Do communities reap the benefits from being great places for aging?

There is increasingly broad-based recognition that keeping older adults healthy, engaged, able to work and productive is not just good for them, it’s good for the broader community. Younger people get the benefits of mentorship and companies are recognizing the strength of intergenerational teams. It goes beyond that. Infrastructure investments to support aging in place also benefit the young. I live in Los Angeles. We’re finally making meaningful investments to build a great transit system. I may not enjoy the full opportunities of those investments in my lifetime. But I’m happy we’re making them. The next generation of older adults in the city will benefit from a fully evolved spectrum of transit options. And, in the nearer term, we’ll see other outcomes of infrastructure investment, like a healthier economy, better employment rates, and a whole series of associated characteristics of a safer, more prosperous and increasingly connected city.

How do we get the new conversations started?

The financial services industry is a critical delivery system for the new conversation about aging. It’s an industry that reaches into people’s lives and families—where this conversation is increasingly being held. It can help with new ideas and new messages. There’s already been a lot of focus on this conversation about aging at the senior levels of many financial services companies. The challenge is breaking through legacy formulas and practices and building awareness and understanding in the ranks—in the sales force and others who are interacting with clients and customers on a daily basis. Financial advisors want to do the right things for their clients. But circumstances have changed. Motivations and objectives have changed. With longer lives ahead, conversations about financial security and financial expectations are much more complex today than ever before.

What should they be talking about?

We know from polling data that most baby boomers don’t expect to retire at 65, much less earlier. People are working longer and expect to work longer—some because they want to, many because they need to. And that leads to different conversations about how people should be planning their lives. Let’s say that at 55 someone is interested in doing something else. Shouldn’t they be able to use some of their “retirement” money for a sabbatical, to return to school or to start a new business without paying a penalty? Investments like these could improve their skills, their health, their confidence and their productivity. That’s good for the individual and a benefit for society at large. Aligning our systems with the new realities will require bold thinking and action, and revision of laws, regulations, policies and practices. But change is needed and it’s time for all of us to join this conversation about the future of aging and retirement for the benefit of today’s older adults and of aging generations to come.

 

Chip Castille is BlackRock’s Chief Retirement Strategist and head of the Global Retirement Strategy Group.

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