Gap Remains Between Income Needs and Planning

The good news from a new TIAA-CREF survey is that Americans acknowledge the importance of a lifetime income plan. The bad news: few take action to create one.

Eighty-four percent of Americans want a guaranteed monthly paycheck in retirement, but only 14% have taken steps to ensure lifetime income with the purchase of an annuity, according to the TIAA-CREF 2015 Lifetime Income Survey.

Also troubling, 44% of Americans are not sure whether receiving regular monthly income in retirement is even an option under their current retirement plan/plans. The survey results emphasize the need for better education about lifetime income options, TIAA-CREF says, and how lifetime income planning can provide financial security for people lacking pensions.

Compared with last year, the survey shows fewer Americans are actively saving for retirement, with 29% saving nothing this year versus 21% last year. This is despite the fact that nearly half (46%) of those polled by TIAA-CREF state they are concerned about running out of money in retirement. The conflicting results present an opportunity to start a conversation about lifetime income, including annuities, and to provide plan participants with the confidence they need in knowing their basic expenses will be covered in retirement, TIAA-CREF says.

Overall, the survey indicates plan sponsors and advisers can play a crucial role in educating participants by making lifetime income a part of the retirement planning conversation, TIAA-CREF says. It’s up to plan sponsors and advisers to get the conversation started, however, as only 31% of savers polled are actively seeking advice about how to translate their retirement assets into lifetime income.

“More Americans need to not only set savings goals, but consider how their retirement savings will translate into an income stream that they cannot outlive,” says Ed Van Dolsen, president of retirement and individual financial services at TIAA-CREF. “Individuals will feel more confident in their retirement plans if they know that their basic expenses will be covered by guaranteed income.”

For this reason, TIAA-CREF feels any retirement planning conversation should include a discussion of strategies for generating lifetime income, and how annuities and other types of investment products can help create financial security.

When asked whether they have analyzed how their savings will translate into monthly income in retirement, only 38% of survey respondents had done so, and many had done this analysis without the help of a financial professional.

TIAA-CREF feels this could explain the disconnect between what people want versus what they actually plan for: Even though 49% of respondents would be willing to commit a portion of their savings to a product that would provide them a guaranteed monthly income, only 34% of Americans say they are familiar with annuities. Twenty-nine percent have purchased an annuity or are planning to do so, and 28% have a favorable impression of annuities.

“For many Americans, annuities are often unknown or misunderstood, which is unfortunate since they are the only way to generate retirement income that cannot be outlived,” says Van Dolsen. “People should consider working one-on-one with a financial adviser to learn more about the investment solutions that can help them achieve their long-term financial goals.”

The survey finds young Americans are most likely to need information about income options, with only 26% of those ages 18 to 34 claiming to be “familiar with annuities.”

“This is an opportunity for employers to advise young people about the value of purchasing an annuity during their prime savings years, not just when they’re ready to retire,” Van Dolsen adds. “Taking advantage of this option early on could help younger people prepare for a secure retirement.”

The survey was conducted by KRC Research by phone among a national random sample of 1,000 adults, age 18 years and older, from January 7 to 15, 2015, using a combination of landline and cell phone interviews.

TIAA-CREF published an executive summary of the research here.