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Best-Case Strategies for a Flexible Retirement: The MetLife Study of Thinking About Retirement in Uncertain Times – 2011


More than one in four older adult respondents in this MetLife study noted that their planned age of retirement has changed in the recent past. More than a third of survey respondents experienced a major unexpected expense in the recent past. Of those, only about half had a contingency plan to deal with this expense. MetLife conducted this study to better understand how older adults are planning to deal with retirement during these uncertain times.

Key Points

This study combined interviews and a national survey of older adults 50 to 70 years of age in order to examine retirement-related thinking, experiences, and behaviors. The data revealed a number of challenges and opportunities, including the timing of retirement, the different types of thinking about retirement, issues that threaten even the best retirement plans, and common approaches and examples of good retirement planning. Only one in five respondents reported that they were very confident that they will have enough money to live comfortably during retirement, assuming they or their partners live to 85+. At the same time, more than one in five are not confident in their retirement security.

Other important study findings include:

  1. Retirees are being forced to rely more on self-funded retirement security, and less on guaranteed retirement income typically provided by defined benefit plans and Social Security.
  2. Top reasons for delaying retirement include having to make up for financial losses, riding out the current economic situation, enjoying working, and needing employer-provided health benefits.
  3. Top reasons for retiring early are health, being laid-off, job stress, and attractive incentive packages.
  4. The main factors that have impacted retirement financial security are major financial loss, retirement, loss of health benefits/coverage, and major unforeseen changes in health status.

How to Use

Issues uncovered in this study include the impact of access to health care coverage on retirement decisions, long-term care costs, vanishing defined-benefit pensions, and the uncertainties of the investment market. The data may be of interest to government entities, retirement planners, and individuals nearing retirement. The best-case strategies discussed in the study are a great starting point for anyone interested in flexible retirement.

View full report: Best-Case Strategies for a Flexible Retirement: The MetLife Study of Thinking About Retirement in Uncertain Times – 2011 (PDF – 493 KB)

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