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Retirement Planning > Retirement Investing

Getting Into The Pre-Retiree Mindset

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Advisors have long known about the core financial issues of interest to boomers nearing retirement: how to fund health care needs, meet basic living expenses, travel the world, and so on. But they may not be quite so knowledgeable about boomers’ fears of losing social connections or their desire to make their kids more financially astute.

Such concerns were expressed in large numbers among boomers polled by Ameriprise Financial, Minneapolis, Minn., which this month released a study that explores people’s attitudes, worries, behaviors, ambitions and needs before and after retirement. Ameriprise conducted the survey, “The New Retirement Mindscape,” in conjunction with the market research firm Harris Interactive, Rochester, N.Y.

“What most people look forward to about retirement is the freedom it will afford them–both financially and in terms of having the time to do the things they want,” says Craig Brimhall, vice president of retirement wealth strategies at Ameriprise Financial. “That’s no surprise. What did surprise us is the loss of social connectedness that many feel upon reaching retirement. People have to prepare for having a different social network.”

Of the 883 pre-retirees who responded to Ameriprise’s August 2005 telephone survey (which polled 2,000 U.S. adults), 13% cited “loss of social connections at work” as the hardest thing they expect to deal with in retirement. That statistic rises to 22% among retirees, including the leading edge of boomers now transitioning to retirement.

Other challenges, to be sure, fixated the attention of greater percentages of respondents. These include “concerns about health insurance” (41% of pre-retirees and 21% of retirees) and “loss of income from a primary career” (23% and 24%, respectively).

Also surprising to the survey’s authors was the high percentage (52%) of respondents who cited “advice to help your children become financially savvy” as the most valuable financial planning service an advisor could provide. The next three most important services included: “help sorting through health care and social service options” (48%); “help to make sense of Social Security or employer pensions” (48%); and help dealing with inheritance and legacy matters” (30%).

Concerns about financial immaturity, says Brimhall, are reflected in the high percentage of “boomerang kids” who return to their parents’ home in the immediate years following college graduation. The U.S. Census Bureau reports a 70% increase between 2000 and 2004 in kids over the age of 18 living with their parents.

“Parents don’t want kids to be a financial drain on their retirement plans,” says Brimhall. “When I ask advisors in training sessions how many have clients who are bailing out their kids, almost everyone raises their hand. This is a big issue–probably bigger than we realize.”

The Ameriprise survey revealed five stages of progression leading into retirement: “imagination,” “anticipation,” “liberation,” “reorientation” and “reconciliation.” Most boomers fall into the first two categories, periods that encompass from 15 to six years before retirement (imagination) and up to five years (anticipation) prior to retirement.

During the imagination phase, the report observes, individuals still have positive views about retirement, though only 44% say they are “on track” preparation-wise. Sixty-five percent of respondents reported having high expectations of “adventure” and 53% felt “empowered” for retirement.

Positive attitudes about retirement predominated as well among those in the anticipation stage. Respondents said they expect to feel “enthusiastic” (74%), “happy” (91%), “able to achieve their dreams during retirement” (80%) and that they expect to enjoy retirement a great deal (77%).

Among the now retiring boomers and their elders, 49% said they were “excited” and 24% “relieved” the day they retired. Most will have enough to keep them busy: Ninety-three percent plan on spending more time with their family; 79% plan on traveling; and 76% intend to do “meaningful” work.

During the second to last phase, reorientation (two to 15 years after retirement), most individuals feel “let down.” But the degree of the change of sentiment, and how long they experience the change, depends on many factors.

The survey divides individuals going through reorientation into four types: “empowered reinventors” (19% of those sampled); “carefree contents” (19%); “uncertain searchers” (22%) and “worried strugglers” (40%).

The empowered reinventors, the report notes, are the most likely of the four types to say they feel adventurous (70%) and empowered (56%). They have done more planning and preparation than their counterparts (for traveling, etc.). More than a third (36%) say they are working full time, part time or cycling between periods of work and leisure. And, says Brimhall, they report working with financial advisors and having written financial plans in greater numbers.

Are empowered reinventors more likely to use advisors because of their experience type or does the greater use of advisors enable them to become empowered reinventors? Brimhall says Ameriprise didn’t explore this question, but he believes the truth lies in the first.

“My guess is that people are who they are from an early age,” he says. “I think that empowered reinventors have sought, or been willing to listen to, financial advice because they are forward-thinking, proactive and visionary. They’re already inclined in this direction because they know that financial advice will help them.”


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