Four Generations Agree: We Need More Advice

July 15, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A new study from Charles Schwab reveals that Americans from different generations are developing new and different ideas about retirement, but across all generations most agree that more financial education is needed.

Just 3% of all generations strongly agree that Americans are currently a financially responsible population, according to a Schwab press release, and the majority of survey participants have a suggestion to overcome this challenge: 95% say basic financial management should be a standard part of the high school curriculum and seven in 10 would like professional saving and investing advice from their employer.

Survey participants say they have not gotten the support they need to prepare for retirement, so 78% have acquired financial management skills on their own, the announcement said. Family, friends and employers all were graded with “Cs” on being trustworthy sources of information, while professional financial advisers scored a “C+.”

Survey participants recognize the need for self-reliance in retirement, especially among younger generations. Generation Y (ages 21 to 31) expects 61% of its retirement funding to come from personal savings and investments, compared to 32% for the “silent” generation (ages 63 to 83). However, while they understand the need for financial self-reliance, they also express a desire to get more help from employers.

Seventy percent of respondents say they would like their employer to provide them with professional advice regarding saving and investing (79% of Generation Y respondents). The most common area that respondents would like assistance from their employer is on retirement preparation beyond the 401(k) or 403(b) plan (69%), followed by advice on saving and investing needs outside of retirement all together (57%). Wanting advice on investing in a 401(k) or 403(b) plan came in third place (55%). About one-third of respondents say they would also like their employers to help them with debt reduction, budgeting, and tax planning.

Wanting more advice does not necessarily mean giving up control, however. Three-quarters of all respondents say they would like to handle decisionmaking related to their 401(k) or 403(b) themselves, getting help when needed. Only 9% of respondents indicate they want to make all the decisions themselves without any advice.

Respondents say they will need to have saved at least $500,000 to live comfortably in retirement – twice the median net worth of today’s Boomer pre-retirees, according to Schwab. In addition, only a quarter of Americans say they clearly understand Social Security and how it works, and just 11% say they understand Medicare very clearly.

Aside from other financial worries in retirement, respondents to the Schwab study are anticipating even more generational interdependence and support in their later years. Four in 10 anticipate they will need to financially support their parents, and one in four worry that they will have to financially support their siblings. These concerns are strongest among younger respondents.

Despite financial concerns, staying mentally active - not the paycheck - is the number one reason people want to work in retirement, according to the survey results, and 60% say they would like to enter a different line of work. Respondents are also asking for a new model for work life in their later years, with 40% saying they would like to cycle between periods of work and leisure during their retirement years.

In addition, nearly half (45%) of survey participants see retirement as a time to give back to their family and community. Schwab said this may be due in part to seeing a gap of potentially productive years between retirement age (which they define as 63) and "old age" (which they say does not start until around 75). Those who view retirement as a time to give back are also more likely to believe they will stay youthful longer and that success is about having loving family and friends.

"Rethinking Retirement" was initiated by Schwab in collaboration with Age Wave. All data collection and analysis was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive. A total of 3,866 interviews were conducted between March 28 and April 22, 2008. The four generations represented were:

  • Silent Generation: ages 63 to 83;
  • Baby Boomers: ages 44 to 62;
  • Generation X ages 32 to 43; and
  • Generation Y ages 21 to 31.

More information on the study, along with a self-comparison tool and an ongoing series of cross-generational discussions on retirement is available at www.rethinkingretirement.com .

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