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Future of Retirement: Surprisingly Optimistic

Market volatility, low interest rates and increased dependency on defined-contribution plans all nudge consumers to seek out financial protection and growth potential. Guaranteed income and downside market protection are among the reasons annuity products, especially those with longevity riders, are becoming more attractive for consumers after decades of well-reasoned reluctance.

Lifetime income options and principal protection strategies will continue to command greater attention, Corneilo says.

Because target-date funds are likely to remain the preferred qualified default investment alternative in 401(K) plans, investment managers and plan providers will likely step up their efforts to educate plan sponsors and participants about their features and benefits.

"To realize the full value of target-date funds, the industry needs to acknowledge that the 'set it and forget it' approach currently associated with target-date funds needs to be supplemented with ongoing efforts to make sure asset allocations adapt to market volatility and provide the right level of diversification," Cornelio says. "People are also beginning to use target-date funds for more than just getting 'to' retirement but also to help them get 'through' retirement. Changing goals often require changing your investment strategy to match." Target-date funds will be one of the fastest-growing asset classes in the retirement plan space, "particularly if the industry champions their evolution."

Employers are changing
As for the role of employers, a study released last month by Aon Hewitt, the global human resources consulting and outsourcing business of Aon (AON - Get Report), found that they are "embracing innovative solutions to help rethink their retirement benefits plan strategies."

Aon Hewitt surveyed more than 500 large U.S. employers, representing more than 12 million employees, to determine their current and future retirement benefits strategy. According to the findings, just 4% of employers are very confident that their workers will retire with adequate retirement assets, down substantially from 30% last year. Fewer than one in five employers believe workers will be able to manage their income during retirement.

More than half (52%) of employers say they will focus on encouraging workers to take greater accountability for their retirement savings in the year ahead, with 44% focusing on helping workers retire with enough money and 60% putting greater emphasis on promoting available resources.

Employers plan to continue to adding automatic features and expanding savings choices.

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