From the November 2006 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

November 1, 2006

Still Not Ready

Survey finds even those with advisors are

Although they might be confident in their savings for retirement, when it comes crunch time, many affluent retirees and pre-retirees find themselves ill equipped because they do not have an adequate retirement plan in place, according to a recent survey conducted by Boston-based MFS Investment Management.

The Retirement Research Study, was the first of its kind conducted by MFS. Results were drawn from 442 surveys completed online by 202 pre-retirees and 222 retirees between the ages of 55 and 75, who use a paid professional financial advisor and report at least $100,000 in investable assets excluding retirement accounts and real estate.

MFS also surveyed 216 advisors serving the high-net-worth investor base. While those advisors would recommend putting together a retirement income plan at least 10 years before retirement, 52% of the survey's pre-retirees reported that they do not have an income plan, and over a third of those do not expect to even discuss an income plan with their advisor for another six or more years, if ever. One in three retirees have no retirement plans in place.

According to the survey, the escalating cost of healthcare and the rise in inflation are the biggest concern for retirees and pre-retirees. Seventy-nine percent of pre-retirees and 87% of retirees fear that these factors may cause them to outlive their savings. In addition, 57% of pre-retirees feel that they are too conservatively invested to counter the problems associated with healthcare costs and inflation.

Inflationary pressure is one of the biggest concerns for retirees and pre-retirees today, says Jim Jessee, President of Boston-based MFS Fund Distributors, and many report they're unprepared to deal with a rising cost of living.

Part of the problem is education. "When clients say that they're set for retirement, advisors need to sit them down and make them go through everything, ask them probing questions about what they have and what they will need," Jessee says. But countering the effects of rising inflation also has a lot to do with the investment choices people make, he says, and clients should work with their advisors to formulate a retirement income plan that balances their need for a reliable, steady stream of income with an investment strategy that seeks capital appreciation to lessen the effect of inflation on purchasing power.

To that end, Jessee would recommend investing in products such as MFS's recently-minted Diversified Income Fund, a vehicle that is designed to suit the risk temperament of those heading toward retirement and also provide a good hedge against future inflation.

One of the main reasons why many people do not have a plan is because their retirement funds will come from a variety of sources, Jessee says, and getting one's hands around those disparate sources in order to come up with a comprehensive plan is tough for both advisors and clients. But if advisors wish to really address the income lacunae in the affluent retiree and pre-retiree markets, then they need a targeted approach.

"Advisors are not going to get the typical affluent American through a regular cold call," Jessee says. "Advisors need to get to them in a specialized manner, taking advantage of contacts with other professionals like CPAs and attorneys, for instance." Jessee also recommends that advisors focus on getting to know particular industries, "because the retirement needs of one industry are different from others."

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