When people think of the United States, many think about its growing problems: political polarization, public debt and rising income inequality. Compared with many western economies, the US suffers from insufficient investment in its ailing infrastructure, and appears unable to rein in its galloping health and Social Security costs. Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the unemployment rate has recently dropped to 6.7%, the rate slid in part because people retired or just dropped out of the workforce. Our public debt is over the $17 trillion mark. We are heavily indebted to China, our political and economic rival. Our students are falling behind their Chinese counterparts.
While one could add even more concerns to the above list, some key fundamentals of the US economy counter this gloomy outlook and point to a promising future.
First, the US energy revolution is a game changer. By 2020, the US is projected to be the world’s largest oil producer and could be energy independent by the same year. The strategic implications of this transformation cannot be overestimated. The availability of relatively cost-efficient energy without political risks and with certainty of continued supply will further a burgeoning re-industrialization trend in the US – with all the positive implications that this brings for the labor market, incomes and debt reduction.
The oil boom is also likely to attract producers from across the world to the largest market with the greatest purchasing power on earth. This could add up to 4% to annual GDP and create 1.7 million new jobs.
On education, while our primary and secondary schools rank behind many of our economic rivals, the US post-secondary education system is second to none. We are home to 17 of the world’s top 20 universities. The United States has won more Nobel prizes for chemistry, physics, physiology or medicine and economics since WWII than any other country by a wide margin.
Our population is growing; immigration will bring 850,000 people a year to our shores between 2015 and 2020. Our fertility rate is steady compared to declining rates in Western Europe and China. This will drive economic momentum. By 2050, the United States is predicted to be the only western country on the list of the five richest economies in the world.
What does this mean for the retirement industry? Simply put, the retirement opportunity in the US is unrivaled. With current retirement assets at more than $20 trillion, financial professionals have a tremendous opportunity to help people position their retirement funds to ensure their money lasts as long as they do.
A new paradigm has emerged within retirement planning, making retirees think differently than they had in the past. Today, Americans face unpredictable markets, the erosion of defined benefit plans, uncertainty about Social Security and longer life expectancies. Given the complexity of each issue and the potential for their collective impact to derail traditional retirement strategies, financial professionals can ensure that people are not planning for these challenges alone.
As Americans increasingly seek guaranteed income, we must continue to educate consumers about annuities and the unique benefits they can provide. With more baby boomers at or near retirement every year, the need for guaranteed lifetime income planning and long-term security will only grow. Therefore, it’s crucial that we’re constant in our efforts to build client understanding around how annuities can be an effective part of a balanced retirement portfolio.
Our opportunity to be thought of as leaders in the retirement discussion has never been greater.
But with leadership — on a global scale and in the board room — comes enormous responsibility. As the US solidifies its position of strength, we must show the world that we are capable of constructive political debate and will come together to solve our most pressing issues. As leaders in the retirement industry, we must see US demographics and the retirement pressures on Americans as an opportunity and a challenge. We must strive for more transparency and better communication with our clients to ensure understanding. We must continue our dialogue with all stakeholders as we safeguard and grow the assets of individuals and companies alike.