From Traditional to Transitional: How the Nation's Retirement Model Is Changing

Feb 10, 2020 12:00 pm
NEW YORK -- 

Nearly six in 10 employers (57 percent) believe that within the next five years their workers will retire at older ages than today. On average, employers say their workers will retire at age 66, up from today’s average of 64.5. As for those workers themselves? Forty-three percent say they expect to retire at age 65 or older and nearly 1 in 10 (9 percent) think they will never retire.

For many, the very definition of retirement is changing, as bridge jobs, gig work and encore careers replace the traditional notion of a fixed end to one’s working life. Today, 54 percent of employers, 43 percent of workers and 29 percent of retirees think the commonly used definition of retirement should be expanded, which could include changes in the work model for older workers.

Those are just a few of the findings from MetLife’s new Evolving Retirement Model Study, released today. The study was conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of MetLife among 212 employers, 939 full-time employees, and 579 retirees.

“The traditional model of retirement — which assumed a fixed career end date and employer-paid benefits — is being replaced by a more transitional model,” says Graham Cox, executive vice president and head of Retirement & Income Solutions at MetLife. “Today, retirement has evolved to be more fluid with an ebb and flow between work and retirement.”

Among those workers who have delayed retirement or expect to, the most common reasons cited for the delay is that they want to continue to build their retirement savings or maximize their pension benefits (45 percent), and they can’t afford to retire and need income for expenses and bills (35 percent).

A possible solution?

Saving is a critical first step in preparing for a comfortable retirement, but workers and retirees also need to understand how to successfully spend down those savings. Nearly all workers and retirees (95 percent) say it’s important for retirees to have a source of guaranteed income they cannot outlive.

Most employers (88 percent) agree on the need for retirees to have a source of guaranteed income that cannot be outlived. However, only 17 percent of employers who offer a defined contribution plan (e.g., 401(k) plan) say they currently have an option that enables plan participants to convert some or all of their savings into guaranteed income in retirement.

“Compared to 10 years ago when employers were concerned with ‘brain drain,’ today’s employers are increasingly worried about the impact of delayed retirement,” said Roberta Rafaloff, vice president and head of Institutional Income Annuities at MetLife. “The passing of the SECURE Act may give more employers the confidence to offer guaranteed income options which, in turn, could help improve employee financial confidence and enable a smooth transition to retirement.”

About the Study

The employer survey was conducted online by The Harris Poll, in partnership with ISS Media, now a unit of Institutional Shareholder Services, on behalf of MetLife between April 29, 2019, and May 21, 2019, among 212 U.S. adults ages 18+ who are employed full time, work for a company with 1,000 employees or more, have a job level of manager or above, have at least moderate influence in selection of benefits at their company, and whose company offers a defined contribution plan. Data were not weighted and are only representative of those who completed the survey. The employee and retiree survey was conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of MetLife between August 19, 2019, and September 6, 2019, among 1,518 U.S. adults ages 33-75 who are either employed full time (n=939) or retired (n=579), and have access to a defined benefit or defined contribution plan through their current employer or the employer from which they retired. Data were weighted, where necessary, to bring them in line with actual population proportions. For full methodology, including weighting variables, please download the study at metlife.com/ERMStudy.

About MetLife

MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET), through its subsidiaries and affiliates ("MetLife"), is one of the world's leading financial services companies, providing insurance, annuities, employee benefits and asset management to help its individual and institutional customers navigate their changing world. Founded in 1868, MetLife has operations in more than 40 markets globally and holds leading positions in the United States, Japan, Latin America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. For more information, visit www.metlife.com.

Media:
Judi Mahaney
212-578-7977
jmahaney@metlife.com