The Retirement Income Planning Disconnect

The Retirement Income Planning Disconnect

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When I began writing and publishing Retirement Income Visions™ almost five years ago, retirement income planning was a relatively new concept. What people thought was retirement income planning turned out to be traditional retirement asset planning in most cases.

While the distinction between retirement income and retirement asset planning has gotten more attention in the media over the last five years and has come to the forefront for financial advisors with The American College’s establishment of the Retirement Income Certified Professional® (RICP®) designation two years ago, the importance of implementing a retirement income plan hasn’t caught on yet with most pre-retirees.

According to a TIAA-CREF survey, 72 percent of retirement plan participants said that either their plan didn’t have a lifetime income option or they weren’t sure if their plan offered one. While 28 percent said that their plan offered a lifetime income option, only 18 percent of plan participants actually allocated funds to this choice.

This is despite the fact that 34 percent of retirement plan participants surveyed said that the primary goal for their plan is to have guaranteed money every month to cover living costs and another 40 percent wanted to make sure that their savings are safe no matter what happens in the market. Furthermore, while 74% are concerned about security of their investments, only 21 percent expect to receive income from annuities.

Given the fact that fixed income annuities are the only investment that’s designed to provide guaranteed lifetime income, there’s an obvious disconnect and associated lack of understanding between what pre-retirees want and what they’re implementing when it comes to retirement planning. A large part of the problem is attributable to the fact that employees are relying too much on their employer’s retirement plan to meet their retirement needs. See Don’t Depend on Your Employer for Retirement.

Most employers today offer a 401(k), or defined contribution plan, to their employees vs. the traditional defined benefit plan that was prevalent several years ago. The latter plan is designed to provide lifetime income beginning at a defined age whereas a 401(k) plan is designed to accumulate assets, the value of which fluctuates over time depending upon market performance.

Since an income tax deduction is available for contributing to a non-Roth 401(k) plan and the maximum allowable contribution level is fairly generous for most employees, the incentive to seek out lifetime income options in the marketplace is limited for most retirement plan participants. This is the case even though people like the idea of lifetime income and their employer’s retirement plan doesn’t usually offer this option.

As the marketplace becomes better educated about the importance of having a retirement income plan, this is reinforced by the next stock market downturn, and employers increase the availability of lifetime income options, the disconnect between the desire for, and inclusion of, sustainable lifetime income in one’s plan will lessen over time.

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