November 16, 2015

Retirement uncertainty increases need for empathetic, nonjudgmental financial planning

MINNEAPOLIS – November 16, 2015 – The majority (92%) of Generation X (age 35-48), feel that Americans are in the midst of a national retirement crisis, and an even greater number (94%), believe it’s critical to build their own financial security in retirement, according to the Generations ApartSM* study, commissioned by Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America (Allianz Life®). Yet, so many of them get bogged down by uncertainty (64%) whenever they think about retirement, they don’t take any action to secure their financial future. This indecision occurs despite the fact that, as the study discovered, Gen Xers are doubtful that pensions, Social Security and Medicare will be there for them and feel they will never have enough saved to stop working.

“Gen Xers may not be ready to retire yet, but they’re reaching a pivotal time in their life where it’s crucial to accumulate assets for the future—and it’s worrisome that they’re simply not doing that,” said Allianz Life Vice President of Consumer Insights Katie Libbe. “If they want to retire or be ready for the stage after their career, they should get help from professionals or take advantage of other resources, especially considering there are cost-effective options available. Gen Xers need to begin facing financial planning issues head on.”

Overwhelmed with Unrealistic Expectations
Gen Xers put off retirement planning in part, the study found, because of the confounding issues they need to manage. Nearly three-quarters (72%) feel it is almost impossible to figure out what retirement expenses are going to be. And 67% feel the supposed targets for how much is needed to fund retirement are way out of reach for them. Yet, despite these feelings, there is some delusion about what they expect from retirement. More than half (55%) of Gen Xers see themselves having a relaxed, easy time of it in retirement and 46% report they will just figure out retirement when they get there.

Empathy and Insight: The Role of Today’s Financial Professional
Given the overwhelmed feeling that financial planning causes Gen Xers, financial professionals can play a key role in helping them build a solid financial path. Generations Apart found that the best strategy financial professionals can employ when working with Gen X is to be empathetic and nonjudgmental. Sixty-four percent of Gen Xers want a financial professional who makes recommendations that reflect their actual life and choices, not some ideal. And more than a third (34%) seek a professional who doesn’t judge their financial choices, even if they are indulgent.

In addition to being stressed about planning, some Gen Xers fear feeling ashamed when they discuss their finances with a professional, specifically when it comes to credit card debt. Almost half (49%) feel that credit cards function as a survival tool for most people. They don’t want someone who wags their finger at past financial decisions and some feel they’d be embarrassed to tell a financial professional if they were carrying a lot of credit card debt. Instead, they want to work with someone who completely understands why they might have credit card debt.

Professionals can help Gen Xers move past their financial issues and clear up misperceptions by understanding what they are looking for: assistance with planning, setting and achieving long-term financial goals. The study revealed that financial professionals have a unique opportunity in this area because the majority of Gen Xers (67%) are willing to delegate some of their financial decisions and plans to their professional.

To establish that lasting relationship, financial professionals should first build trust by helping Gen Xers manage their everyday financial issues – such as building savings or paying off debt. Half of Gen Xers describe themselves as more “live for today” than “save for tomorrow” and 44% say they will splurge on something they want. Some Gen Xers also make investment decisions based on their gut, so a financial professional can be valuable by guiding them to accumulate their savings in the right way.

“If Gen X clients have a low level of financial preparedness, a good starting point for financial professionals is to help address current financial issues. This could even mean offering support to save towards a job transition, if retirement feels distant,” adds Libbe. “When financial professionals help solve immediate financial concerns, it can then open the door to the next phase – like retirement or simply living a lifestyle less dependent on work.”

Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, one of FORTUNE’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2015, has been keeping its promises since 1896. Today, it carries on that tradition, helping Americans achieve their retirement income and protection goals with a variety of annuities and life insurance products. As a leading provider of fixed index annuities, Allianz Life is part of Allianz SE, a global leader in the financial services industry with 147,000 employees worldwide. More than 85 million private and corporate customers rely on Allianz knowledge, global reach, and capital strength to help them make the most of financial opportunities.

*The Allianz Generations Apart Study was conducted by Larson Research + Strategy via online interviews in November 2014 with 2,000 U.S. adults ages 35-67 with a minimum household income of $30K+, and was commissioned by Allianz Life.

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