By Cyril Tuohy
The retirement space is getting crowded. No, we’re not talking about retired baby boomers hogging the coffee lines at Starbucks or the discount window at the local movie theater. We’re talking about the latest retirement apps for download on mobile devices.
Recent entries into the segment are the retirement apps from the corporate A-listers of the retirement world, behemoths like The Principal Financial, Prudential Retirement and Transamerica.
Banks such as PNC and retail brokerage houses such as Charles Schwab have their own retirement apps too, and there are dozens of financial advisor apps for download onto iOS and Android operating systems, according to a brief scan of the App Store.
Patricia Advaney, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Transamerica Retirement Solutions, said the idea behind launching the company’s Retirement Outlook Estimator app earlier this month was to spread the word about the importance of saving for retirement.
“We're believers in spreading the word whether they are participants with us or not,” Advaney said in an interview with InsuranceNewsNet. “This is a national crisis and we want to spread the word and the need.”
Retirement Solutions Estimator has a “share” function with which users can connect to Facebook to let their friends and family know whether their retirement outlook is “rainy,” “cloudy,” “partly cloudy” or “sunny.”
The app returns numbers calculated from values entered into the software. It isn’t designed to execute transactions, but it will tell you if you are socking away enough money for the golden years.
With Americans’ retirement prospects decidedly rainy, according to multiple surveys, the idea is for the retirement industry to reach out to plan participants in any way they can. Right now, that way is through cell phones, tablets and hybrids called “phablets.”
“Everybody is going mobile,” Advaney said. “I think everybody knows things are going in a mobile direction.”
The app market is here to stay and, for the moment, smartphone ownership “seems to be immune to income level,” according to an insurance consumer survey published by the financial services consultancy Celent.
With smartphone owners having at least one e-mail and social networking app on their phones and at least three games, it’s logical that the retirement services industry would follow by giving their apps a sharing functionality as Retirement Outlook Estimator has done.
Users of smartphones expect to be able to perform self-service functions on mobile apps when they use them, according to Celent analyst Karen Monks, who authored the 2011 report titled “So What If There Is an App: A Survey of Insurance Consumers.”
TransQuote Mobile by Transamerica Life Insurance, an app that allows users to obtain quotes, and My TRSRetire get middling to high ratings from users. All the TRS apps are free.
The Principal Financial Group’s Principal Mobile app and Principal DreamCatcher are both free as well.
Retirement Outlook Estimator was developed in-house on a small budget over the past four to six months, Advaney also said. The challenge for the developers was how to design an app to engage people to save for retirement.
Developers, she said, had to make the app convey to consumers the idea that it is “socially acceptable to contribute to a culture of saving.”
Independent third-party apps were the first to hit the market: apps such as My Retirement Countdown, Your Retirement Planning Guide, LearnVest and even one called Crazy Granny Retirement Village. These retirement savings calculator apps have been available for several years for 99 cents or $1.99.
Cyril Tuohy is a writer based in Pennsylvania. He has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. He can be reached at [email protected].
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