The demands of Baby Boomers nearing retirement have pushed product providers to market their offerings as not just investments, but also financial wellness tools to manage retirees' lives.

Part of that message, providers and advisors say, comes from recognizing that many potential customers have little idea of what challenges they will certainly encounter - and have to pay for - during their retirement years.

"Retirement readiness is a big problem," explains Neil Krishnaswamy, an advisor with Exencial Wealth Advisors in Plano, Texas. According to Krishnaswamy, many clients save, but often do not realize how much they will actually need to put away.

"Most people that come into retirement are getting close, but they just don't know whether what they have accumulated is sufficient or whether their 'number' will help sustain them throughout retirement," he says.

That does little to diminish their own estimation of their financial health.

Many Americans, according to a recent MassMutual retiree confidence survey, are more optimistic with their savings strategies than ever before, with the national savings rate up 5.5%.

While some of this has been attributed to declining gas prices, which puts roughly $300 back into the consumer's pocket every month, the study found that nearly 70% of respondents felt better off financially than they were three years ago.

Lincoln Financial Group product and solutions management vice president Bob Melia says while he agrees there has been a significant confidence boost in the economy, there is always the possibility that a sequence of return risk could disrupt retirement preparation.

"Up to age 55, the time of readiness is contingent on savings behavior that's very healthy where people save at least 10% of their money and they get a max 5% for a total savings of 15%," Melia explains. "If a participant does that, by the time they get to age 55 and they can start to ensure their assets, they will reach a high level or appropriate level of retirement readiness."

BALANCE FUND

Melia touted the firm's Secured Retirement Income SM investment option, which he says provides incoming retirees guaranteed income for life as well as protection from market declines, yet allows for participation in rising markets.

This is made possible through participant contributions, which are invested in Lincoln's LVIP Managed Risk Profile Moderate Fund, a balanced fund that employs a risk management strategy and seeks to lower return volatility and provide capital protection in down markets, according to the firm.

"It's nothing more than another investment on a plan's lineup," Melia says. "It's actually a balance fund with contractual promises that Lincoln makes to sponsors and participants - and what we do is, during the last 10 years of a participants working career, our program puts more money into secured retirement income."

Some providers are adding more personal service to the activity of retirement investing to move it beyond the idea of spreadsheets and quarterly reports.

Edge 401(k) Funds, for instance, is a retirement plan concept offering clients an array of financial wellness services. Launched earlier this year following a partnership Alta Trust's Edge Collective Fund Series and industry veterans Tom Ruggie and Michael Chase Smith, participants in the program through their 401(k) are contacted by customer relationship managers from Edge 401(k) Funds three times a year to help schedule meetings with a financial coach to help develop plans for budgeting, debt management, provide funding education and overall savings plans.

"The financial wellness component helps the employer prioritize retirement readiness," Ruggie says. "As the financial coaches work with participants on their short-range financial goals, it helps ease financial stress, which increases productivity, employee satisfaction and decreases absenteeism and medical costs.

"As more businesses recognize the importance of wellness initiatives as part of a healthy workforce and overall employee productivity, we believe our innovative approach will help solve concerns and reduce hard costs related to financial-related stress," Ruggie adds.

MassMutual's CareChoice One, a single-deposit long term care product, provides policy holders a wide range of benefits through a long term care benefit pool, life insurance as well as guarantee cash build up, all under one policy, according to a 2014 CareChoice One overview guide. This can be paid for with Medicare and Medicaid, as well as through personal savings and traditional long care insurance, the firm said.

At Exencial, Krishnaswamy said he typically works with nothing more than proprietary spreadsheets to help his clients prepare for retirement.

"There's only so much where we can rely on technology, and it does help, but you kind of have to understand them as people and what they want to accomplish, what are their values and dreams, and your job as a partner is to help them with that," Krishnaswamy said.

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