Twisted Vines

Look at lifestyle trends of the aging to help members be financially fit for retirement.

October 18, 2013


I stood precariously on the ladder and, frustrated, threw the handsaw and hedge clippers on the roof.  I pinged the gutter with my index finger, mired in irritation.

I was not enjoying reckoning with my prolific trumpet vine.

For years I had surveyed this monster just outside my kitchen window.  At first a lovely specimen, it grew—vigorously--eventually dwarfing the trellis.  I considered pruning it, but was never compelled to follow through, likely because of the hummingbirds it attracted.

It wasn’t until I received the utility company’s personalized communique regarding the dangers of blocked access that I was forced into action.  I could no longer ignore the situation.

We all face unpleasant tasks.  Doing nothing is a choice, but one that often leads to disappointing results. Like my trumpet vine, issues become entangled and neglected responsibilities create hazardous situations. Ultimately, the once manageable situation takes a monumental effort to fix.

This week, retirement research on lifestyle trends of the aging may prompt you to consider what circumstances could lead to crisis for your members if they don’t prudently manage their funds and consider their future monetary needs. 

“Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.”  --Christopher Parker, English actor

Age Groups and the Measure of Population Aging” by Demographic Research prompts us to consider the age defining an older person, and the fluctuating sizes of “aged” population groups. Perhaps by extension, might we reassess their needs for accommodation given “older person” status?

“Measures of population aging are important because they shape our perception of demographic trends,” and a new method to determine an aging population “relies on optimal grouping techniques.”

“Population aging is often perceived as a widespread phenomenon” but “today’s 60-year-olds are often very different from their parents at the same age…”  Thus, our perception of an “older person” changes over time, and based on this definition, the “…age at which one is considered a senior has increased dramatically over the last century.” 

How might this reclassification of senior status impact financial needs and services? 

Think about “How Demographic Shifts Are Changing the Look and Feel of Retirement.” It is noted that demographics and economics both impact retirement planning and advisors need to adapt. 

“The retirement industry has a chance in the next three to five years to change the lexicon around longevity planning and products.  Should the industry seize that opportunity, it stands to re-shape how we live retirement and how much it will cost.”

Some proactive suggestions for advisers include encouraging greater involvement of wives in financial decisions, having  flexibility in dealing with client interactions—depending, in part, on the client’s age—and providing information to clients before waiting to be asked.

Consider “The Rise of Semi-Retirement” where “More than a third of working Americans say they would like to semi-retire…before retiring completely.”  A survey reveals the following reasons this sentiment prevails for both personal and financial reasons:

  • People like working (41%).
  • Jobs offer mental stimulationand activity in retirement (51%).
  • The workplace provides a sense of relevancy (19%).
  • Full-time retirement is unaffordable (29%).

Consumer desire for semi-retirement may not mean employers will keep older employees as “only 22% of retirees were given the option to semi-retire…many…see older workers as being outdated and too expensive…”

Psychological factors come into play for people choosing to draw Social Security benefits around age 62, frequently against financial planners’ advice, reports Boston College.  A survey of those in their 40s and 50s asked when they might plan to claim benefits and determined psychological traits associated with early filers.

Findings show four such traits exist:

  1. Fear of financial loss through delays;
  2. Perception of a shorter life expectancy;
  3. Fairness, or sense that the benefits have been earned; and
  4. Impatience. Those who cannot wait for benefits will file early.

Retirement age is a consideration when “18% of the Workforce Could Retire Within Five Years,” says a LifeHealthPro article. 

Six industries were analyzed for retirement exodus and percentages “ranged from 9% in hospitality to 28% in public administration.”  The article also notes, “Many have contended that due to the financial crisis and increased life expectancy among various other factors, people will be working past traditional retirement age.” 

In this study, the assumed average retirement age was 61, and “Researchers concluded that in many industries, individuals will retire at 61 despite theories suggesting otherwise.”

How does a changing definition of “older person” impact our workforce and those considering retirement?  What will early claiming of benefits mean for consumers and how can you help them to be well-prepared with these intertwined issues?

“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.”  --Don Marquis, novelist

Retirees may hope to at least maintain a preretirement standard of living but lack of planning may keep them from keeping up with yesterday.

“3 Out of 4 Investors Think We’re Headed for a Major Retirement Crisis,” says a article. 

The crisis is expected to occur within the next 20 to 30 years and “will result in large populations living at a far reduced standard of living, or at the poverty line.”  A Wells Fargo/Gallup survey indicates 41% of nonretired investors are either “extremely” or “very worried” about another global financial crisis occurring during their retirement, “surpassing concerns about having a lower standard of living (28%), running out of money (26%), or having to work in retirement (25%).”

This pessimism may prove a good thing as “a majority of investors (84%) say when and how much you set aside are “extremely” or “very important” factors in determining whether you will save enough to live comfortably after retirement,” and increased focus on readiness may result. 

Will you be ready to help cut through the jungle of confusing investments?

Lastly, many boomers are currently struggling with debt and impending retirement as they are “Nearly Retired, Lugging a Mortgage.”  Mortgage debt may not be a problem should a borrower intend to work longer or have adequate assets to offset the debt, though this age group also has problems, as “24% of households had less than $25,000 in savings in 2008, compared with 18% in 1992.”

Accumulation of assets for retirement, therefore, is not the only consideration in prudent retirement planning; management of debt is another twisting vine along the planning trellis.

I finally finished my yard work project.  The trumpet vine has been temporarily silenced and my roof, trellis and siding salvaged. 

However, now I have an imposing pile of botanical refuse for disposal.

Ah well, tomorrow is another day--to successfully manage it!

LORA BRAY is a research librarian at CUNA.