Researching Retirement Concerns, Living Well and Managing Finances

The challenges when planning for retirement R. Dale Hall

Financial stress. Living longer. A lack of planning for retirement. Retirement concerns and risks. We all face many challenges when planning for retirement, managing our financial lifestyles in retirement, and planning for unexpected situations. For individuals, we prefer to increase the amount of information on making retirement decisions and managing resources in retirement. From an industry perspective, we also look for opportunities and challenges regarding how services and products—and their future uses—will play out over time.



Learn about new analysis on the funding progress of multiemployer pension plan system contributions. According to the SOA study, the system carries significant unfunded liabilities, and nearly all plans are contributing more than their minimum required contributions. Yet contribution levels of many plans are not enough to prevent their unfunded liabilities from growing. The system’s contribution increases over 2009 to 2013 significantly outpaced inflation. In 2013, two-thirds of plans received contributions below the level needed to close the funding gap within 15 years.


The Canadian Institute of Actuaries (CIA) and the SOA jointly released a research report on tax-deferred retirement saving in Canada. The report provides employees and employers with perspectives on tax deferral arrangements such as pension plans and registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) in a low interest rate environment. The report uses the combined effects of taxes and clawbacks to compare tax deferral arrangements with tax-free savings accounts and non-registered investments in Canada.


The Casualty Actuarial Society/CIA/SOA Joint Risk Management Section, The Actuarial Foundation and the Professional Risk Managers’ International Association (PRMIA) have released the 2015 Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) Symposium monograph. The papers cover tail risk, systemic risk, capital risk management, risk modeling and many other ERM topics.


The SOA Experience Studies Executive Committee has released survey findings to identify new areas of interest for 2016 research initiatives. The committee, which now reports directly to the SOA Board of Directors, plans to pursue experience study research on accelerated underwriting life insurance mortality, critical illness experience, fixed annuity experience and private pension plan mortality. The survey findings also helped identify opportunities on international and general insurance topics.

A survey report from the University of Southern California, How Americans Manage their Finances, investigates how the financial lives of Americans have changed with the economic recovery over the past few years. Co-sponsored by the Society of Actuaries (SOA) Committee on Post-Retirement Needs and Risks, our report focuses on major financial stress. Fewer than one-third of respondents could afford to pay an unexpected expense of $1,000, especially older adults. We also found that existing debt impacts older adults’ financial security.

Affording long-term care, dealing with inflation and paying for health care are the top concerns in retirement, according to an SOA survey of retirees and pre-retirees from ages 45 to 80. These findings are from our Committee on Post-Retirement Needs and Risks report, 2015 Risks and Process of Retirement Survey. More than 60 percent of pre-retirees are concerned with being able to maintain a reasonable standard of living, compared with 45 percent of retirees. Also, 62 percent of pre-retirees were concerned about depleting savings, compared with 43 percent of retirees.

Fewer Americans are invested in financial growth opportunities such as annuities, stocks and bonds, mutual funds and whole life insurance. This finding is from the data-driven report, Seeing Our Way to Living Long, Living Well in 21st Century America, which investigates healthy living, financial security and social engagement. The SOA was one of the sponsors of this report from the Sightlines Project at the Stanford Center on Longevity. The report notes that individuals in the 55 to 64 age group are least likely to interact with family members who do not live with them. The report also highlights the importance of exercise activities and the avoidance of risky behaviors when examining drivers of longevity.

The SOA’s 2015 Risks and Process of Retirement Survey says more than half of pre-retirees and retirees estimated their personal life expectancy well below actuarial estimates. A median of pre-retirees predict they will live to age 85; however, 55 percent of pre-retirees said at least one family member lived past age 90. Personal life expectancy is 10 years shorter than the age of their longest-living relative, according to 37 percent of pre-retirees and 28 percent of retirees.

And that leads us to the topic of financial shocks. We released a post-retirement report of 12 focus groups from the United States and Canada. This SOA report looks at shocks on long-term care, home maintenance, divorce, medical costs, widowhood, inflation, taxes, and financial gifts and loans to family. Our findings from the focus groups help us to gain knowledge on financial security in retirement and how individuals can deal with financial shocks reasonably well, depending on the situation.

All of these research reports provide us with a greater understanding on retirement planning, risks in retirement and related challenges. We encourage you to visit for more research on aging—and the latest updates on new research opportunities, data requests, experience studies and completed research projects.

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R. Dale Hall, FSA, CERA, MAAA, is managing director of Research at the Society of Actuaries.

Copyright © 2016 by the Society of Actuaries, Chicago, Illinois.