Merrill Lynch is taking a radical new look at how retirement and baby boomers are perceived — and it could change the way their advisors structure their retirement businesses.
A new study from the firm asserts that the oft-predicted baby boomer retirement crisis will be a nonevent for one important reason: Most boomers don't plan on retiring in the same fashion as their parents. According to “The New Retirement Survey,” conducted for Merrill by Harris Interactive and Age Wave, 76 percent of baby boomers plan to work during their so-called retirement years. The income and benefits from these jobs will reduce the boomers' reliance on income from savings, thus averting the expected crisis.
“We found solid evidence that the model of work folding over into your life is prevalent,” says Michael Falcon, COO of Merrill Lynch's Retirement Group. “The old savings models are changing. It's not a linear process anymore.”
The survey is based on 2,348 responses from 40- to 58-year olds. Rather than look at what people's thoughts were about their preparation for “leisure time” in retirement, the survey instead examined what they expect their quality of life in “retirement” to be. To this end, the firm hired someone outside of the industry to run the study: Ken Dychtwald, a gerontologist and president of Age Wave, a consultancy that specializes in baby boomer issues. One interesting result: 56 percent of respondents plan on working in retirement at a different job than their current one.
“We found that people don't really want 20 years of what we have considered ‘retirement,’” says Dychtwald. “The boomers are high achievers who want to stay in the game.”
Dychtwald says that just as the baby boomers have changed the very nature of things like dieting, family and gender roles, they are now reinventing retirement. That is to say the days of working until you're 65 and then sitting around watching television until death are over.
Sixty-seven percent of the survey's respondents said they would continue working to remain “mentally active.” Though the need for more money is a motivating factor for working after age 65, only 37 percent cited money as the main driving force.
Falcon said the study would alter how Merrill approached retirement planning. The study is being distributed to all the firm's advisors. “This is something that we are ahead of other firms on,” Falcon said. “Merrill Lynch is not going to look at a study this revolutionary and not act on it immediately.”