TORONTO (Reuters) - Financial advisers need to sit their clients down and have a tough talk about what they really want in retirement and, more importantly, what they’re prepared to give up, according to a recent Bank of Montreal report.
The report, titled “Retirement income planning: Can we have our cake and eat it too?” was aimed at the bank’s 2,000 financial planners and investment advisers who are facing the first wave of baby boomers heading into retirement.
It looked at the results of a survey that asked 604 retirees and 523 who were nearing retirement about their goals and concerns related to retirement income.
Nearly all of them -- 93 percent -- said that having enough money to maintain their current lifestyle was a key goal.
The respondents also said that being able to cover unexpected expenses was a priority, as were not outliving their savings and having a life-long income stream.
While these are reasonable goals, they can conflict with each other when it comes to retirement planning, Tina Di Vito, head of BMO’s Retirement Institute, said in an interview. Without some concessions, it would be nearly impossible for the average retiree to balance both sets of goals.
“When you’re spending money from your portfolio instead of adding money, the decisions you make can be critical and can mean the difference between having the wonderful retirement you’ve planned and having to reduce your lifestyle,” she said.
For instance, 69 percent of those within five years of retirement said they would prefer to have a life-time income stream -- available through an annuities or a host of other guaranteed income products -- even if that would mean sacrificing the growth of their capital.
But 67 percent of the same group said that having the financial flexibility to deal with contingencies -- perhaps unexpected health care costs or cash to fix a leaky roof -- was more important than a predictable retirement income for life.
So putting all of their money into an annuity might not be the best plan for many people, because it is not going to give them flexibility or liquidity, Di Vito said.
Those who put all of their money into equities might have more liquidity and growth prospects, but a market crash like the one in 2008 could significantly reduce their nest-eggs.
The biggest concerns identified were unexpected costs, followed by outliving assets, not keeping up with inflation, healthcare costs, and unpredictable returns.
For those worried about inflation -- people are living longer than ever and a 30-year retirement is not uncommon -- income products can be bought that are indexed to inflation, but they will cost more than a plain vanilla annuity would.
“This is why we say it’s important to understand that you have to make some concessions,” Di Vito said. “If you absolutely want the flexibility or the extra protection, you will have to pay for it, which means that there will be less money left over for you to spend.”
Ultimately, there is no one solution that will address everyone’s retirement income needs, she said.
Once a client’s goals have been clarified, advisers can use a variety of products and strategies to help meet those goals -- short-term needs might be addressed by more conservative investments with guaranteed returns and liquidity, while long-term needs might aim for growth, or perhaps stability.
“It’s going to be about making decisions, making concessions, thinking about what is the most important thing that you want to cover off,” said Di Vito, “and it does not have to be all or nothing.”
The survey was conducted on behalf of BMO by Leger Marketing through an online panel between November 24 and December 1.
Reporting by John McCrank; editing by Rob Wilson