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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

Europe’s Energy Crisis and the Global Economy

Europe’s energy crisis could last well into 2023. Here’s how the energy shock is causing ripple effects across the broader economy.

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Europe’s Energy Crisis and the Global Economy

Volatile energy prices are squeezing household costs and business productivity in Europe.

While energy prices have fallen in recent months, several factors could influence price volatility looking ahead:

  • Russia slashing energy supplies
  • Rising winter heating demand
  • Shrinking European storage facilities

In the above infographic from New York Life Investments, we show the potential impacts of Europe’s energy crisis on consumers, businesses, and the wider global economy.

1. Impact on Consumers

Energy plays a central role in overall inflation. Here’s how it factors into the consumption baskets of various countries:

CountryEnergy %
of Inflation
Total Inflation Rate
(Sep 2022)
EnergyFoodAll Items Less Food
and Energy
Germany46%9.9%4.5%1.8%3.6%
Italy42%8.7%3.7%2.2%2.8%
Japan42%3.0%1.3%1.0%0.8%
France29%5.6%1.6%1.6%2.4%
United Kingdom28%8.8%2.5%1.3%5.0%
U.S.17%8.2%1.4%1.0%5.8%
Canada15%6.8%1.0%1.3%4.5%

Source: OECD (Oct 2022). Annual inflation is measured by the Consumer Price Index.

As the above table shows, energy makes up nearly half of consumer price inflation in Germany. In the U.S., it contributes to about one-fifth of overall inflation.

Amid energy supply disruptions, U.S. winter heating costs are projected to rise to the highest level in a decade. As heating costs rise, it could impact consumer spending on discretionary items across the economy, along with other essential household bills.

2. Impact on Business

Natural gas and petroleum are key components in many industries’ energy consumption. As a result, the recent rise in energy prices is adding significant cost pressures to operations.

Below, we show how four primary sectors use energy, by source:

U.S. SectorPetroleumNatural GasRenewablesCoalElectricity
Transportation90%4%5%0%<1%
Industrial34%40%9%4%13%
Residential8%42%7%0%43%
Commerical10%37%3%<1%50%

Source: EIA (Apr 2022). Figures represent end-use sector energy consumption in 2021.

In Europe, soaring energy prices have led to production declines in energy-sensitive industries over recent months. As a ripple effect, European fertilizer production capacity has decreased as much as 70%, crude steel capacity has fallen 10%, and aluminum and zinc production capacity has sunk 50%.

In response, some companies may move production out of Europe to regions with lower energy prices. This occurred in 2010-2014 amid high European energy prices, where companies relocated to the U.S., the Middle East, and North Africa.

3. Impact on the Economy

While the energy crisis is having devastating effects on many countries, some markets like the U.S. are more sheltered from the impact. As seen in the table below, the U.S. produces virtually all of its natural gas. Figures are shown in trillion cubic feet.

YearU.S. Natural Gas
Production
U.S. Natural Gas
Consumption
Net Imports
20213531-4
20203331-3
20193431-2
20183130-1
201727270
201627271
201527271
201426271
201324261
201224262
201123242
201021243

Source: EIA (Sep 2022).

By contrast, Europe imports 80% of its natural gas, primarily from Russia, North Africa, and Norway. Not only that, natural gas imports have increased over the last decade, up from 65% of total supplies in 2010.

Meanwhile, the energy sector is seeing strong returns supported by higher oil and natural gas prices, along with key fuel shortages as Russia constricts supplies to Europe. In November the S&P 500 Energy Index was up 65% year-to-date compared to the broader index, with -17% returns.

Europe’s Energy Crisis: Looking Ahead

Given the complex geopolitical environment, Europe’s energy crisis could last well into 2023, driven by many factors:

  • Rising demand from China post-COVID-19 lockdowns
  • Lower European fuel reserves
  • Inadequate energy infrastructure in the medium-term

The good news is that European government relief has reached €674 billion ($690 billion) to cushion the effect on households and businesses.

However, this has additional challenges as increasing money supply may be an inflationary force.

Amid market volatility, investors can avoid getting caught up in short-term market movements and stay focused on their long-term strategic allocation.

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Infographics

5 Key Questions Investors Have About Inflationary Environments

This infographic explores questions on today’s inflationary environment as the economy faces persistent price pressures.

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Inflationary Environment

This infographic is available as a poster.

5 Key Questions on Inflationary Environments

What does a changing inflationary environment mean for financial markets, and how could this impact investors?

While there are no clear answers, the above infographic from New York Life Investments looks at key questions on inflation and the potential implications looking ahead.

1. What Are the Main Factors Driving Inflation?

Often, investors closely watch core inflation since it doesn’t factor in volatile energy and food prices. In September, core inflation rose 0.6% from the previous month while headline inflation, as represented by the Consumer Price Index, increased 0.4%.

DateCore InflationHeadline Inflation
Sep 20220.6%0.4%
Aug 20220.6%0.1%
Jul 20220.3%0.0%
Jun 20220.7%1.3%
May 20220.6%1.0%
Apr 20220.6%0.3%
Mar 20220.3%1.2%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10/13/22.

