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What Retirement Barriers do Americans Face Today?

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Retirement barriers

What Retirement Barriers do Americans Face Today?

Today’s definition of retirement is much different than before.

It’s no longer a postscript to career, but instead a time to enjoy freedom. This could be the freedom to learn new hobbies, the freedom to travel, or the freedom to start an online business. Unfortunately, this freedom is proving to be difficult to achieve for most.

In this infographic from New York Life Investments, we discuss the retirement gap—what it is, why it exists, and how advisors can help reduce it.

What is the Retirement Gap?

New York Life Investments partnered with AARP to survey over 3,000 Americans about their retirement plans. They uncovered that across all ages, there was a gap between i) people’s perceived importance of retirement planning, and ii) their actual preparedness.

Age groupPerceived importance of preparing for retirementActual preparedness
20s77%45%
30s87%41%
40s87%40%
50s92%47%
60s93%58%
70-7484%70%

Based on a survey of 3,025 Americans aged 20-74.

These results suggest that the status quo around retirement planning isn’t working for most people. This is further supported by other survey findings. For example, 65% of respondents said they didn’t feel optimistic about retirement.

What Barriers do Americans Face?

The survey determined that Americans are struggling to overcome five retirement barriers. Let’s hear from survey respondents to learn more about them.

#1: Managing multiple priorities

Juggling between retirement savings and more immediate needs such as childcare can lead to emotional overwhelm.

”It’s difficult to put substantial money in a 401 or IRA while also paying off debt at the same time.”
– Alex B. (20s)

#2: Figuring out how much is enough

Uncertainty about how much savings is needed causes many people to avoid retirement planning altogether. The problem can simply feel too large to tackle.

”Retirement and aging are not things I look forward to, mainly because of the lack of preparation and fear of the unknown.”– Janet F. (50s)

#3: The complexity of resources

Many Americans find retirement resources are too difficult to understand. This issue is related to a lack of financial literacy, which happens to be a growing problem in the United States.

”They don’t break it down into where you can understand it.”– Amy E. (40s)

#4: Lack of representation in the marketplace

People feel that available resources are not speaking to them, or are not relevant to their life circumstances. This type of “alienation” can discourage people from seeking professional advice.

”I don’t see people who are anything like me. I see representations of upper management people…and I know that won’t be my reality.– Penni B. (60s)

#5: Don’t know who to trust

People feel that the financial industry does not have their best interests in mind. They often seek information from sources who seem more like “them.”

”I avoid professionals because I hear so many stories of financial planners who cheated people in their investments. I believe in some of the people I follow on YouTube more.”– Dino M. (50s)

Bridging the Gap

Altogether, these barriers highlight a disconnect between who the market is targeting, and who is most in need of help. Financially advisors have the power to bridge this gap by doing two things.

The first is to view investors as “customers for life”. Large firms often push advisors to work with clients who have a greater level of assets—typically those in their 40s or older. This could create a major challenge for younger generations who hope to one day retire.

For example, survey data shows that people’s expected retirement age increases as they grow older. This suggests that young adults are struggling to develop the right financial plan for their needs.

Age of respondentExpected retirement age
20s55.7
30s60.7
40s64.6
50s64.9
60s67.8

Based on a survey of 3,025 Americans aged 20-74.

By viewing investors as “customers for life”, advisors have the opportunity to steer people onto the right path at an earlier age. This can help them create positive impact in their communities, as well as grow their business through word-of-mouth marketing.

The second thing advisors can do is reach out to underserved communities. Data shows that Black and Hispanic Americans are less likely to have retirement savings, while those that do feel much less confident.

EthnicityHave retirement savingsPerceive retirement savings as being on track
White80%42%
Black63%23%
Hispanic58%22%
Asian85%47%

Source: Statista (2021)

Up to this point we’ve focused on the financial aspect of retirement, but what about health & wellness?

Redefining Retirement: Health, Wealth, and Self

The rising importance of personal health has been a major phenomenon of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to McKinsey, 48% of Americans increased their prioritization of wellness compared to 2-3 years ago.

This shift in thinking must also be reflected by retirement plans. One way to do this is to integrate health & wellness considerations alongside wealth.

For example, poor physical health can significantly drive up the costs of retirement. In fact, the average American aged 65-84 already spends nearly $17,000 per year on healthcare.

Mental health, on the other hand, can be severely affected by money-related stress. Symptoms include a loss of sleep, high blood pressure, and a negative impact on personal relationships.

Perhaps most interesting is that the relationship between health and wealth goes both ways. In other words, wealth can be a driver of better emotional and physical health. The following table shows how individuals with greater income felt better about their wellbeing.

Income levelConsider themselves to be emotionally healthyPhysically healthy
Under $40K50%47%
$40K - $75K63%56%
$75K - $100K68%63%
Over $100K73%68%

Based on a survey of 3,025 Americans aged 20-74.

To develop a more holistic retirement plan for their clients, advisors must transform from financially focused representatives to holistic life coaches.

