Longevity planning in the face of Peak 65: Time to reevaluate.

Longevity planning in the face of Peak 65: Time to reevaluate

By Duncan Milne

March 19, 2024
Graphic wave
Savers need more relevant messaging — and advice — about preparing for life after 65.

This year marks the beginning of the “Peak 65 Zone,” and financial services marketers have their work cut out.

More than 16 million Americans will turn 65 over the next four years — more than any four-year period in U.S. history. This “silver tsunami” comes as Americans are woefully underprepared for retirement, and face a shocking lack of meaningful social support for America’s elderly.

Turning 65 years old once marked a milestone in the American dream, when you accepted a gold watch and rode into the sunset. That world is gone, and as financial marketers, we need to change the conversation.

Life expectancy has changed. So have expectations.

When Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1935 Social Security Act established federal retirement benefits, the official retirement age was set at 65 yet the average life expectancy for an American man was only 58. Now, the average 58-year-old American man can expect to live another 22 years. If current life expectancy trends hold, half of the babies born in wealthy nations this year will live to age 100.

People are living longer and, on average, they’re healthier for longer. Many people today, in the words of Jonathan Craig, Managing Director and Head of Investor Services at Schwab, think of retirement “less as a target savings number and date, and more like a state of mind or target lifestyle … It’s a financial state that allows for the flexibility to make work optional.” It’s now not uncommon for retirees to experience good health and independence well into their 70s and 80s.

It’s time we officially embrace “longevity planning.”

The old-fashioned notion of retirement assumes the later years of life are going to be a period of dependence, vulnerability, sickness, and then death. We all know that this framing is dated, yet not all of us have deployed more modern messaging. We must commit to crafting better ways to help people think about these extra years as an opportunity. A new life. A gift. Instead of a ‘stop date’ accompanied by a savings target, we should discuss retirement as a flexible concept.

Changing the conversation through Financial Advisors

Financial advisors inhabit a unique position as the literal face and personality of financial services for an individual. By asking questions like, “How do you envision the next 30 years of your life, and how can we plan for that vision financially, mentally, physically, and emotionally?” advisors can shift investors’ perceptions of what advisory services can and should be.

These refreshing conversations are centered on understanding the client’s aspirations for their extended lifetime and creating a life plan that provides the financial flexibility to achieve them. This might include strategies for lifelong learning, part-time employment, entrepreneurial endeavors, travel, or volunteer work.

Of course, financial advisors must address the potential risks associated with longer life spans, such as the increased likelihood of facing significant health care costs, the need for long-term care, and the possibility of outliving one’s assets. However, the financial services industry also needs to take a more holistic approach that helps consumers anticipate and prepare for all the changes that come with aging. The most beneficial conversations will focus on emotional and physical wellbeing, social engagement, personal growth, housing, transport and more.

 Financial organizations who embrace longevity planning will not just help clients prepare for a longer life — they’ll help them to prepare for a better life.

Longevity planning reframes the concept of retirement from an endpoint to a new, dynamic phase of life. It enables clients to live their extended years with dignity, independence, and choice. Financial organizations that embrace longevity planning will not just help clients prepare for a longer life — they’ll help them prepare for a better life.

How can financial marketers nurture these new conversations?  

We’ve identified seven tips and tactics for steering the conversation towards one that better reflects the questions and concerns of the modern retirement audience:

1. Focus communications on the potential for a frictionless transition from a typical 9-5 working life. There doesn’t need to be a stark moment of, “I was working, but now I’m retired.” The transition is more complex than this, and investors need their advisors to understand this.

2. Highlight the freedom to pursue long-held passions or new interests, and focus on identity and purpose beyond the workplace.

3. Emphasize the importance of planning for a long and healthy life, including health care costs and wellness programs. Good health improves one’s chances of enjoying retirement.

4. Address how options such as downsizing, age-friendly home modifications, reverse mortgages, and senior living communities can be integrated into financial plans.

5. Highlight the importance of maintaining and building social connections in retirement. This is vital for mental and emotional health.

6. Showcase success stories of individuals who have started new ventures or continued to contribute to their field well past the traditional retirement age.

7. Combat ageism by changing the narrative around aging. It’s not about decrepitude — it’s about experience, wisdom and freedom.

Focusing on longevity planning will help you stand out in a sea of retirement content

A focus on longevity planning not only helps brands differentiate themselves in a crowded and competitive market, it can help clients feel heard and understood and ultimately boost retention and AUM for financial advisors.

We’d love to continue the discussion! If you’re a financial services marketer in the retirement space, ping us at imprint@imprintcontent.com or complete the contact form here.

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