many products and services could be better designed for the needs of older people
  • More than three-quarters (78%) say they don’t feel the need to reverse the time with “anti-aging products.”

There may be a lot brands don't know (or don't want to know) about today's 50+ consumer. Brands that understand how to reach and engage this key demographic group will be better off for it.


The Knowledge Transfer Crisis

MusingsYou could sense it was coming. On the one hand, Boomers who have been senior managers at companies have started to retire, either by choice or circumstance, taking their considerable knowledge and experience with them. On the other hand, Millennials are stepping into senior management roles, lacking the knowledge and experience of the managers they replace, namely Boomers.

This creates a fascinating dilemma for American businesses: a knowledge transfer crisis. Dorothy Leonard, professor emeritus at Harvard Business School, tells Bloomberg Business, “Many large, older companies are caught up in a tsunami of baby boomers retiring and are unaware of how much tribal knowledge they are taking with them." Chip Espinoza, director of organization psychology at Concordia University Irvine, adds, “In the next 10 to 15 years, we’re going to have the greatest transfer of knowledge that’s ever taken place.”

Bloomberg Business cites the telling example of a Boomer at Deloitte, chief marketing/chief content officer Jonathan Copulsky, who mentors younger executives at the company. One of his mentees, a Millennial, commented about Copulsky,“I see how he approaches clients. Millennials bring data and analytics, but boomers have experience they can rely on when the data isn’t sufficient.”

Now here's the real tragedy: The mandatory retirement age at Deloitte is 62, so Copulsky will be forced to retire in June 2017. Really Deloitte... 62?? Isn't that precisely the time in one's life when the incredible wellspring of knowledge could be of most value to a consulting firm? Yet Mike Preston, Deloitte's chief talent officer, tells Bloomberg Business he thinks the company will probably have no Boomers left in top management within ten years.

As a society, we seem to laud youth over experience in every way, even to the extent of forcing talented, knowledgeable, experienced individuals to leave their jobs because they reach an arbitrary retirement age. It isn't good for American businesses, it isn't good for Boomers, and it isn't even good for young up-and-comers who could greatly benefit from mentors like Jonathan Copulsky. But until companies change the way they do business, and Americans change their perceptions of aging, Boomers who should be showing Millennials how to take over will more than likely be shown the door.

It doesn't make sense to me.

Wharton's Take on Retirement

OnaWhimThe prestigious Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania recently published an insightful article about retirement. According to the article, "Research indicates that those who are happiest in retirement tend to answer that question by 'giving back' and discovering a sense of purpose." Stewart Friedman, founding director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, adds, “It’s critical to reflect on what matters to you. People at this stage are focused on their legacy. You need to actively inquire of yourself: What do I want to leave behind?”

One of the challenges soon-to-be-retired professionals wrestle with is the close connection work has with their identities. Peter Cappelli, a Wharton management professor, says, “A lot of people get their identity from work and they get their social interaction from work, so the idea of stopping means they’re going to lose both. [You need to] respect that it’s going to be a huge loss.

“If you’re getting close to that part of your life and you don’t know what you’re going to do, treat it as a worrying sign,” he adds. “Don’t assume it’s going to be OK and that it’s all going to work out. Figure this out now. Get busy.”

San Asato, president of a Minnesota-based financial advisory group, says that "one of the biggest challenges is when there’s a gap between expectation and reality. You take a busy executive who has had a successful career. He is looking forward to retirement because he wants to pursue a hobby or some kind of pet project. But when he retires, he finds that he is not very good at it. It’s difficult. I encourage my clients to take classes, take lessons and brush up on their skills [while they’re still working].”

For some, a phased retirement (working part-time) may be the best option. For others, it may be an encore career. Wharton reports that "encore careers — also known as 'post careers' or 'second acts' — tend to provide more satisfaction than previous careers. People in encore careers express very high job satisfaction, and overwhelming majorities say they feel good about the work they are doing, see the positive results of their work, know that they are making a difference, feel appreciated and like that they are able to use their skills and experience..."

This article addresses many retirement issues and concerns without the sugar-coating. You can read the entire article here.

A Sound Decision

MusingsOne of the better decisions my wife and I made was engaging the services of a financial planner. Truth be told, at the time we picked the person out of a phone book -- but we did some preliminary research. We knew what we wanted (an independent CFP who had no vested interest in selling us products) and which questions to ask. 

That was over thirty years ago, and we are still working with the same person. Our financial planner has been a valued advisor, helping us protect and preserve our capital, assisting us with important investment decisions, and guiding us in planning for college and retirement expenses. It was our financial planner's counsel that helped us plan for relocating and an early retirement.

I hope you have had a similar experience with a financial planner who has put your best interests first.  If you haven't used a financial planner, keep in mind that, while earlier is better, it is never too late to work with one. Too many Boomers have under-funded their retirement and could be in for a shock in their later years. That's where a financial planner can help.

If you're unsure how to proceed, begin by doing some online research about financial planning. Ask friends and family if they have any recommendations. There are also several books that offer guidance; a good one to start with is "A Good Financial Advisor Will Tell You..." You can order it directly from Amazon below.