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Retirement planning should start now for financially beleaguered millennials

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Composed of those who are roughly ages 18 to early 30s, the millennial generation is generally curious, educated, technologically adept and socially conscious. With all its gifts, however, millennials are also living with the fallout from events like 9/11 and the Great Recession, which combine with rising costs of higher education to place them in a financially precarious situation.

According to the 15 Economic Facts about Millennials report from the White House’s Council of Economic Advisors, millennials will have to contend with the effects of beginning their careers during a historic downturn for years to come. “Millennials are currently about a third of the labor force and, as a generation, they have faced substantial challenges in entering the workforce during the most pronounced downturn since the Great Recession,” says the report, which also notes that 31 percent of individuals between the ages of 18 and 34 live with their parents.

When it comes to financial health in general, millennials are starting out with some challenges. Says the White House report, individuals who experienced the Great Depression invested less and pursued more conservative investing strategies throughout their lives. “More recent economic turmoil has bigger impacts on behavior and that these impacts are most pronounced for younger savers. This suggests that the Great Recession will impact early savings and investment behavior among millennials, but at this point, it is still too soon to know how large these impacts will be,” according to the report.

Not surprisingly, millennials are also behind when it comes to retirement savings. For some of this generation, retirement is decades away and not a main concern, but older members of this group should have begun to save for their golden years. Unfortunately, 37 percent of millennials have no money saved for retirement, says data from a recent Indexed Annuity Leadership Council (IALC) retirement data survey. Millennials say they expect to rely on a combination of personal savings, a 401(k) and individual retirement accounts, the survey report shows. The survey also shows that nearly a quarter of millennials owe more money than they have.

However, members of this generation are also very open to alternative retirement savings options – and are drawn toward options that can provide certainty and minimize risk. More than half (52%) of millennials – more than any other age group – are interested in fixed indexed annuities, a savings vehicle that can increase based on the market but never loses the principle even during market downturns, says the IALC survey.

As reported in a recent USA Today article, the average age of the fixed-index annuity buyer in the first quarter of 2015 was 62, according to analytics firm Wink. However, that number could trend younger if annuities catch on with millennials, who are typically risk-averse, according to Jim Poolman, IALC’s executive director.

So while brokers find the greatest annuities sales success with Baby Boomers nearing retirement age, this perhaps less often considered age group may likely emerge as a promising market for fixed indexed annuities.