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An element of investing we believe everyone needs

If the future seems to be coming at us like a runaway train, what does it hold for retirement?

A financial professional helps a client choose from the new investment options available within their retirement plan.
4 min read |

We’ve faced a host of changes over the past few years—from how we live day-to-day, to our interactions with others, to how we plan for the future. Financial professionals and their plan sponsor clients (employers) told us what they see in the future of the retirement industry when it comes to saving and investment advice.

The Principal® Future of Retirement Survey asked financial professionals and employers how they see the retirement industry changing by 2030. 1(All statistics featured here are from this research unless noted.)

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Top 5 challenges workers may face in retirement planning

The voices have been loud and clear. As it stands, the top emotion people feel when making financial decisions is “uncomfortable” (81%). 2 Saving for retirement is of the utmost importance—but when retirement is in sight and people need to make a plan, retirement uncertainty comes to a head.

The top five challenges workers will face in retirement planning, as reported by financial professionals and employers, were the same:

  1. Insufficient savings from workers
  2. Pre-retirees not engaging with retirement income planning
  3. Workers receiving advice and guidance too late
  4. Retirement income planning language too advanced for workers
  5. Retirees not prepared to handle multiple retirement income sources

But not all workers are in the same spot—in terms of their accumulated savings, investment options available on their workplace plan, nor their financial knowledge. The education we provide can help build a foundation of knowledge, but all deserve access to help if they want it—regardless of savings balance. With workers’ needs so varied, “help” can be a basic level of personalization to some, while others may need “advice” to feel comfortable with making decisions.

New retirement investment options will offer guidance and income

Plan providers and investment companies are coming up with new investment options and services to help meet workers’ changing needs. Many employers are looking for one silver bullet, but since workers needs are varied, more than one option—or a blended one—might be considered.

What do they see garnering more interest and changing the face of investment option lineups and services?
  Financial professionals Employers
A QDIA that’s a target date fund that transitions to a managed account 76% 86%
Guaranteed lifetime income standard on lineups 82% 68%
Managed account service 74% 78%
Personalized investment portfolios 73% 71%

% = Significant differences noted

Looking ahead at retirement advice

More than three-fourths (76%) of workers would be interested in receiving help on which investments to choose, how much to save, and when to retire. 3 They also look to their employers for this help— “access to speak to a financial professional” comes in first as a requested feature of workplace retirement plans. 4

There’s solid desire for help—but why aren’t workers looking for advice now? Here’s what they say: 5

When looking for a financial professional for investment advice, workers have reservations. These charts show the extent to which workers find advice expensive(34%), prefer to manage it themselves (31%), are intimidated (27%), or have trust issues with financial professionals (19%).

The convenience of working with a financial professional you know through your employer can have distinct benefits, but providing that level of service at scale would likely be challenging.

There’s a range of investment options that might help:

This illustration shows a range of personalization and how various investment options and services fall on that range.

Retirement income planning and advice gaps

“Trust” is one reason why workers don’t engage a financial professional. But what does that mean? 6

TOPIC Financial professional self-rating Worker rating of financial professionals
Skills in how to draw income 91% 73%
What to do with workplace account upon retirement 89% 48%
Making tax efficient withdrawal plans 86% 61%

% = Significant differences noted

With retirement income planning being one of the biggest worker needs, these three topics should concern financial professionals. But these are perception problems providing opportunities for financial professionals to showcase their skills and prove themselves valuable in these areas. But with trust issues, feeling intimidated, and uncertainty about the process, many workers aren’t engaging with help.

Retirement advice: Setup workers for better outcomes

Workers have a wide range of needs, so it’s imperative to give them choices. We believe a financial professional is the gold-standard for providing advice. But that scale issue won’t go away on its own. Luckily, there’s a range of investment options available that can work at scale to help provide combinations of personalization—with many innovative likely to come.

See the Principal®  Future of Retirement Survey

Learn more

Discover more retirement research and thought leadership insights.

About Target Date investment options:

Target date portfolios are managed toward a particular target date, or the approximate date the investor is expected to start withdrawing money from the portfolio. As each target date portfolio approaches its target date, the investment mix becomes more conservative by increasing exposure to generally more conservative investments and reducing exposure to typically more aggressive investments. Neither the principal nor the underlying assets of target date portfolios are guaranteed at any time, including the target date. Investment risk remains at all times. Asset allocation and diversification do not ensure a profit or protect against a loss. Be sure to see the relevant prospectus or offering document for full discussion of a target date investment option including determination of when the portfolio achieves its most conservative allocation.

Unless noted otherwise, facts within are based on the following Principal® Future of Retirement, January 2023

Online survey
20-minute survey conducted by Principal
Field dates
October 25 – November 14, 2022
255 plan sponsors: 80% SMBs (<500 employees), 20% large businesses (500+ employees) 201 financial professionals with income from: group retirement plans, individual IRAs, individual annuities, individual investments, insurance, and other
Age 18+, U.S. based business, company offers a retirement plan record kept by Principal.
Margin of error
+/- 6.1% for plan sponsors at the 95% confidence level. +/- 6.9% for financial professionals at the 95% confidence level.

1 Principal® Future of Retirement Survey, January 2023
2, 3, 4, 5 Principal® Retirement Security Survey – Investments, July 2022.
6 Greenwald Research’s 2022 Retiree Insights Program

Important Information

Investing involves risk, including possible loss of principal.

Asset allocation and diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss. Additionally there is no guarantee this investment option will provide adequate income at or through retirement. Equity investment options involve greater risk, including heightened volatility, than fixed-income investment options. Fixed-income investments are subject to interest rate risk; as interest rates rise their value will decline. International and global investing involves greater risks such as currency fluctuations, political/social instability and differing accounting standards. These risks are magnified in emerging markets. Fixed-income and asset allocation investment options that invest in mortgage securities are subject to increased risk due to real estate exposure. The performance and risks of a fund of funds directly correspond to the performance and risks of the underlying funds in which the fund invests. 

There is no guarantee that a target date investment will provide adequate income at or through retirement. A target date fund’s (TDF) glide path is typically set to align with a retirement age of 65, which may be your plan’s normal retirement date (NRD). If your plan’s NRD/age is different, the plan may default you to a TDF based on the plan’s NRD/Age. Participants may choose a TDF that does not match the plan’s intended retirement date but instead aligns more to their investment risk. Compare the different TDF’s to see how the mix of investments shift based on the TDF glide path.

Managed account service is typically intended for citizens or legal residents of the United States or its territories. The portfolios available to you through a managed account service provider are created by registered investment advisor, who is generally chosen by the employer. The registered investment adviser is responsible for choosing the portfolio for your retirement plan account from those created by the registered investment advisor. Investment advice delivered is based on information provided and limited to the investment options available in your retirement plan. Projections and other information regarding the likelihood of various retirement income and/or investment outcomes are hypothetical in nature, do not reflect actual results, and are not guarantees of future results. Results may vary with each use and over time. Each participant who enrolls in, or is enrolled as part of the plan’s QDIA, pays a managed account service fee. In addition to this fee, assets invested through the managed account service are also subject to fees and expenses charged by the underlying investment options.