Earlier in the pandemic, surging second-hand car prices and supply-chain distortions were factors driving up inflation. But as dynamics have shifted, rising services costs, including housing, have played a significant role.

Along with these factors, a strong labor market is adding to price pressures. Nominal wages increased 6.3% annually in September, after hitting almost 7% in August, the highest in 20 years.

For this trend to reverse, unemployment levels may need to rise and interest rates may need to increase to cool an overheating economy.

2. What is the Effect of Fiscal Stimulus on Inflation?

In response to a historic crisis, the U.S. government allocated over $5 trillion in fiscal stimulus. The Federal Reserve released research that suggests that the fiscal stimulus contributed to 2.5 percentage points in excess U.S. inflation.

Specifically, the fiscal stimulus affected supply and demand dynamics, stimulating the consumption of goods. At the same time, the production of goods didn’t increase, which elevated demand pressures and price tensions.

As the short-term implications begin to unfold, the longer-term structural effects of record stimulus remain far from clear.

3. How Do Interest Rates Impact Inflation?

When inflation is running high, the Fed often hikes interest rates to cool an overheating economy.

Consider how in February 1975 there was a 17% difference between core inflation and real interest rates, an instance when the Fed got “behind the curve”. This shows that the real rate is far below the core inflation rate.

Sometimes, this prompts the Fed to raise rates to combat inflation. After several rate hikes, inflation fell to 4% by 1983, bringing the real rate and core inflation closer together. The table below shows when this gap rose to the double-digits between 1974 and early 2022:

DateCore InflationReal RateDifference
Oct 197410.6%-0.5%11.1%
Nov 197411.0%-1.5%12.5%
Dec 197411.3%-2.8%14.1%
Jan 107511.5%-4.4%15.9%
Feb 197511.9%-5.6%17.5%
Mar 197511.3%-5.8%17.1%
Apr 197511.3%-5.8%17.1%
May 197510.3%-5.1%15.4%
Jun 19759.8%-4.3%14.1%
Jul 19759.1%-3.0%12.1%
Jan 198012.0%1.9%10.2%
May 198013.1%-2.2%15.3%
Jun 198013.6%-4.1%17.7%
Jul 198012.4%-3.4%15.8%
Aug 198011.8%-2.2%14.0%
Sep 198012.0%-1.1%13.1%
Oct 198012.2%0.7%11.6%
Dec 20215.5%-5.4%10.9%
Jan 20226.0%-6.0%12.0%

Source: Peterson Institute for International Economics, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, 03/14/22. The real policy interest rate is the Federal Funds Rate minus Core Inflation over 12 months.

In January 2022, this gap reached 12%, hinting towards further interest rate action from the Fed.

Over the last 11 tightening cycles since 1965, six resulted in soft landings and three resulted in hard landings. Whether or not the recent tightening cycle will result in a hard landing, also known as a significant decline in real GDP, remains an open question.

4. How Long Will Inflation Last?

From the vantage point of 2022, the direction of inflation is as complex as it is uncertain. Below, we show where inflation may be headed in the near future based on analysis from the Federal Reserve.

 2022P2023P2024P
PCE Inflation5.4%2.8%2.3%
Federal Funds Rate4.4%4.6%3.9%

Source: Federal Reserve Board, 09/21/22. Reflects median projections for PCE Inflation and the Federal Funds Rate.

By 2024, inflation is expected to fall closer to the 2.0% target amid higher interest rates. What other key factors could influence inflation going forward?

 2023 Projection
U.S. Real GDP Growth1.2%
Interest Rates4.6%
Housing Price Growth-10.0%
Unemployment Rate4.4%

Source: Federal Reserve Board 09/21/22, Morningstar, 08/07/22. Interest rates represented by the Federal Funds Rate. Housing Price Growth represented by median U.S. home prices.

A combination of slowing GDP growth, higher interest rates, decreasing housing prices, and higher unemployment could potentially dampen inflation leading into 2023.

5. What May Lessen the Impact of Inflation On My Portfolio?

During inflationary periods, value stocks have tended to perform well, based on data from Robert Shiller and Kenneth French. In fact, value stocks saw nearly 8% annualized outperformance over growth during the 1970s and over 5% outperformance during the 1980s.

Similarly, tangible assets like commodities and real estate have tended to weather these periods thanks to their ability to increase portfolio diversification and stability across economic cycles. For instance, between 1973 and 2021, commodities have averaged 19.1% during inflationary periods while real estate assets averaged 5.0%.

The Big Canvas

Generally speaking, periods of high inflation over history are quite rare. Since 1947, the average U.S. inflation rate has been 3.4%.

Inflation (1947-2021)Percentage of Time Spent
Below 0%16%
Between 0 and 5%57%
Between 5 and 10%20%
Above 10%7%

Source: CFA Institute, 07/19/21.

Against a changing environment, investors may consider balancing their portfolios with more defensive strategies that have been historically more resistant to inflation.

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