The retirement industry needs a wake-up call where Baby Boomers are concerned, Maddy Dychtwald contended at a conference here.
The Baby Boomers represent one-third of the entire U.S. population, according to Dychtwald, who is co-founder and senior vice president of Age Wave, San Francisco, demographic research firm.
They will reinvent retirement just as they changed many other aspects of life since the first were born in 1946, she said.
Boomers already have transformed adulthood, she told attendees at the opening session of an annual retirement industry conference co-sponsored by LIMRA International, Windsor, Conn.; LOMA, Atlanta; and the Society of Actuaries, Schaumberg, Ill.
She identified many areas where this has happened. For instance, many no longer lead linear lives where most everyone follows the same stages of life in the same age range, she said. Instead, “many live a more cyclic life–for instance, by taking second, third or even fourth careers, second chances on relationships,” and so on.
They are living longer than the previous generations, too, and they want to use the extra time to re-shape their lives, Dychtwald said.
“Are you developing products and marketing concepts that are in line with this new cyclic paradigm?” she asked the audience.
In the world of work, Boomer women have been entering the work force in record numbers and staying there, she said. When Age Wave asked these women what they want from financial services, it found that “they [Boomer women] aren’t well served at all,” Dychtwald said.
“Women tend to be worriers, not warriors, so they are less aggressive in investing, and they want simplicity, security and predictability. They also want education without the attitude.”
In family relationships, many Boomers live in multi-generational families, not nuclear families, Dychtwald continued. “Even if they don’t all live together or even like each other, all are involved with each other, especially in health, finances and real estate,” she quipped.
Now, as Boomers enter retirement, they will reinvent what it means to retire, she said.
For instance, 42% of Boomers surveyed by her firm said they want to cycle back and forth between work and leisure, during their retirement years. “Of those, 60% wanted to try something completely different than they did before,” she said. “That will require planning and money and maybe an education annuity.”
Some say they want to have a sense of freedom or find out what who they are again.
Some are exploring what they want to do next, she added, emphasizing that the point is that they still have dreams. Some may want to go back to school, for instance, while others may want to go into space, as did former Sen. John Glenn, who was the first “senior” to enter space at age 77.
The retirement industry should resonate with boomers on their goals, she said. “Talk to your clients. But don’t ask them, ‘what can we do to help you to retire? Instead ask, ‘What can we do to help you life your dreams?’”
Now that the economy is in crisis, 83% of the Americans surveyed by Age Wave said they are concerned about their ability to retire. They want to know where their retirement funds will come from, and “the winds are increasingly shifting to the notion of self-reliance,” Dychtwald said.
Even so, she added, “They need help. They are scared and don’t know whom to trust. The financial advisor can fill that gap–by being there to help them visualize their future and fund their dreams.”
That means the retirement industry needs to become client-centric, not transaction-oriented, Dychtwald said.
“For a long time, the industry has talked the talk but few so far have walked that talk,” she said. But she predicted it could be a “bonanza” for those who do take that walk. By providing client-centric financial services to Baby Boomers in retirement, “the industry cannot just do good but do well,” she concluded.