Retiree Confidence Returning to Pre-Crisis Level

Despite increasing confidence, few know how long their assets will last

Retirees are returning to their 2008 attitudes about finances, a report released by the Society of Actuaries, LIMRA and the International Foundation for Retirement Education found, even if they’re not quite there yet. Retirees feel more financially secure now than they did in 2009, the last time the survey was conducted. They are more confident and have less household debt. Furthermore, they’re more conservative than they were in 2008 and have maintained the spending levels they used in 2009 rather than 2008.

“When it comes to having enough to live comfortably, confidence levels are back to what we saw in 2008,” Sally Bryck, assistant research director for LIMRA, said Wednesday during a webinar announcing the results of the study. “Once the major crisis started to turn around, retirees’ confidence did too.”

Despite these encouraging signs of financial recovery, retirees are still facing significant challenges, namely that despite their increased feelings of confidence, many of them still don’t know how long their assets will last.

“There’s a gap between what people are feeling and how they are behaving,” Anna Rappaport, actuary and chairperson for the Committee on Post-Retirement Needs and Risks for the Society of Actuaries, said.

Over half of retirees say they feel as financially secure as they thought they would be when they first retired, and 16% say they are more secure. However, 36% have not estimated how long their assets might last, and 10% haven’t thought about it.

Longevity continues to be a challenge for retirees. In 2008, 65% were aware that their investments needed to last at least 20 years; that percentage has fallen to 45% in 2011.

“How can they confidently manage their assets when they don’t know realistically how long it needs to last?” Betty Meredith, director of education and research at the International Foundation for Retirement Education, asked.

“Retirees are hoping for the best and taking an auto-pilot approach to managing their assets and investments,” she added, noting that use of guaranteed benefits hasn’t increased since 2008. The report found just

30% of retirees say they are interested in converting part of their savings into guaranteed income. “In essence, people are self-insuring their retirement,” Meredith continued. They’re doing well with what they control like managing spending, but they need to be doing other things, she said.

Retirees and Advisors

Over 60% of retirees say they have someone that they consider to be their financial advisor. This vague definition of a personal advisor has led to larger amounts of investable assets and higher annual incomes among those retirees, but the report found that compared with when they first retired, more retirees with advisors say they feel less financially secure.

Overall, retirees are more conservative now than they were in 2008. Just 6% consider themselves somewhat or extremely aggressive, while 22% say they are extremely conservative. Those without advisors are especially conservative; 74% of retirees who don’t work with an advisor say they are somewhat or very conservative, compared with 67% of retirees who do work with an advisor.

Retirees who work with an advisor are also more likely to take a balanced approach to managing their assets (27% versus 19%). Seventy-six percent of retirees follow their advisors’ suggestions all or most of the time, while 2% have given their advisors complete control of their investments.

The study is the third in a series of studies among retirees between the ages of 55 and 75 who had at least $100,000 in assets in 2008 when the first survey was conducted. The 461 respondents to the 2011 survey were all part of the original studies. It was conducted in June.

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