In its most recent quarterly survey of financial advisors, Russell Investments found that advisors are dedicating more time to learning about retirement income strategies with more than 98% saying they are trying to build their expertise in the subject matter. However, there seems to be no consensus on the right resources to consult, according to the 353 advisors surveyed. Respondents reported they are turning to a variety of sources, including online materials and books (68%), industry peers (52%), fund companies (49%) and accredited courses (45%).
“Most advisors are trying to tackle the retirement income challenge, but many feel the investment industry has not provided the right tools to set a standard for how this should be done,” Phill Rogerson, managing director of Consulting and Product Development for Russell’s U.S. advisor-sold business, said in an announcement.
Another obstacle facing advisors is that almost half their clients (46%) have unrealistic retirement expectations. More than six in 10 advisors (61%) said that their clients incorrectly estimate how much money they will likely spend in retirement, and more than half reported that their clients are getting incorrect information from the media, family and friends. Half said that their clients lack an understanding about how current spending and saving patterns could affect their retirement.
Another notable finding is that advisors are more inclined to recommend mutual funds, rather than annuities, to help clients reach their retirement income goals. Most advisors said they often or always recommend a diversified portfolio of mutual funds (75%), dividend-paying equity funds (64%) or bond funds (51%). Immediate annuities and fixed annuities were among the least popular options with 61% and 64%, respectively, saying they rarely or never recommend them for retirement income planning.
“This was a bit of a surprise to us in light of the fact that the industry has focused heavily on developing [annuity] products over the last three or four years,” Rogerson said in a video. “At Russell we think the challenge here is that these products that have been developed don’t mesh well with the advice process that advisors are engaged with.”
In an e-mail message, Rogerson explained that the challenge advisors have with annuities — apart from any fee concerns — is that they trade a guarantee for flexibility in the future. “This loss of flexibility can diminish an advisor’s ability to respond to investors’ changing circumstances and ultimately constrains the value that the advisor can add in response to unexpected events such as the need to care for children or parents, or health changes,” he said.
The survey was conducted between April 24, 2012 and May 11, 2012. It was sent to a broad group of U.S. financial advisors representing 122 national, regional and independent advisory firms.