Longevity Risk and Retirement Savings

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As a former life insurance company CEO I often proselytize about longevity risk – the fact that we are living longer than ever before, and so need to plan for longer time in retirement. I worked with the American Council of Life Insurers and state regulators to bring longevity insurance to market and with my own product and finance teams to bring sustainable, reasonably priced income for life benefits to our variable annuity product line. Two recent pieces prompt me to comment on what Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, rightly calls longevity risk “the defining challenge of our age.” Understanding this and taking steps to address it are paramount to Americans of every age. Interesting context for the video comes from Mary Beth Franklin’s piece in Investment News. She points out the dramatic impact the Great Recession had on existing savings, particularly for late boomers and Gen Xers. Of course the recovery has helped, with markets rebounding nicely, but so many drained what little savings they had that recovery is a relative thing. This backdrop only amplifies Larry’s comments. He covers a broad series of underlying issues from the aging workforce to lower birthrates to the overwhelming costs of entitlement programs. He talks about the shift from Defined Benefit plans to Defined Contribution plans, and the tendency for individuals to invest more conservatively than institutions, worrying about the short-term, when saving for the long-term. Of course, he highlights the need to focus on this now – individually and as a society. One solution he suggests is mandatory retirement savings, citing Australia as an example to consider. Really interesting talk, well worth your time. Now, if we can only move down this path. The sooner we begin, individually and as a nation, the easier this discussion will be. I believe a balanced approach which brings constructs, tools, and even products from the insurance industry (like lifetime income riders or their underlying hedging strategies, longevity insurance, and tax deferral mechanisms), asset management tools, and intelligent legislation can ensure the best possible outcome.



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