Barriers are Meant to be Broken

With the concept of retirement, many Americans feel like they are on the outside looking in. They suffer from a lack of representation, a mistrust for the financial industry, and have few resources that are catered to them.

What’s needed is a democratization of retirement planning.

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Infographics

Rising Rates: Why Value Stocks Have Outperformed

During periods of rising interest rates, value stocks have historically outperformed growth. Below, we explain the factors behind this trend.

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Value Stocks

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The Benefits of Value Stocks in Rising Rate Environments

As investors flock to safety, value stocks have outperformed growth stocks year-to-date amid economic turbulence and rising interest rates.

Owing to their strong fundamentals and cash flows, value stocks may be returning into favor.

In this infographic from New York Life Investments, we illustrate why value stocks offer opportunities in rising rate periods.

Recent Performance

In a matter of two years, the Ukraine war, supply chain shocks, and COVID-19 have led inflation to multi-decade highs.

Amid these complex struggles, value stocks have outperformed significantly.

  • Russell 1000 Value Index: -1.1%
  • Russell 1000 Growth Index: -14.1%
  • S&P 500: -8.4%

As of April 14, 2022

With higher inflation predicted for the medium term, value stocks may be staging a comeback.

As investors look to de-risk their portfolios, many are turning to value stocks, thanks in part to their historical outperformance during inflationary and rising rate periods.

Value vs. Growth: Key Characteristics

As a quick refresher, here are the key distinctions between value stocks and growth stocks.

CharacteristicValue InvestingGrowth Investing
Defining FeaturesCompanies with stronger cash flows, steady income, priced below intrinsic value.Companies with lower cash flows, low (if any) income, strong earnings growth potential.
ValuationUndervalued (low P/E ratios)Overvalued (high P/E ratios)
DividendsMore commonLess common
VolatilityLowerHigher
SectorsFinancials, Energy, Healthcare, IndustrialsTech, Communications, Consumer Discretionary

Cyclical sectors such as financials and energy often benefit when prices increase after an economic contraction.

Since companies earn money in different ways, it is often useful to compare price-to-earning (P/E) ratios within a sector. A P/E ratio is a metric for valuing a company, where a company’s stock price is divided by its earnings per share.

An overvalued company in the tech sector may have a P/E ratio of 100, while the S&P sector average is 24. By contrast, an undervalued healthcare company may have a P/E ratio of 14, lower than the S&P sector average of 16.

When a company is undervalued it means that it’s trading below its intrinsic value.

Value vs. Growth: Performance

Looking back, the previous decade saw the worst performance for value in the last 90 years.

On average, growth outperformed value by 7.8% annually since 2010. However, looking at 10-year periods, value has outperformed growth over every decade since the 1940s.

DecadeValue Outperformance
1930s-0.5%
1940s10.8%
1950s5.6%
1960s4.2%
1970s8.1%
1980s7.4%
1990s0.7%
2000s8.0%
2010s-2.6%

Average annual performance of Fama and French (“HML”) value factor by decade.
Source: Fama & French via Mercer (Mar 2021)

Now, against economic uncertainty and other structural shifts, the growth and value divergence is beginning to change for the first time in over a decade.

What is Driving Value Stocks?

On a broader level, the following forces have driven outperformance in value stocks and growth stocks.

 Value InvestingGrowth Investing

Broad Market Factors
  • Rising interest rates
  • Market recovery
  • Inflationary environment
  • Long-term earnings track record
  • Low interest rates
  • Bull market
  • Disinflationary environment
  • Rising corporate earnings

So how do these apply today?

In an inflationary (and rising rate) period, current earnings become more valuable and future earnings become less valuable. Typically, “value stocks” are assessed based on their current earnings while “growth stocks” are valued on their future earnings.

Consequently, inflationary periods have tended to favor value stocks and deflationary periods have tended to favor growth stocks. When prices are climbing, companies with actual earnings are potentially better positioned to increase prices and retain profit margins.

At the same time, it is important for investors to avoid value-traps, which are companies trading below value that are in financial duress. To help mitigate this challenge, active investment managers can help identify the appropriate companies.

Sign of the Times

It’s worth noting that this isn’t about value vs. growth. Instead, different styles have performed better at different times. Of course, it’s important for investors to consider a number of variables for their portfolios:

With these in mind, investors can implement the best strategies to help achieve their goals.

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Infographics

How to Optimize Retirement Plan Design for Your Client

Here’s how advisors can enhance retirement plan design to help employees and plan sponsors reach their retirement goals.

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Retirement Plan Design

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How to Optimize Retirement Plan Design for Your Client

More than ever, retirement plans are looking at an employee’s entire retirement picture.

In line with this trend, advisors are offering personalized services to help people reach their goals. But as retirement plans begin to expand their products and services, unidentified gaps remain in employees’ retirement needs.

To help advisors identify these disconnects, this infographic from New York Life Investments shows the key priorities across both employees and their employers to help optimize retirement plan design.

