LIMRA and Maddock Douglas embarked on a study that unveils significant findings among mass-market consumers and their attitudes about “retirement.”
Retirement is in quotes because the notion of traditional retirement, that is, the stoppage of work at a set age, and saving up enough in advance to prepare for it is likely passé, perhaps even irrelevant.
There is significant opportunity for providers who can crack the code in the mass market, also known as the “middle class.” This study aims to learn about the middle class, not from a demographic point of view but from an attitudinal one. Some significant findings include: Middle class is a state of mind, not an asset or income level.
Interestingly, 36 percent of people in lower income ranges and 81 percent of people in upper income ranges consider themselves middle class. So that state of mind is quite widespread, and 74 percent agree middle class values are worth protecting.
We found out only 25 percent of the people who define themselves as middle class are thinking of retirement in the traditional sense (stopping their current work at the age of 65). Another 22 percent are thinking retirement will be after the age of 70, and 39 percent think it will be by age 64 or earlier. A full one-third say they very well may not retire at all.
In addition, the notion of retreating on beaches and sailboats is also passé, as many report they aspire to a lifestyle that is more down to earth, that makes more time for family, or even for pursuing modest hobbies, health and faith.
And the notion of retirement in general is being replaced by the notion of a lifestyle change, but one that is firmly rooted within a middle-class mindset. It’s not about a life of leisure; it is about being active with a different purpose. And this can happen in any timeframe and with many different catalysts.
We should stop thinking about retirement as a bright line goal and be more fluid in our ways of helping people navigate their path to “jubilescence,” a new word coined by combining the Spanish translation of retirement (jubilación) and the idea of adolescence, a transition to a future self. Some people may have several jubilescence phases in their lives; some may have one. Some may be brought on in a positive and proactive way; some may be thrust upon people unexpectedly. Either way, the opportunity for professional advice is abundant. And perhaps the planning time horizon should be shorter and make room for more than one transition.
In addition, jubilescence is highly individual; we cannot use demographics as an indicator of what people need or want. In an analysis of individuals in the same demographic class and circumstance, we found high degrees of individuality, even uniqueness, in terms of priorities and needs. One size does not fit all.
About one-third admit they don’t have an advisor and believe that’s appropriate. This suggests that we have a lot of work ahead of us to change the model and change the outcomes for consumers and ultimately the industry. If the current incumbents of the industry don’t, then disruptors will because the new Department of Labor rule will force some players out of the game, making opportunity for others.
Finally, this study opens up spaces for new kinds of expertise beyond current products. We should be thinking about developing and delivering expertise that addresses needs that go beyond saving, investing and insurance, and assist in skilling up for new work opportunities, maximizing the value of living spaces and managing crises. This could be a transition opportunity for the advisors of today or a recruiting opportunity for the advisors of tomorrow.
So the question is … Can this industry commit to serving the middle class in a way that is attractive, unbiased and also profitable? With the right work, analysis and innovation, the answer is yes.
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