Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New Retirement Research (No, This isn't a Repeat)

This time the study is across all generations, sponsored by Charles Schwab, the financial giant, and conducted by Ken Dychtwald's Age Wave and Harris Interactive.

Called "Rethinking Retirement," it provides a comprehensive look at how all four generations -- Silent, Boomers, Generation X and Gen Y -- think and feel about "retirement."

The Web site and information in the report are very well presented and informative. But at first glance, it feels like more of the same (even if it isn't).

Over the last few years we've been telling financial services clients that consumers of all ages no longer view "retirement" as an event of short duration (10-15 years), funded by others (company pensions and Social Security). Instead, consumers today see "retirement" as a life stage lasting 25-30 years and primarily funded out of their own savings (or continuing income).

To us, then, this "rethinking retirement" isn't news at all. But there is some news in their findings. For example, the Schwab study reports that most people think "old age" begins at age 75. That ground has been covered elsewhere. But interestingly, the study asks at what age one should be able to start getting money from Social Security, and consumers say that age is much, much younger than "old age" -- it is 63. The conclusion, mentioned almost in passing, is that today consumers think the "old age" benefit of Social Security is an entitlement due 12 years before you get to "old age."

That's a key finding to us. In fact, we suspect it will be the lead in most stories about the study, if reporters are on their game. One would think that such a finding might empower politicians to address Social Security. We wish Schwab had come down hard on this particular point. It's an opportunity to get action, and it's been underplayed so far.

One aspect of the Schwab study and the Web site that we like: They are trying to move beyond reporting on research to focus now on what to do.

Chuck Schwab and daughter Carrie Schwab Pomerantz have a section on the site where they comment on the study, and the need to provide more financial literacy education in schools, as well as change the financial services industry.

These are good steps, and we encourage Schwab to keep pushing for more steps.

Our belief is that research is only good if it leads to action. Let's hope this study generates some.

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Valuable Insights into the Hearts, Minds and Wallets of Today's Baby Boomers

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Here is where you'll find information referenced in the book, as well as updates, news and perspectives from Matt Thornhill and John Martin, founders of the Boomer Project.