Washington, DC, September 23, 2021 – Greenwald Research (Greenwald), a leading independent custom research firm and consulting partner to the health and wealth industries, released new industry research from the 2021 Retiree Insights Program. The research program shares data on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on views towards investing, financial products, financial security, and preparation for retirement.
In partnership with multiple sponsors, Greenwald surveyed 1,003 consumers aged 50–70 with investable assets of at least $200,000 and no current or expected pension income and 303 financial advisors from a mix of channels. Surveys were conducted between May 26 and June 12, 2021.
Consumer Outlook Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic
There is a renewed feeling of financial security among Americans over the past year, buoyed by higher expectations about their investment performance and a number of other factors. Findings from Greenwald’s 2021 Retiree Insights Program indicate that 50% of consumers feel extremely or very financially secure, up from just 36% in 2020.
According to the research, consumers are expressing less worry than a year ago about a number of issues, including losing money in the stock market, losing their job, not being able to pay off debts, and developing a health condition. There is an even lower level of worry, although still somewhat prevalent, about the prospect of significant cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
However, concerns regarding inflation have increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, 59% of consumers expressed worries about high inflation. In 2021, 69% expressed some level of concern.
While interpreting the study findings, Doug Kincaid, Managing Director at Greenwald Research stated, “The high level of optimism about the current investment climate is significant considering the uncertainty we have faced over the past year and a half and current concerns about inflation. Expectations of market growth tend to feed on themselves and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Although the future performance of the stock market cannot be predicted, optimism is itself important.”
The Impact of Low Interest Rates
There is also a high degree of concern among consumers and financial professionals about low interest rates. Study findings indicate that 84% of financial professionals and 51% of consumers are worried that fixed investments will not generate sufficient returns.
Majorities of both consumers and professionals also believe that the current low interest rate environment makes it essential to find alternatives to fixed investments and to invest more in stocks. In fact, the proportion of consumers who feel the need to invest more in stocks rose from 43% in 2020 to 57% in 2021. Still, 82% of financial professionals and 66% of consumers agree that fixed investments remain an essential part of a diversified investment portfolio.
AnnMarie Pino, Director at Greenwald Research, believes that, “The current concerns about low interest rates makes this a valuable time for product innovation to provide solutions once met by bonds.”
Higher Growth Expectations
78% of financial professionals are optimistic about the investment outlook for the rest of 2021, a view shared by 67% of consumers. Financial professionals expect equity returns averaging 9.7% over the next 12 months, up from just 7.8% in 2020. There has also been an uptick in financial professionals’ expectations for fixed investments overall, with many now believing they will generate returns of 3% from their fixed investments over the next year.
Financial professionals are also optimistic about the growth of their business. Business development, which curtailed due to the pandemic, is now happening at a faster rate than usual. 31% of financial professionals report more leads than usual, 37% say the same about prospects, and 49% with respect to new clients. Survey findings show that most financial professionals are optimistic about their practice growth over the coming years, especially their average clients’ asset size and their own income. There is also an expectation of increased use of technology by both financial professionals and their clients.
About the Retiree Insights Program
Retiree Insights is an ongoing program of research to develop a comprehensive, in-depth understanding of the investment-related needs, concerns, and preferences of pre-retirees and retirees. Our multi-phase approach allows us to provide sponsors with actionable information and insights to inform strategies, marketing materials, and thought leadership on a wide variety of issues.
The Retiree Insights Program findings are available for purchase. Visit greenwaldresearch.com/retireeinsights to learn more.
About Greenwald Research
Greenwald Research is a leading independent custom research firm and consulting partner to the health and wealth industries that applies creative quantitative and qualitative methods to produce knowledge that helps companies stay competitive and navigate industry change. By leveraging deep subject matter expertise and a trusted consultative approach, Greenwald offers comprehensive services for weaving rich research stories that answer strategic business questions. Visit greenwaldresearch.com to learn more.
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