SunAmerica released its 2011 Retirement Reset Study yesterday, which is its first survey of retirement expectations in a decade. As the study notes, the last 10 years have been tumultuous ones, and their impact on what people can expect regarding retirement has been dramatic. So much so, in fact, that we are seeing a change not just in the finer points on how to fund retirement or when to expect to retire, but a redrawing of the concept of retirement itself.
There were a number of interesting findings from the study, but the ones that struck me the most ultimately told a narrative of a public that has significantly shifted its risk appetite in the last 10 years from one of wealth accumulation to protecting what they have, and facing a retirement that is not likely to start until 69, and when it does, almost certainly entails the prospect of continuing work as people expect to live to 100 and realize that somewhere along the way, they are going to have to contend with very real health concerns that can easily deplete one’s nest egg. Somewhere mixed in is the notion that people don’t want to burden their families either, which is easy to appreciate. You don’t want to work through the most vital years of your life just so your kids can grumble about how much of a load you are. The end result is that there is a greater need for retirement planning and financial planners than ever before, and if you want to face your retirement years with a sense of certainty, then this is what you are in for.
If I sound a little cynical about it all, I suppose it is because the market realities this study mentions are new to nobody in this readership, and they are not exactly the kind of thing that strike me as great, big opportunities. Pushing back one’s retirement age and working through retirement aren’t the new normal for a good reason; they are fallout from the world going sideways in 2008 and 2009, and to pretend otherwise strikes me as the retirement planning industry making lemonade out of lemons at best, and at worst, putting on rose-colored glasses to help their customers pretend that the life-altering disappointment that has been the Great Recession is something that it is not.