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Study Probes Why Many Put Off Retirement

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Financial advisors say that when clients delay retirement, it’s primarily because they want to maintain their lifestyle.

The Retirement Income Survey of financial advisors by MainStay Investments, New York, found 61% of advisors believe their clients are not concerned with covering basic needs in retirement, but rather with having to give up luxuries such as traveling and dining out.

Even after the stock market bounced back in the second half of 2009, investors nearing retirement were still shaken by the unprecedented market events of late 2008 and early 2009, surveyed advisors said. More than half said most of their clients were delaying retirement, and 46% said loss of assets in late 2008 and early 2009 was the number one reason why.

Health care costs in retirement were the second leading concern, cited by 40% of advisors.

The results of the survey signal a need for close advisor-client communications, so that they agree on the asset-allocation strategy and investment product mix best suited for both their risk tolerance levels and lifestyle expectations, said Matthew Leung, director and head of practice management programs at MainStay, the advisor distribution arm of New York Life Investments, a unit of New York Life Insurance Company.

Too much exposure to equities has been a major issue for clients, according to 60% of the surveyed advisors. As a result, 91% of advisors said they have made changes to their clients’ retirement portfolios.

Mutual funds still ranked as the investment product of choice for funding client retirement, cited by 85% of those surveyed. Guaranteed-income products, such as guaranteed lifetime annuities, were named by more than 60% as part of their new portfolio strategy to help clients meet retirement income needs.

The survey also found that three-quarters of advisors were providing guaranteed lifetime annuities to at least some of their clients as a retirement income solution. For those not currently incorporating these annuities into their clients’ portfolios, 20% said they planned to do so in the near future.

The survey shows there remains a need for clients to be educated on the amount of supplemental income necessary to preserving their current lifestyle in retirement, MainStay said. Advisors said fewer than half their clients know how much money they actually need to supplement social security, for instance.

Another area for client education is how much money could be safely withdrawn from a retirement portfolio without depleting nest eggs. Of advisors surveyed, 60% agreed that helping clients understand withdrawal rates would be a top priority.

The MainStay Retirement Income Advisor Study was conducted online among more than 500 financial advisors by Harris Interactive between December 8 and December 14, 2009. Of respondents, 91% percent were wirehouse advisors and 9% were independents.