Are People Achieving Their Retirement Vision?

Today, retirement is an issue that can no longer be ignored.

Nearly 70% of Americans say the country faces a retirement crisis and 54% are worried about a financially secure retirement. Making matters worse, the pandemic has led one in three workers to rethink their retirement timeline.

To look deeper into retirement plan design, NYL Investments partnered with RTI Research, surveying 800 people:

  • 500 Plan Participants: Employees with 401(k)/ 403(b) plans
  • 150 Plan Sponsors: Companies offering 401(k) plans
  • 150 Plan Providers: Advisors providing 401(k) services

Here are the results they found.

Preparedness for Retirement

Two structural trends—lack of savings and not having access to a retirement plan at work—are impacting retirement readiness today.

By a significant margin, the survey found that men (45%) feel more prepared for retirement than women (30%), which may be explained by historically higher earnings.

How does retirement preparedness break down by age group?

AgeVery Well PreparedSomewhat PreparedNot Very Well Prepared
20s45%23%21%
30s42%44%14%
40s30%41%29%
50s34%38%28%
60s37%53%9%
Average37%42%21%

On average, 37% of employees felt very prepared. Despite those in their 40s often hitting their highest-earning potential, employees in this age bracket felt the least prepared.

Retirement Plan Features

What aspects of their retirement plan did survey participants feel very satisfied with?

Feature% Who Feel Very SatisfiedSomewhat PreparedNot Very Well Prepared
Employer commitment to retirement preparedness58%23%21%
Plan provider62%44%14%
Plan performance58%41%29%
Ease of account management66%38%28%
Number of investment options given58%53%9%

Compared to other variables, participants felt most satisfied with the ease of account management of their retirement plan along with their plan provider.

Retirement Plan Design: 3 Key Priorities

When it comes to actual planning for retirement, what were the three most important factors among participants?

  • Right balance of growth & risk in portfolio: 84%
  • Saving enough for retirement: 86%
  • Work-life balance: 87%

Interestingly, the importance of work-life balance increased with age.

While 78% of people in their 20s said this was very important, it increased to 92% of people in their 50s. The same pattern emerged for having enough savings for retirement. Over 75% of people in their 20s said this was extremely important. For those in their 50s, this jumped to 96%.

Retirement Plan Design: 3 Gaps

Let’s now look at some of the biggest gaps in retirement plan design. Here is where participants were least satisfied with their plan provider:

Service% Satisfied
Managing the cost of healthcare53%
Having a roadmap to ensure I’m doing the “right thing” to plan for retirement57%
Working to get out of debt67%

As the above findings suggest, not only are participants looking for guidance with their 401(k) investments, they are looking for personal financial advice on managing debt and healthcare costs.

These gaps make sense: the U.S. has the highest healthcare costs in the world, averaging $12,500 per person per year or three times higher than the OECD country average.

The Employer’s Perspective

Let’s now take a look at how employers viewed retirement plan design.

Retirement Plan Design: Key Priorities

Across all firms, what were the three most important factors for their employees?

  • Managing the cost of healthcare: 90%
  • Saving enough for retirement: 85%
  • Work-life balance: 85%

Both employers and employees alike placed saving enough for retirement near the top.

Retirement Plan Design: 3 Gaps

Which services do employers offer the least?

Service% Offered
Working to get out of debt23%
How to access Social Security and other retirement accounts33%
Saving enough for retirement34%

Interestingly, while 85% of employers place saving enough for retirement as a key priority, the vast majority of employers don’t offer these services in retirement plans.

To address these gaps, advisors can create a well-thought-out financial wellness program for employers that bridges the disconnect.

Understanding the Disconnect

Over the last five years, retirement plans that offer advice have risen 44%.

The evidence is clear: employers value providing their employees personalized advice. Here are some key insights on providers, and where the disconnects lie.

Plan Providers: Key Disconnects

While 93% of all plan providers surveyed offer advisory services, just 62% offered services that were educational.

Meanwhile, younger advisors felt employees had stronger financial literacy and knowledge of retirement services compared to more tenured advisors by a wide margin. A similar trend followed for advisors at smaller plan providers versus larger firms.

However, more tenured advisors at larger firms were more likely to offer in-person consultations at the workplace. The same was true for providing employees with information to make more informed investment decisions.

Next, while some of the largest disconnects from participant and employer needs center around managing debt and healthcare costs, the majority of plan providers don’t offer them:

3 Gaps in Providers% Offer Service
Working to get out of debt35%
Managing cost of healthcare29%
Work-life balance34%

Importantly, new opportunities arise when advisors connect with participants and employers in areas that matter most.

Optimizing Retirement Plan Design

When employees and sponsors are active participants in their retirement journey, advisors can provide human-centered advice, personalized skills, and holistic planning models.

Based on the above findings, advisors can strategically enhance retirement plan design to align with participants’ and employers’ financial needs.

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