Retirement Security


While the American dream is still alive in 2009, sweeping changes in the economy have led to a reevaluation of priorities for most Americans. The third annual MetLife study finds that amid the economic crisis individuals are placing a premium on financial protection and stability. Across generations, eight in 10 say having a personal safety net will be more important this year than last. However, nearly 74 percent admit to not having an adequate safety net in place. MetLife found that Americans count auto insurance (60 percent), health insurance (57 percent), life insurance (46 percent), homeowners’ insurance (45 percent), a retirement savings plan such as a 401(k) (40 percent), and cash on hand for 3-6 months (35 percent) as the top six components of their safety net. Among those who do not feel they have adequate protection, nearly two-thirds (62 percent) desire cash on hand for 3-6 months as the product they would most like to have in their safety net. The MetLife study also reveals that some 84 percent of individuals believe the U.S. economy is heading in the wrong direction, up from 64 percent in November 2006. More than nine in 10 believe that it will take at least 12 months for the economy to recover. To help put your financial house in order, take an inventory of your financial situation with free software from the I.I.I. Check it out at http://www.myfinancialhouse.org/

Six in 10 Americans underestimate life expectancy and almost half (49 percent) underestimate the amount of pre-retirement income they’ll need once they retire. The MetLife 2008 Retirement Income IQ Test also reveals that almost seven in 10 (69 percent) pre-retirees overestimate how much they can draw down from their savings – with an alarming 43 percent saying they believe they can withdraw 10 percent or more each year while preserving their principal. This is despite the fact that most retirement experts suggest a withdrawal rate of no more than 4 percent annually. MetLife said the lack of understanding is particularly concerning because poor retirement planning assumptions are compounded after retirement by today’s much longer life expectancy. The study findings also point to a gender divide with 65 percent of men vs. 50 percent of women somewhat or very confident that they will have enough money to live comfortably if they live until 85 years of age. To get a better picture of your current financial situation and work towards your financial goals, check out I.I.I.’s personal finance software at http://www.myfinancialhouse.org/

Is the title of a two-hour PBS documentary on the financial challenges and options facing America’s baby boomers that will debut nationally next Monday (March 31). Dr. Steven Weisbart, I.I.I.’s chief economist, will appear in the program that will be aired in separate, one-hour installments. The first episode, ‘Hazards and Vicissitudes,’ offers a look at the origins of retirement in the U.S. and the creation of Social Security and Medicare. In the second segment, ‘On Our Own,’ the focus shifts to how Americans are more personally involved today than previous generations in planning for their own retirement. The second segment, featuring Dr. Weisbart, airs on Monday, April 7. Check out further I.I.I. info on life insurance, annuities and long-term care insurance. 

With Super Tuesday underway, it’s only appropriate we cite a new study showing that the American Dream is alive and well. The MetLife study finds that 86 percent of individuals believe the U.S. economy is headed in the wrong direction, up from 64 percent just one year ago. Despite this collective pessimism, 85 percent of individuals expect their own financial situation to be about the same or even better this year, compared to last year – a sign that the American spirit of personal optimism and self-reliance is holding strong, MetLife says. Still, the findings reveal Americans have growing concerns about energy costs, healthcare costs, and rising levels of personal debt, as well as shrinking government-sponsored benefits.

In fact, more than three-quarters (77 percent) of Americans say they are planning to build their own personal safety nets to protect their family’s financial future. Exactly which products they think should comprise a personal financial safety net differ by generation. Health insurance that continues through retirement and retirement savings plans such as a 401(k) are the top priorities of both Baby Boomers and GenYers. But Boomers rank income annuities and long-term care insurance next, whereas GenYers would include life insurance followed by income annuities in their personal safety net. To help put your financial house in order the I.I.I. has free downloadable personal finance software. Check it out at http://www.myfinancialhouse.org 

Demystifying the world of annuities — what they are and how they work — remains an ongoing challenge for our industry if the findings of the Employee Benefit Research Group’s 2007 Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS) are anything to go by. According to the RCS, just 11 percent of workers said they are very likely to purchase a financial product or select a retirement plan option that will pay them guaranteed income for life when they retire, while another 39 percent said they will be somewhat likely to do so. However, if the word “annuity” is included in the question the likelihood of purchase drops to 7 percent and 32 percent respectively. As the RCS notes, the likelihood of purchase appears to be lower when the word “annuity” is included in the question, as opposed to the phrase “income each month for the rest of your life” – which is exactly what an income annuity provides. Check out the I.I.I.’s annuities information and other annuity-related facts & stats.