More birthdays give wealthy unwanted gift: anxiety

Wed Feb 22, 2012 7:59am EST

* Survey shows many people want to live to 100

* Most would have to rethink their money management

* 85 is the new 65 for many people

By Jennifer Hoyt Cummings

Feb 22 (Reuters) - If you knew you would be around to blow out the candles at your 100th birthday party, would that change how you manage your money today?

The answer was yes for three out of four affluent Americans polled in a Merrill Lynch survey released Wednesday. Many will make it there: if you're currently 65 and married, there is a 31 percent chance you or your spouse will live past 95, Merrill said, citing research from the Society of Actuaries.

Living to 100 would be a good thing, according to 58 percent of those polled in Merrill's bi-annual Affluent Insights Survey. But the prospect of a long life is also causing anxiety. People planning for their later years are thinking about holding off on retiring and are reining in spending today.

"The word 'retire' and the number 65 had always been one in the same," said David Tyrie, head of personal wealth and retirement for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. "That's just not the case anymore."

Merrill, which polled 1,000 Americans who had investable assets of $250,000 or more, found that just over half said they would rather retire later than make tradeoffs on their current way of life.

Still, if necessary, most said they would make sacrifices like trimming day-to-day expenses, purchasing fewer luxuries and cutting back on their vacation budgets.

NO TIKI BAR

The age 65 no longer conjures images of walking out of a job for the last time and heading for the Tiki bar in Florida. In the survey, only 14 percent of those over the age of 50 cited "hitting a certain age" as the factor that would most lead them to retire.

To accommodate for a longer life, 39 percent said they would work at least part-time during retirement, while a quarter of the respondents said they would retire closer to 85 than 65.

The rising cost of healthcare was named as the financial issue causing the most anxiety, with some 79 percent saying that was their top financial concern.

Tyrie said the concerns about healthcare should motivate more advisers to learn more about how to help clients plan for healthcare costs. Some 62 percent of the survey respondents over the age of 50 said they have yet to estimate what healthcare will cost them in retirement.

Merrill Lynch is rolling out an iPad app to help advisers spark conversations with clients about healthcare planning, in part by helping clients estimate how much money they need to set aside.

The app is currently being tested by about 100 advisers and will be rolled out to other retirement-focused advisers throughout this year, a company spokesman said.

Tyrie likened an adviser to a primary care physician who can refer out to specialists.

"Don't try to know the topic inside and out, just know where to get the information," he said.

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