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Investors’ Fear of Risk Is Endangering Their Retirement: Survey

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Maintaining a sufficient allocation to stocks is important to achieving retirement goals and ensuring financial security throughout retirement; however, a new report reveals that consumers on average hold less than half of their assets in stocks, stock mutual funds and exchange-traded funds.

“Some consumers, particularly the risk averse, are not allocating enough of their retirement savings to stocks to reach their financial and retirement goals,” the report states. “Importantly, many recognize that some level of investment risk is inherently necessary to achieve their goals, but they are uncomfortable taking on that risk with their own financial assets.”

The report is based on a survey conducted on behalf of AXA and the Insured Retirement Institute, a trade group for the retirement income industry, that included more than 1,000 consumers ages 50 to 75.

Those who have a low tolerance for investment risk have an average of 37% allocated to stocks, the survey finds. For those with low risk tolerance and 25% or less of their investable assets allocated to stocks, the fear of losing money in the stock market and lack of trust in the stock market for money they are counting on in retirement are the most often cited reasons for allocating less of their portfolios to stocks, according to the report.

According to the report, the survey results uncovered several opportunities for financial professionals to drive deeper client satisfaction by proactively discussing protection against stock market downturns, guaranteed lifetime income options and by planning for health care expenses.

The survey finds that nearly 80% of individuals are interested in learning about an option that offers principal protection and the potential for growth.

Additionally, more survey respondents rate their financial professional highly when lifetime income is discussed (56%), than when lifetime income is not discussed (34%). However, the survey also finds that 50% of the survey respondents say they discuss guaranteed lifetime income with their financial professional, compared to nearly 80% who discuss risk tolerance.

“Financial professionals play a key role in supporting their clients in reaching their retirement goals,” Kevin Kennedy, head of the Individual Retirement business at AXA US, said in a statement. “Clients want their financial professionals to move beyond the standard risk tolerance questionnaire and engage them in a thorough discussion of options, including income planning for health care expenses.”

The research also found that saving for retirement health care costs creates an additional opportunity for financial professionals to discuss principal protection options. Nearly 60% of survey respondents believe they are only somewhat or not very well prepared for a major health event. However, less than 20% reported they have worked with their financial professionals to estimate retirement health care costs, according to the survey.

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