Individuals Not Effectively Preparing for Retirement-Related Risks

For example, the Society of Actuaries found all generations are highly concerned with having enough money to pay for health care in retirement, however, saving for the future medical costs is only a high priority for 36% of respondents. 

Retirees face many financially related risks, including living longer than their financial resources, a major long-term care event, investment and inflation risk and unexpected medical expenses.

The Society of Actuaries (SOA) analyzed financial risk management across five generations. It found some concerns around retirement-related risks are consistent across each generation, while others, such as the ability to deal with unexpected expenses, vary by age, and there is a significant amount of variation on how much planning and preparation individuals undertake to withstand financial risks.

The ability to handle unforeseen expenses increases with age, peaking with Early Boomers and then declining for the Silent Generation. Six in 10 Early Boomers say they could afford a $10,000 expense using their savings or emergency funds. Only 46% of Millennials would use their savings, which is not surprising since they have lower assets and more competing financial priorities. Those in the Silent Generation are particularly vulnerable, with half not being able to use their savings for an unexpected $10,000 expense. This is consistent with and may be reflective of the fact that only half of all respondents are prioritizing building up an emergency fund to safeguard against unexpected expenses.

Millennials are most concerned with having enough money to pay for health care in retirement (69%), and concern decreases with age—66% among Gen X, 62% among late Baby Boomers, 53% among early Baby Boomers and 49% among the Silent Generation. However, saving for the future medical costs is only a high priority for on average 36% of respondents.

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents are worried they might not have enough money to pay for a long period in a nursing home, yet saving for long-term care is a high priority for just one-third of respondents.

Two-thirds of respondents are concerned that the value of their savings and investments might not keep up with inflation in retirement. This concern also decreases with age, with almost three-quarters of Millennials (73%), compared to just over half of the Silent Generation (53%), expressing high concern over inflation. The SOA says as Millennials have the longest time until retirement, and thus greater uncertainty, their concern over inflation risk is understandable.

While living longer than expected is desirable, it presents a financial risk because the longer retirement lasts, the more it costs, the SOA says. Also, a long life increases the likelihood of other risks, such as an increased need for long-term care or having high medical costs. The study found 63% of all respondents are concerned with not being able to maintain a reasonable standard of living for the rest of their lives, and 61% are concerned with depleting all of their savings. However both concerns decrease with age, ranging from 72% and 69% among Millennials to 47% and 46% among the Silent Generation, respectively.

One-quarter of all respondents indicate their level of debt is complicating their ability to manage their finances. Older generations are less likely to indicate this and are also more likely than younger generations to say they have no debt.

Managing retirement risks

According to the SOA report, there are many ways to manage the various risks that can hinder financial security in retirement. For example, sticking to a budget and a monthly savings plan can help mitigate the risks of unexpected expenses and longevity later in life. Currently, 61% of Millennials are sticking to a budget and another 45% are sticking to a monthly savings plan, both higher than older generations. Yet, members of the Silent Generation have a higher likelihood than Gen Xers or Boomers of sticking to a budget (53% versus 49% of Gen X, 48% of late Boomers and 46% of early Boomers).

Across all generations, one-third are making efforts to get their debt under control, with Millennials much more likely to be doing so (41%). Addressing debt, especially those with high interest rates prior to retirement, can alleviate pressure on savings and emergency funds and allow more focus on other risk management strategies, the SOA notes.

Putting money into an employer-sponsored retirement plan is a strategy about three in 10 Millennials, Gen Xers and Late Boomers are employing currently. In addition, targeting investments to grow money and produce income both now and in retirement is a strategy more likely being employed by Late Boomers (27%), the majority of whom are gearing up for retirement.

The SOA says a key goal of this body of research is to increase knowledge and encourage action to help individuals effectively protect against the financial consequences of each risk. “It is our hope that the insights this research has provided about each generation will lead to further efforts to educate individuals on the key steps to financial security and enhanced protection against adverse events that pose a threat to that security,” it concludes.

The report, Financial Risk Concerns and Management Across Generations, may be downloaded from here.