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2011 Press Releases



Westport, CT - February 16, 2011 – While Americans think they may be planning for retirement, they may not be preparing for the unexpected events that may interfere with their plans, according to a new study produced by the MetLife Mature Market Institute. Such oversights may cost them, but for many it is not too late to make the necessary changes.

“Best-Case Strategies for a Flexible Retirement: The MetLife Study of Thinking About Retirement in Uncertain Times,” classifies the various types of retirement planners and gives examples of the most successful among them – the “Preemptive Planners.” Preemptive Planners are those who are prepared for the unanticipated scenarios that may come their way, like having to retire early because of health issues or the loss of a job, retiring late for financial reasons and other factors like tenuous health care coverage, long-term care costs, vanishing defined-benefit plans and the vagaries of the stock market. Unexpected expenses for health care, housing, family support or other emergencies, according to the data, can be a one-time or ongoing expense for six months or longer. They can cost anywhere from $6,700 to $8,300 for each occurrence.

Produced in conjunction with the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University, the survey was based on in-depth personal interviews with 50 pre- and post-retiree, couples and individuals, and a nationally representative online survey of 1,007 respondents age 50-70.

“We found that actively preparing for the surprises that inevitably come our way is the most successful approach to retirement,” said Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute. “Knowing you will have guaranteed income sources available and access to emergency funds is key. To maximize income in retirement while maintaining liquidity, consider options beyond low-yielding savings accounts. Some annuity and home equity products enable you to have access to cash while optimizing returns at the same time. Ultimately, the capacity to withstand the unexpected is dependent on the ability of people to imagine, anticipate and prepare for the circumstances that are often beyond their control.”

“And, while we’ve witnessed trends away from marriage over the past decade, we found in this data that two people who communicate have an advantage when it comes to retirement. In addition to the likelihood of two incomes in a dual-person household, we have evidence that two heads are better than one. Couples who work together to save and find the right financial vehicles to help them through the ‘decumulation’ phase make the most progress.”

Kathryn B. McGrew, Ph.D., associate professor at the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University, said “It’s not too late for those who have not retired. We conclude in this study that while there is no universal approach to retirement, it would be helpful for those who find themselves in one of the less desirable categories to work on their plans with their partners, families and/or trusted financial advisors. In general, financial planners and planning tools do a good job of taking individual values, preferences and resources into account to achieve a ‘best fit’.”

The study found that when it comes to finances, there are ten types of people:

  • Snoozers who don’t think about future risks at all. Future risks are not on their radar screens.
  • Active Resisters who “choose to snooze,” or choose to ignore information about future risks.
  • Immobilized Worriers who understand future risks, but whose worry prevents them from acting.
  • Oversleepers who are late in their thinking and planning and may regard their decision or action windows as “come and gone.”
  • Wood Knockers who think about the unexpected but rely on hope; they choose optimism. Somehow, things will “work out.”
  • Plan B-ers who hold on to a contingency plan, or the loose idea of one, as a protection against trouble ahead. A Plan B may be a “plan” in name only.
  • Realists who use the lessons of past experience to think about the future.
  • Stewers and Brewers who take a while to make decisions. Stewers may fuss and fret, while Brewers play with ideas and planning strategies.
  • Compromisers who think about both today and tomorrow and balance their current needs against future risks.
  • Preemptive Planners who strive to preempt future risks, or at least their consequences.

“We acknowledge that everyone at one time or another may have attributes from each of these different types,” said Dr. Timmermann. “While no one is perfect, it is ideal for people to at least aspire to being a planner as opposed to one who ‘knocks on wood’ and hopes for the best.”

On average, survey respondents spent 15 hours in the past six months gathering information or planning for retirement and one in five spent no time on planning. Saving stood out as the most common item among survey respondents as “the one thing” they would do differently; many would start saving earlier (29%), some would save or invest more (12%), and others would make better investments (4%).

Only two in ten survey respondents report that they are very confident that they will have enough money to live comfortably if they or their spouse/partners live to 85+ years of age, and another six in ten (58%) are only somewhat confident. The remaining 22% are not confident in their retirement security. More than two-thirds (68%) of those who did feel at least somewhat confident about a comfortable standard of living and a long life identified a guaranteed stream of income as a reason for their confidence, followed by 51% who identified sufficient savings as contributing to their confidence.

The answer, according to the study, is to become a “Preemptive Planner,” one with a sense of self-reliance who thinks about the future, anticipates the unexpected, sets and lives by personal finance rules, gathers information and takes action. Preemptive Planners have multiple sources of retirement income and assets; the types of sources vary by such features as the presence or not of a defined-benefit plan; 401(k) plans; other investments; eligibility for Social Security; annuities; and health insurance.

“Best-Case Strategies for a Flexible Retirement: The MetLife Study of Thinking About Retirement in Uncertain Times,” can be downloaded from It can also be ordered through Contact Us on the MetLife Mature Market Institute Web site, or by writing to: MetLife Mature Market Institute, 57 Greens Farms Road, Westport, CT 06880.


The study was produced by the MetLife Mature Market Institute in conjunction with Scripps Gerontology Center. Fifty in-depth (approximately one-hour) telephone or face-to-face interviews were conducted with 74 interviewees in 15 states across the U.S. In addition, quantitative information was obtained from a survey of 1,007 U.S. residents, ages 50 to 70 with $50,000 or more in household income, and $100,000 or more in investable assets. The survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive in November 2010. Data were weighted for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region, and household income. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

Scripps Gerontology Center, Miami University

Scripps Gerontology Center is a research and training center with a broad research agenda including health, disability, and longevity; long-term care systems and services; workforce and retirement issues; caregiving; technology and aging; and demography. Applied research is conducted for policy makers, public administrators, planners, service providers, academics, and the general public.

The MetLife Mature Market Institute®

The MetLife Mature Market Institute is MetLife’s center of expertise in aging, longevity and the generations and is a recognized thought leader by business, the media, opinion leaders and the public. The Institute’s groundbreaking research, insights, strategic partnerships and consumer education expand the knowledge and choices for those in, approaching or working with the 40+ market.

The Institute supports MetLife’s long-standing commitment to identifying emerging issues and innovative solutions for the challenges of life. MetLife, Inc. is a leading global provider of insurance, annuities and employee benefit programs, serving 90 million customers in over 60 countries. Through its subsidiaries and affiliates, MetLife holds leading market positions in the United States, Japan, Latin America, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East. For more information, please visit:


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