As more and more baby boomers age into the senior market, this group is becoming an increasingly desirable prospect base for advisors. Wealthy, digitally savvy, and often still working, today’s seniors have a number of questions for advisors and, especially coming out of a recession, a need for financial advice. As health care costs skyrocket and the housing market remains unsteady, even the affluent are worried about their ability to have the lifestyle they want across a twenty-year retirement.
In a data-driven age, there is no shortage of statistics that will help you understand this market. Here, we’ve distilled the swath of stats into a relevant sample, taken from our 2014 Senior Survey, as well as several other industry sources.
1. Seniors have a lot on their minds.
Once viewed as a Golden Age, retirement today can be a fear-filled prospect. Seniors face a much longer life expectency (around 85 years), much higher health costs ($215,000 for a couple across a 20-year retirement) and, scariest of all, the prospect of having far fewer resources to pay for it. Adding to these concerns, a large portion of this market is struggling to eliminate debt. As part of our 2014 Senior Survey, we asked more than 200 senior respondents what they would do with a $25,000 windfall; 35% said they would pay down debt. Lesiure expenses traditionally associated with retirement barely made it on the list; just seven percent said they would use the money to go on a vacation, while eight percent said they would use the money to make a major purchase, like a car or a house.
2. Retirement concerns run the gamut — even among the affluent.
A recent study by Legg Mason surveyed 500 affluent investors (defined as those with at least $200,000 in investable assets) to determine their outlook entering retirement. An impressive 88 percent of them were confident their assets would fund a comfortable retirement, but they still didn’t have complete ease of mind. Most of their concerns centered around the unknown: Will an unforeseeable health care event change my financial situation? Will Social Security and Medicare remain solvent? (And what do I really need to know about Medicare, anyway?) Perhaps most disturbing, the majority of survey respondents held the opinion that most financial advisors were not equipped to advise on retirement health care costs, a primary area of concern.
3. For many, housing is not a fully funded asset.
Just 34 percent of respondents to our Senior Survey own a house that is paid off — the remaining 66 percent are currently paying off a house (48%), own a house that’s upside down (2%) or are renting (12%). When asked if they would be open to considering a reverse mortgage, the response was overwhelmingly negative: Just 23 percent said they would consider the option, with write-in responses that included “Only as a last resort” and “Reverse mortgages can work for some people, but there are many who end up in serious financial trouble when they get a reverse mortgage.”
4. Health care expenses have increased in the past twenty years — but not as much as you might expect.
Any way you slice it, health care is a massive expense for retirees. For younger seniors (65-74 years old) and older seniors (75 years and older) alike, supplemental insurance premiums account for almost two-thirds of all health care expenditures, a dramatic rise since 1990. Out-of-pocket expenses associated with medical services like physician fees and lab tests have fallen slightly for the first group, and prescription and over-the-counter drug costs have fallen for the second, which helps neutralize the overall climb of costs. Nonetheless, we’ve seen a solid increase of 0.9% for those aged 65 to 74 and 0.3% for those 75 and older.
As mentioned earlier, what’s really concerning for retirees is the thought of a major health care event that would deplete their savings. While 42 percent of survey respondents indicated they had some form of LTCI already, the remaining 58 percent would be forced to dip into their 401(k) (14%), rely on Medicare or Medicaid (11%) or find some other form of payment (33%). Write-in responses in the “Other” category included “Hope for the best,” “I don’t know,” and “Let my children take care of me.”
5. Seniors have become increasingly tech-savvy.
Here’s a statistic you may not have heard: Seniors are the fastest growing adopters of social media. As of May 2013, 43 percent of those aged 35 or older used a social networking site, compared to just 26 percent of seniors in May 2010. When you look at wider Internet use, the statistics are even more impressive: 59 percent of seniors across all income brackets are online, and that number rises sharply as income increases. Ninety percent of seniors with an annual household income of $75,000 or more go online compared to 39% of seniors with household income of less than $30,000. If this isn’t an argument for advisors to pursue a robust digital presence, we don’t know what is.