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Retirement Planning > Retirement Investing

Why 63 is a scary number

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I ran across a truly scary survey the other day about retirement readiness – or rather a lack thereof.

McKinsey & Co. has a “retirement readiness index” that measures changes in the values of retirement assets – Social Security, pension plans and other financial holdings – to determine the financial preparedness of households for retirement. An index value of 100 means a household can maintain its current standard of living in retirement. A reading below 80 calls for large reductions in spending on basic needs such as food, housing and health care.

Now for the scary part: The index reading for a typical household is 63. Sixty-three!

I was slightly relieved to learn the study was conducted back in January. I sure hope the average reading has improved a bit since then, although as of Nov. 24 there is no update available.

Despite all that happened in the second half of 2008, the vast majority of U.S. consumers as of January had not made any changes to their investment portfolios and were not planning to postpone retirement.

The McKinsey Quarterly report, released in May 2009, put much of the blame for inaction on financial advisors that had “provided only limited guidance to their clients over the last six months, reaching out to just two in five of them – perhaps fearing an angry response after 2008′s staggering $2.4 trillion decline in the value of retirement assets in defined-contribution accounts and IRAs.”

The report did go on to say that while the overall level of advice from financial advisors fell significantly compared with 2007, “the best advisors were smarter: they reached out systematically and proactively even to clients with significant losses. The results, according to our survey, were significantly strengthened relationships, referrals, and asset flows.”

We have preached that message time and again in the past 15 months – be proactive in reaching out to clients and good things will happen. It remains as true today as it was back in January. Or January 2010.

Advisors clearly still have their work cut out for them. I shudder to think what our society will be like down the road if more than half of the 78 million baby boomers can’t retire above the poverty line.


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