Matt Carey studied Arabic at the University of Pennsylvania, preparing for what he hoped would be a career at the Central Intelligence Agency. Eleven years later, he’s pitching annuity contracts.
He’s actually happy about that.A summer job at the State Department persuaded him that government service wasn’t as exciting as he first thought. So he headed to Wall Street, specifically Lazard Ltd. A stint at the advisory firm piqued his interest in a growing threat to the national welfare that didn’t involve espionage—retirement security. Or, more precisely, the lack of it across the U.S.
At Lazard, Carey helped advise the Treasury Department on General Motors Co. after its bankruptcy. The carmaker’s underfunded pension got him thinking about 401(k)s and how they aren’t a great strategy for making sure Americans have enough savings. A subsequent job at Treasury, where he got to know Mark Iwry, a key architect of retirement policy in the Obama administration, gave him an idea for a new kind of business (as did Carey’s struggle to map out his parents’ retirement).
His elevator pitch for a company now called Blueprint Income? “We are building the first digital retirement plan that guarantees you won’t run out of money as long as you live.”
He and two co-founders are building a way for consumers to more easily buy what has notoriously been a hard sell: annuity contracts, both those that create an immediate income stream and others that produce income years down the road. The idea was inspired in part by the research of Olivia Mitchell, a professor and retirement security expert at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.One of Blueprint’s innovations involves how deferred income annuities are sold. They typically require five-or six-digit sums in return for a future stream that, should someone die prematurely, may never be used. Carey’s website spits out a quote for a contract in 60 seconds and requires an initial investment of $5,000. The real twist is part of a trend that’s swept industries from mattresses to clothing to movies: subscription-based business models. After the initial investment, buyers can increase their retirement income stream with deposits of as little as $100 a month to create what Blueprint calls “a personal pension.”
Iwry recalled that, at Treasury, Carey was “intrigued by how that key feature of the declining defined benefit pension plan—a stream of retirement income guaranteed to last a lifetime—could be provided by the market more simply, more cheaply and in a way that’s easier for ordinary people to access and buy.”