The U.S. division of Sun Life Financial Inc. (NYSE:SLF) (TSX:SLF) today released the latest edition of its UnretirementSM Index, which reveals 54% of American workers will delay their retirement by at least one year due to the current economic situation, with 24% saying they will need to work more than 5 years. The Index, released multiple times a year, gauges how economic, financial, and societal forces affect working Americans, and forecasts their future retirement decisions that will impact individuals, the government, employers and the broader economy.
The Unretirement Index most recently polled American workers in December, and previously polled them in August 2008. As a result, the latest findings are the first to measure how American attitudes and expectations of retirement have changed since the economic crisis last fall. Sun Life’s ongoing research showed the current economic climate has adversely impacted the American workforce, and while the number of Americans who expect to work at least 20 hours a week after age 67 is largely unchanged, their reasons for continuing to work have dramatically changed. Over the last 90 days, the most popular reason cited by American workers for why they would continue to work past the traditional retirement age of 67 shifted from “to stay mentally engaged” to “earn enough money to live well.” While staying mentally engaged fell to the second most popular reason, the number of Americans who cite they will continue working “for health care benefits” rose from the sixth primary reason to the third most common answer, with 64 percent now listing it as a reason to postpone retirement.
Unretirement is defined as working at least 20 hours per week after the age when one is eligible to receive Social Security benefits. Sun Life created this Index to learn more about the reasons why Americans are choosing to “unretire,” or continue to work full- or part-time after the age of traditional retirement. For the complete Unretirement Index results, visit www.unretirementindex.com.
“Our newest findings illustrate just how severely the current crisis has affected Americans’ personal finances and their reasons for continuing to work longer than they anticipated,” said Jon Boscia, President of Sun Life Financial. “While finances remain one of many factors influencing retirement decisions, the Unretirement Index is a unique barometer of measuring how outside influences like market behavior truly change personal behavior. It explains how and why retirement is changing in the U.S.”
Forty-something Americans deeply impacted by recession
The Index also reports the current economic environment has most deeply impacted the retirement mindset of Americans aged 40-49. Seventy-seven percent of them who plan to work past traditional retirement are doing so to receive health care benefits. This represents a 16 percent spike in just the last ninety days – far more than any other age group. Forty-something Americans also led all demographics in expecting to work five years longer than planned (28%), saving or investing more in the last three months (40%), and continuing to work after 67 because of earning enough money to live well (87%).
How are Americans responding to the economic crisis?
Sixty seven percent of all Americans are now reducing their spending and over half (55%) are reducing their debt while far fewer Americans are trying to find a better paying job (22%). Of those trying to reduce spending:
- 75% are spending less on entertainment
- 74% are eating out less often
- 68% cut back on holiday gifts
- 53% put off a large purchase
- 37% cancelled planned travel or vacation
- 34% delayed a routine or elective medical procedure
Americans not withdrawing retirement savings even as confidence in government benefits continues to fall
- Ninety percent of Americans have not had to withdraw any of their retirement savings from long-term investment products like IRAs, 401(k)s and annuities.
- Despite this positive note, confidence that government benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare will remain solvent continued falling, especially among workers in their thirties and forties. Seventy percent of workers in their thirties and 66% in their forties do not believe Social Security will be available when they are 67.
UNRETIREMENT INDEX NUMBER
On a scale of 0-100, the Index dropped from its initial overall score of 46 to 44, showing Americans are more pessimistic about their retirement prospects. It also means Americans are more likely to continue working at least 20 hours a week after age 67. The Index is made up of several subindices that address different areas that impact retirement decisions including the economy, personal finance, health, government benefits, and employee benefits. The greatest contributor to the Index drop came from the personal finance subindex, which decreased by seven points due to declines in retirement savings and investments, plus a significant drop in personal income growth.
The Index shift probably would have been greater if not for the falling national gasoline prices over the last 90 days - which greatly impacted the way that American workers feel about the overall economy. When given a list of several factors that impact the current economic environment – from food prices to housing values to employment opportunities – the cost of gas went from the “worst aspect of the economy” in the eyes of Americans to “the best aspect of the economy.”
The overall index is a composite score based on the performance of five issue-specific indices, including: the "economic index" (score = 33), the "personal finance index" (score = 41), the "health index" (score = 67), the "government benefits index" (score = 40), and the "employer benefits" index (score = 38).
This edition of the study was conducted between December 3 and 14 of 2008. Telephone interviews were conducted by Interviewing Service of America using a random-digit dial (RDD) sampling method. Quotas and weights were applied to gather a sample of 1,200 people working either full- or part-time, which was representative of the U.S. working population between the ages of 30 and 66. The sample was also representative in terms of gender and four-region census break. Analysis and construction of indices involved the application of factor analysis. Final indices are based on summated averages across the attributes which make up an index.
Age groups were divided by workers in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60+ and by three ranges of total assets, not including the net worth of the person’s place of residence (less than $100K, between $100K and $500K, and greater than $500K). This sample has a margin of error of 2.8 percent at the 95 percent confidence interval.
About Sun Life Financial
Sun Life Financial is a leading international financial services organization providing a diverse range of protection and wealth accumulation products and services to individuals and corporate customers. Chartered in 1865, Sun Life Financial and its partners today have operations in key markets worldwide, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, India, China and Bermuda. As of September 30, 2008, the Sun Life Financial group of companies had total assets under management of US $365.6 billion. Sun Life Financial Inc. trades on the Toronto (TSX), New York (NYSE) and Philippine (PSE) stock exchanges under ticker symbol SLF. Visit Sun Life Financial's website at www.sunlife-usa.com.
SLPC 19944 (1/09)
David Jacobson, 781-446-1955