There is good news for today’s retirees and its coming straight from retirees themselves. All of us, including advisors helping people save for retirement, can learn from their experience. Over the past year we worked with a financial services research firm to answer a basic question: what behaviors can help today’s savers be better prepared for retirement?
The answer to this question may cast a more positive light on the current retirement landscape. And, as people increasingly turn to financial advisors for guidance, there is no better time for these professionals to help motivate people to take actions that lead to better retirement outcomes.
Through the study, we heard from more than 4,000 people across different age groups, including about 1,200 retirees. The quantitative survey identified four things the most successful retirees did while they were saving. Retirees in follow up focus groups also shared that maintaining a positive outlook and focusing on the end goal, even when their account balances were hit by market volatility, helped them stay on track. Armed with an optimistic outlook, these retirees were more resilient and didn’t let the national conversation, filled with gloom and doom messages, hijack their retirement plan investment strategy.
Proactive Steps Fuel Retiree Optimism
Research results identified four behaviors that can serve to motivate positive behavior change for anyone saving for retirement. By simply encouraging clients to adopt these four behaviors, advisors can help them get on track and stay on track for a successful retirement.
(1) Get advice from a financial professional
For a variety of reasons, many people don’t think to consult with an expert when planning for retirement. Some people are afraid that they don’t have enough money to warrant professional advice. Some are sure they can do it themselves. And others are simply afraid that an advisor will harp on all the things they think they’ve done wrong up to this point or reinforce their fear that there’s no hope for saving enough money to retire. Financial professionals who educate and motivate people in a positive and supportive way are more likely to fuel actions that lead to better outcomes. People shouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of all resources available to them – including financial advisors – while saving for retirement.
(2)Participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan or IRA
People who take action tend to be more optimistic and optimistic people tend to take action. For many working Americans, the only way they have to save for retirement is through an employer-sponsored retirement plan, like a 401(k) plan. The simplest action is to enroll and take advantage of the benefits these plans offer, including before-tax contributions, which lower participants’ taxable income, and any company matches, which bolster savings at no cost to the participant.
(3) Save steadily and make extra contributions in “power-saving” years
While saving steadily is key, increasing contributions every year and saving any extras, including even a portion of a bonus payment or salary increase, can make a big difference in the long run. When a client hits the maximum contribution level in their employer-sponsored retirement plan, advisors can help them supplement those savings with additional investments.
(4) Have an investment strategy
Keeping track of where money is invested, as well as making appropriate asset and fund allocations and rebalancing, are all essential elements of a comprehensive retirement plan. Simply “checking the box” and forgetting about retirement savings can be a recipe for disaster. Well thought out investment strategies – even simple ones – will allow savers the opportunity to adjust their savings goals over the years and help them achieve their desired retirement outcome.
It’s important to note that participants in the study reported that they didn’t rely on receiving an inheritance; selling a primary home or making money through real estate; or selling a business or shares in a former employer’s company stock to achieve retirement success. But if your client is lucky enough to be the recipient of one of these windfalls, they should consider it an opportunity to “power save” and boost their retirement funds.
Moving Forward with Optimism
Financial advisors have the opportunity to set themselves apart by being proactive and positive when they work with their clients. They can strengthen their client relationships by helping them understand if they are on track with their retirement savings goals and target their savings strategies around the top four savings behaviors we’ve shared here. Offering clients support and education designed to foster healthier retirement outcomes will help future retirees view retirement planning in a more positive light and reinforce their confidence in their ability to achieve their goals. And that’s what we’re all dedicated to doing: motivating people to take actions that lead to better retirement outcomes.
Chuck Cornelio is President of the Defined Contribution business for Lincoln Financial Group.