Savant and Absolute Engagement Explore the Death of “Retirement”

New Research Documents the Evolving Nature of the “Next Chapter”

Savant Wealth Management, a nationally recognized, fee-only wealth management firm, and Absolute Engagement, a research and consulting firm focused on the drivers and evolution of client experience and engagement, today announced a joint research report on the evolution of retirement in the United States. The report, entitled The Death of Retirement: New Thinking on the Next Chapter, highlights perceptions of retirement among 750 high-net-worth investors and explores how they might re-imagine retirement if given the choice.

“We learned that a significant difference exists between the path that many people are on and the one they would take if they believed they had another option,” said Rob Morrison, CFP®, chief strategy and innovation officer at Savant. “We also learned that although the pandemic led many people to change their plans for retirement, their vision for the future had already begun to evolve. The results not only impact the way advisors work with clients, but also have implications for everything from retirement product design to staffing and human resources,” he added.

“Even the word ‘retirement’ appears to be losing relevance, particularly among younger people,” said Julie Littlechild, founder and CEO of Absolute Engagement. “They preferred terms like ‘next chapter’ or ‘second act’ to describe the end of full-time work, and a fair number have no plans to stop working completely even if they are financially able to do so.”

The research included questions on retirement timing, the effect of COVID-19 on retirement plans, and how the respondents wished to structure their retirement. The report offers six key insights:

  1. Our vision of retirement is changing. Only half of respondents said they plan to work full time and then stop working completely. Nearly 70 percent say they would transition to a different kind of work or work on their own terms if they thought it was an option.
  2. The pandemic contributed to shifting plans and ideas for retirement. For about a third of our respondents (32 percent), the COVID-19 pandemic changed their plans for retirement, with a much higher proportion of people under age 45 saying their plans were impacted. While 68 percent of those surveyed said they would need to work longer as a result of the pandemic, nearly a third said they would stop working earlier, and a quarter indicated they would spend their time in retirement differently.
  3. Planning for a transition that provides meaning and purpose is critical. Twenty percent of working respondents said they had retired, only to start working again. They pointed to personal, rather than financial, reasons for rejoining the workforce. Their reasons included not feeling “personally ready” to retire, an inability to move on from full-time work, and a lack of fulfillment.
  4. Many do not think of the end of full-time work as retirement. Just 60 percent of respondents defined the time when they planned to stop working full time as “retirement.” Fewer than half (48 percent) of respondents under the age of 45 use the word “retirement” to describe this phase of life.
  5. We are planning to retire earlier. Nearly two thirds (59 percent) of respondents said they want to retire before the age of 65, and a third want to retire before the age of 60.
  6. Even if we aren’t planning on retiring early, we would like to do just that. Approximately two-thirds (62 percent) of respondents who planned on working past the age of 60 said they would retire earlier if they were financially able to do so. Only 35 percent of respondents cited a lack of financial resources as the reason they would not retire earlier. The largest proportion (55 percent) of respondents who said they would choose to retire earlier said they would need a clear vision for life in retirement before deciding to retire.

Absolute Engagement launched the online survey in April and May 2021. All respondents indicated they worked with a financial advisor and either made or contributed to the financial decision-making in their household.

Savant plans to conduct follow-up research with its clients using this study as a benchmark. The full research report is available at

About Absolute Engagement
Founded by speaker, author, and researcher Julie Littlechild, Absolute Engagement helps financial advisors use ongoing input from clients to evolve the experience and drive deeper engagement.

Julie has worked with and studied successful financial advisors and their clients for more than twenty years. Prior to founding Absolute Engagement, she launched and ran one of the industry’s leading research firms, focused on client engagement. Julie is the author of a popular blog, the co-host of the Becoming Referable podcast, and the author of The Pursuit of Absolute Engagement.

About Savant Wealth Management

Savant Wealth Management is a leading independent, nationally recognized, fee-only firm serving clients for over 30 years. As a trusted advisor, Savant Wealth Management offers investment management, financial planning, retirement plan and family office services to financially established individuals and institutions. Savant also offers corporate accounting, tax preparation, payroll and consulting through its affiliate, Savant Tax & Consulting.

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