Retirement Benefits Packages in Turmoil: Poll Shows Baby Boomers Looking for Guidance, Fear Employers Can't Help

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With retirement plans at risk and enrollment periods around the corner, Longevity Alliance announces new program and offers eight benefit enrollment tips for employers and employees.

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Enrollment choices represent a large percentage of an employee's overall financial planning, and in today's economy the stress associated with those decisions will likely be severe

A slowing economy won't forestall upcoming decisions about employer-based retirement packages for both employers and employees.

When they sit down to review their benefits packages, a majority of baby boomers would welcome more guidance. But they aren't sure that their employer can help, according to a new survey from Longevity Alliance, the nation's leading expert on retirement benefits for baby boomers.

The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive®, reveals that about three out of every five (61%) employed baby boomers would like their employer to provide more consultation and not just information about the benefits they provide. Almost that many - 58% - say they would like to receive more advice on retirement benefits when making decisions about their benefits package.

Unfortunately, they may feel forced to look outside the workplace for guidance on benefits. Almost half (48%) of employed baby boomers doubt their employer is adequately prepared to offer advice about their benefits package.

The need for additional information can make open enrollment time - in October or November for many workplaces - confusing for both employees and employers, a situation exacerbated by acute fear about recent financial events.

"Enrollment choices represent a large percentage of an employee's overall financial planning, and in today's economy the stress associated with those decisions will likely be severe," said Steve Zaleznick, president of Longevity Alliance. "In conference rooms around the country, employees will have questions that employers might not be comfortable with or prepared to answer, creating a lose-lose situation,"

"Employers want to offer choices to their employees, but individual questions about retirement and healthcare benefits are sometimes outside the scope of their regular human resources functions."

Longevity Alliance assists employers by providing group and individual benefits for their employees, retirees and family members struggling to understand how to plan for tomorrow while making ends meet today. The new services available to employers from Longevity Alliance are online at http://www.la-employer.com.

Longevity Alliance is a specialized brokerage and advisory service focusing on the unique challenges created by the aging population and changes in healthcare and retirement programs. Longevity Alliance's programs - including long term care insurance, retiree medical coverage and immediate annuities and investment plans -protect people against the unaffordable risks associated with living increasingly longer lives.

"When it comes to financial planning for retirement, there is absolutely a win-win for employers and employees," said Zaleznick. "Sure, funded benefits would be nice, but most of what employees need is access to appropriate products and help understanding their choices. Employers do not have to pay more."

Four Tips for Employers
For management and human resources executives, enrollment time can be busy and frustrating, even without a market meltdown.

Zaleznick recommends four tips to make enrollment go smoothly for management and employees, in light of current conditions:

1. Offer guidance, not just access. Access to benefits is only part of the solution. Help employees and families understand how to make selections that are right for them and provide simple, common sense information and options that help them plan for the future and avoid unnecessary financial troubles.

2. Appreciate the value of voluntary benefits. Substantial discounts and simplified underwriting can make health-related benefit coverage available to many employees who might not otherwise be eligible or able to afford them.

3. Start thinking about benefits year-round. Many employees get lost in the maze of decisions around benefit periods. If adding new assistance during enrollment season only makes things more complicated, offer access to programs that complement your current benefit offerings but continue after the formal window.

4. Explore new options. http://www.LA-Employer.com gives employers new options and packages to offer their employees, often at no charge.

Four Tips for Employees
This enrollment period will be unusual as market uncertainty and dramatically higher daily living costs make balancing today's needs with saving for tomorrow that much more difficult. A few simple tips can make it much easier to handle.

1. First things first: Don't take unreasonable risks. A single major medical event can bankrupt an individual or a whole family. Cut costs, but don't impulsively expose yourself to financial catastrophe by skimping on essentials like health insurance.

2. Max out matching plans. The combination of tax deferral and even a small company match is a virtually unbeatable investment opportunity. Do as much you can to save up to the matching limit.

3. Get a plan. Investment plans are a mix of money markets, bonds and stocks adjusted to your life circumstances. If you have one, rebalance and you're done. If you don't have a plan, get one. Plans don't have to be perfect or even sophisticated but if you are at all serious about preparing for the future having one is essential. Either consult a financial planner or, at a minimum, learn enough about Target Retirement Date and Lifestyle Funds to pick one that is right for you. All you need to know is your age. The mix of money market, bonds and stocks is designed by professionals and automatically rebalanced.

4. Make the time to take the long view. The market crisis has forced many of us to take a hard look at how we are going to finance our futures. Becoming knowledgeable and proactive about big longevity expenses like long-term care and retiree health care can help minimize the impact of any future financial instability.    

About Longevity Alliance
Based in Washington, DC, and with a customer contact center in the Phoenix, Arizona area, Longevity Alliance Inc. helps Americans find the right products to meet their retirement planning needs by surveying the marketplace and contracting with high quality financial and insurance companies to provide consumers with a range of choices in each product category. Longevity Alliance is staffed with experienced senior executives in aging, insurance and financial services who have spent decades working for the biggest names in products and services for aging Americans. The company also publishes Momentum¸ a monthly newsletter dedicated to helping Americans live longer, better lives. Consumers can sign up for a free online copy at http://www.momentumtoday.com. For more information, visit http://www.longevityalliance.com.

About the Survey
This Employee Benefits survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Longevity Alliance between July 9 and July 11, 2008 among 2,046 adults ages 18+, of whom, 463 are baby boomers who are employed full and/or part time. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Brendon Shank.

About Harris Interactive
Harris Interactive is a global leader in custom market research. With a long and rich history in multimodal research that is powered by our science and technology, we assist clients in achieving business results. Harris Interactive serves clients globally through our North American, European and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms. For more information, please visit http://www.harrisinteractive.com.

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BRENDON SHANK
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