Monday, January 31, 2011


The majority of baby boomers intend to have a more active lifestyle in retirement than their parents (86%), as well as a better standard of living (72%), according to Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch Affluent Insights Quarterly.

As a way of remaining active, 32% said they would continue to work; 26% plan to continue their education; 24% want to learn a new trade; and 20% plan to start, or further, their own business, according to the study, which was released today.

In a session with reporters just after the conference call, Lyle LaMothe,  Head of U.S. Wealth Management, and Andy Sieg, Head of Retirement Services, highlighted several findings, including health care expenses and the growing conservative attitude among affluent investors. Nearly half (47%) of respondents considered themselves conservative. But in a twist from conventional wisdom, the youngest group in the survey is the most conservative.

Among the 18-to-34-year-old segment, 59% identified themselves as conservative investors. The next closest segment was the 65-and-over group (51%), while the 35-to-50-year-old group came in at 44%. LaMothe said that it’s not surprising to see investors, and especially young investors, grow more conservative after enduring two major bear markets and a recession over the past 10 years. But it’s a major concern for the industry, he says. That younger age group can’t remain that conservative and still expect to meet its financial goals, he says. He also noted this conservative mindset is not helping the economy.

The rising cost of health care continues to be a top concern for affluent Americans, and it’s increasingly an issue that needs to be integrated into retirement plans, Sieg said. It can no longer be a separate issue alongside a main retirement portfolio. Planning for your wealth, and planning for your health, are “two sides of the same coin,” Sieg said.

Women are more concerned than men about health care, at 70% versus 57%, according to the survey. And that’s just part-and-parcel of the broader mindset that women bring to the whole issue of retirement, the panel noted. Sieg said that there are numerous individual exceptions, but men are usually more concerned with the current state of the market, while women take a more comprehensive view at needs and possible outcomes in retirement.

The most comprehensive view, though, comes from Merrill itself. In a chart that tracks life expectancies for the past thousand years, it shows a line graph starting mid-way between 20 and 30 years of age.

It slopes gently upward through most of the millennium, until about 1900 (when it was at 47 years of age) and then skyrockets.

Today, it’s at 78. “We’re living in historic times,” Sieg said, taking note of growing life expectancies at the beginning of the media session.

“Retirement [today] is unrecognizable to Americans just two or three decades ago.”

Lee Conrad

OnWall Street
January 31, 2011

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