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Testimony Before the Senate Special Committee on Aging on Managing Retirement Assets

Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, I am Leroy Gilbertson, a member of AARP's National Policy Council. Thank you for convening this hearing to explore the issues facing Americans when managing their assets in retirement.

While many of AARP's members are retired, many others are part of the 76 million boomers who are moving into retirement. Generally they will be in better financial and physical health than prior generations of retirees, and research indicates they will live longer in retirement. This hearing will give us an opportunity to examine how we can ensure that boomers do not outlive their retirement assets. It is important to note, however, that while boomers "on average" will be better off in retirement than previous generations, the distribution of income and wealth among them may be more unequal than in earlier years. In other words, there will be a relatively large number of retirees with very few assets to manage or on which to rely.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. We produce AARP The Magazine, AARP Bulletin, AARP Segunda Juventud, NRTA Live & Learn, and provide information via our website, AARP publications reach more households than any other publication in the United States. The AARP Foundation provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

AARP advocates for policies that enhance and protect the economic security of individuals as they move from work to retirement. Advocacy is not limited to Social Security, pensions or retirement plans; it extends to investment literacy, health and long-term care issues, work, and other areas that affect the financial well-being of our members. If AARP members have the basic tools to manage their assets successfully before and after retirement, they will be more likely to maintain at least an adequate standard of living throughout their retirement.

Planning for retirement is a complicated process that should begin when an individual enters the workforce. Reaching and maintaining the goal of a comfortable lifestyle for what could be three decades of retirement requires consistent effort and discipline over a worker's career and also in retirement. In addition, there are many unforeseen challenges to successful planning, such as unexpected health care costs, periods of unemployment and disability, or sustained periods of inflation, that make it difficult for many to leave the work world financially prepared for a long retirement.

For the most part, the boomers have prepared for a retirement similar to that of their parents and older relatives. In particular, they have not anticipated or tend to underestimate the gains in life expectancy that have been underway during their work careers. The life expectancy for the fathers of boomers who reached age 65 in 1990 was 15.7 years. The projected life expectancy for boomer men reaching age 65 in 2015 is 17.7 years. As a result, a substantial number of boomers are in danger of outliving their assets because they underestimate how long they will live in retirement.

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