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Retirement Planning > Spending in Retirement > Income Planning

What Retirees, Pre-Retirees Want Most From Advisors: New Survey

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What You Need to Know

  • Retirees focus most on maximizing their investment return, protecting their investments and minimizing their tax burden.
  • Near-retirees want to maximize their Social Security benefit and make the best decisions about Medicare and health insurance.
  • Pre-retirees seek to secure their children's financial future, save enough for later while enjoying life now, and pay down debt.

Ninety-three percent of Americans in a new study said that setting financial goals and developing a plan to achieve them will help them support their ambitions, and 86% cited the benefits of working with a financial professional, Allianz Life Insurance Co. of North America reported Tuesday.

Study participants who are already working with a financial professional reported feeling much better prepared than those who have never worked with one to meet these potential risks to their retirement: 

  • Saving enough in a retirement account: 74% vs. 51%.
  • Finding a balance between saving and spending to enjoy life now: 67% vs. 47%.
  • Having a plan for taking income in retirement: 65% vs. 52%.
  • Having a plan to address the rising cost of living: 60% vs. 40%.
  • Diversifying retirement savings to protect a nest egg: 59% vs. 29%.
  • Making investments less risky: 57% vs. 25%.
  • Researching expenses and risks associated with retirement: 53% vs. 26%.
  • Buying a financial product that provides a guaranteed source of retirement income: 49% vs. 15%.

“So many Americans are in a vulnerable spot right now with their finances, it’s encouraging to see the high value placed on not only the practice of financial planning, but also the guidance of a financial professional,” Kelly LaVigne, vice president of consumer insights at Allianz Life, said in a statement. 

“The pandemic changed a lot of expectations around finances and creating a retirement strategy, so now is the right time for financial professionals to understand, adapt and meet clients where they are.” 

Life-Stage-Specific Planning 

For Allianz Life’s new study, researchers in February surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,000 individuals 25 and older with an annual household income of at least $50,000 for singles and $75,000 for those married or partnered, or investable assets of $150,000.

They grouped respondents in three categories to get different perspectives on retirement: pre-retirees who are 10 years or more from retirement; near-retirees who are within 10 years of retirement); and those who are already retired. 

Forty-four percent of survey participants said ensuring that they have enough money is one of the most important things financial professionals can do to help. At the same time, respondents indicated several areas in which they are looking for specific assistance based on their proximity to retirement. 

Retirees are focused on having their financial professional do these things: 

  • Maximize investment return: 56% vs. 38% near-retirees and 43% pre-retirees.
  • Protect investments from market low: 45% vs. 39% and 32%.
  • Minimize tax burden: 43% vs. 36% and 31%.

Near-retirees are most interested in getting help with these issues: 

  • Maximizing Social Security benefit in retirement: 34% vs. 27% pre-retirees and 25% retirees.
  • Make best decisions about Medicare and health insurance: 30% vs. 23% and 22%.

Pre-retirees are likelier to want their financial professional’s assistance in these areas: 

  • Securing children’s financial future: 35% vs. 23% near-retirees and 13% retirees.
  • Balancing budget to save for later while enjoying life now: 33% vs. 25% and 26%.
  • Paying down debt: 27% vs. 19% and 16%.

The survey found that pre-retirees also expect a different level of engagement with their financial professional, in terms of both service and strategy. 

Fifty-eight percent said their professional should be tech savvy, offering interactive tools to understand finances under various scenarios, versus 48% of near-retirees and 37% of retirees. Half also said their advisor should be flexible with meeting options, including virtual ones. 

In addition, 54% of pre-retirees expressed interest in exploring a nontraditional life path where they may try different things at different times instead of following the traditional school-work-retirement path, versus 48% of near-retirees and 36% of retirees. 

Social Security Misconceptions Persist 

Many Americans continue to struggle with their Social Security strategy. The study findings showed that their expectations often differ from reality. 

Fifty-nine percent of near-retirees said they plan to work past the current Social Security retirement age, whereas only 11% of current retirees reported that they actually did so. Moreover, 57% of near-retirees expect to take benefits at full retirement age or defer to a later age, but just 46% of retirees did so. 

In addition, only one-third of near-retirees said they plan to take Social Security benefits before full retirement age; in reality, 49% of current retirees had to take their benefits early, limiting their maximum benefit. 

The research showed that misconceptions extend to expectations about the role Social Security will play in their overall retirement income strategy. Forty percent of near-retirees and 35% of pre-retirees believe that people will get enough from Social Security to meet their needs in retirement. Only 10% of retirees said this is true. 

“Financial professionals have the tools to help people make informed decisions about a number of complex topics, including a Social Security strategy, so their clients have a better chance of avoiding any pitfalls that can result from a lack of planning,” LaVigne said.