Slightly less than one-tenth (9 percent) of Americans of all ages do “expect to be able to rely” on an annuity for part of their retirement income, and 43 percent are somewhat or very interested in the features that annuities include.
But 26 percent have no money saved for retirement, and 12 percent are not sure about what sources of retirement income they can expect.
The findings come from a survey by the Indexed Annuity Leadership Council (IALC), a trade group that focuses on education about retirement savings in general and on fixed index annuities (FIAs) in particular.
The survey results indicate that annuity purchasing and thinking do have a foothold among consumers.
However, the industry needs to do more financial education so that more people will save and build a balanced retirement nest egg, according Jim Poolman, IALC executive director. That nest egg could include alternative products like annuities. “We’ve been talking about this for a long time, and we need to continue to do that,” he said in an interview with InsuranceNewsNet.
About the annuity foothold
Conducted by GfK’s KnowledgePanel, the survey sampled views of more than 6,800 people. The personal net wealth of those surveyed ranged from none (14 percent were in debt) to $1 million or more (5 percent), with more than a third in the $25,000 to $500,000 range.
That nearly one-tenth of the total group intends to rely on an annuity for retirement income shows that annuities are being seen as a retirement income vehicle, and not just an accumulation product.
The annuity joins several other retirement income sources that consumers said they expect to receive. These include the usual front-runner, Social Security (68 percent). Others included personal savings (43 percent), 401(k) plan (42 percent), pension (32 percent) and other personal investments (32 percent).
Notably for annuity professionals, the percentage of those who listed annuities, although a smaller percentage overall, increased by age group. For instance, nearly one-fourth (24 percent) of people age 70 and older named an annuity as an income source they expect to rely upon. By comparison, only 4 percent of those aged 35-50 and only 2 percent of those aged 18-34 said the same.
How close someone is to retirement age is the main reason for some of the age differentials, Poolman pointed out. Younger adults are much farther away from retirement than older people, and they also have other priorities to focus upon.
However, the more that younger people understand the time value of money — a by-product of financial literacy — the greater will be their interest in, and reliance upon, retirement savings products like annuities and savings in general, he predicted.
The differential between age groups also may reflect a lack of awareness of the annuity’s role in retirement income.
In general, the expected income sources that consumers named indicate that there is a “certain amount of financial literacy — and illiteracy” in the survey group, particularly at the older ages, Poolman said. The goal should be to have people “become more (financially) literate earlier in life, so that they can plan earlier,” he said.
Interest in annuity features
The encouraging news is that consumers, including younger consumers, definitely are interested in retirement savings accounts that have features typically found in annuities, including FIAs, according to Poolman.
The researchers tested this in a question that intentionally did not use the word “annuity.” Instead, they asked the person to gauge their interest in accounts that: allow contribution of a set monthly amount, yield guaranteed payments throughout retirement regardless of stock market performance, and are guaranteed not to lose money.
All totaled, 43 percent of consumers said they were somewhat or very interested in “retirement savings accounts” having those features.
The surprise is that an even larger percentage of millennials (ages 18-34) said they were somewhat or very interested in those features.
Specifically, 52 percent of these young adults showed interest. That’s higher than the interest shown by Generation X (ages 35-50), baby boomers (ages 51-69), and the silent generation (ages 70 and older), who came in at 48 percent, 36 percent and 28 percent, respectively.
Poolman thinks the millennials’ interest in annuity-like features ties in with the conservative approach to investing that many millennials are displaying. In the survey, 43 percent identified themselves as somewhat or very conservative, he noted.
“The conservative nature of FIAs should appeal to millennials,” he said. “I think the appeal is the guarantee not to lose money.”
Concern about millennials
That said, the IALC executive has some concerns about millennials. Nearly two-fifths (37 percent) of these younger adults reported having no retirement savings, and 24 percent reported being in debt. Of those who do have assets, 33 percent said they had less than $25,000 in personal net wealth.
In addition, although half of this age group is clearly interested in the features that annuities provide, only 2 percent named annuities as an expected source of their retirement income. Instead, close to half said they expect sources like Social Security, 401(k)s, and personal savings to provide their income.
The survey findings are spurring IALC to push for continued education around financial literacy, not just annuities. “We can’t stress this enough,” he said. “The industry needs to explain the time value of money, for instance. It needs to show how investing while still young impacts net worth over time.”
Even doing something as simple as nudging millennials (and others) to use retirement income calculators and other online tools will help, he said, noting that IALC offers such tools as do many other online resources.
Not rocket science
“It’s not rocket science. It takes just five minutes or so to use the tools,” Poolman said. “Consumers can see how skipping one night out a month can impact their savings over a lifetime, if they invest the money in a retirement savings product.”
This is not only about investing in annuities, he reiterated. It’s about the importance of financial literacy and of retirement planning. “The goal is to see how products can be used in a balanced portfolio so people don’t come up short later,” he said.
InsuranceNewsNet Editor-at-Large Linda Koco, MBA, specializes in life insurance, annuities and income planning. Linda can be reached at [email protected].