Securing Future Retirements: Innovations in Planning Strategies, Financial Products, and Employee Benefit Plan Structure

Background and Content

In recent years, there has been increased attention paid to the concepts of financial literacy, financial wellness and retirement preparedness.  In the past two years, the Society of Actuaries (SOA) compiled two essay collections that address issues related to diverse risks in retirement and financial wellness.   This 2017 call for essays seeks to expand the discussion and complement the previous essay collections.   The primary motivation is to identify potential solutions and new innovations that are being developed to assist workers and retirees better prepare for retirement.  The prior essay collections set forth ideas that can be further developed or spur thinking for new products, planning tools and employee benefit plan strategies.

Research sponsored by the Society of Actuaries has observed that many workers do not plan well for retirement and points to the need for strategies and approaches that   better address retirement security. Individual planning often tends to be short-term and cash flow focused rather than with comprehensive and long-term risk considerations.  In addition, planning often does not include consideration of health and long-term care needs.  The SOA-sponsored research also identified significant gaps in the process of financial decision-making and it was observed that much is done without thorough analysis.  To address this, the SOA was motivated to develop material to help people understand issues that should be considered at the time of retirement. Much of this material is consistent with observations from behavioral finance research studies which explore how decisions are made.

Given its role in assisting the public to understand retirement issues, the SOA Committee on Post-Retirement Needs and Risks is interested in exploring planning strategies for workers and financial products for benefit plans as well as individuals that are in or are coming to the marketplace.  With this in mind, the Committee is issuing this call for essays to gather thoughts and opinions on how to advance the state of effective practices and products in this area and inform future work.                 

The following are suggested areas/topics for respondents to consider. The list is neither exhaustive nor intended to be restrictive:

  1. In the area of Effective Practices:
    1. What practices and programs are being considered or implemented to enhance employee or client preparation for a secure retirement? Are there marketing/communications schemes/alternatives that are targeted to specific generations, e.g., millennials? What challenges are faced by employers, providers, and advisors in helping employees/individuals make retirement decisions?
    2. What tools and technology are effective, and what should be considered in structuring such tools?  If employers want to offer access to outside resources, how they can determine which are reliable?  Prospective authors are encouraged to review the previous SOA essay collections for helpful background.
    3. Should plan sponsors provide tools or adopt methods to help employees make decisions about the distribution phase?
    4. What can be expected from automated advice and what are its limitations? What are expected future developments for advice giving?
    5. What types of products/strategies are being promoted or developed to fill gaps in resources?  Examples include working longer, use of home equity or reverse mortgages, change in living arrangements.
    6. What approaches and options are being explored by advisors to improve retirement outcomes? In what ways, are they making improvements?
  2. In the area of Products and Employee Benefits (essays may include discussion of proposed products that would require regulatory or policy changes to implement):

    1. Is the financial industry and/or the annuity market responding to the needs of current and future retirees? What are new innovations being considered to attract more consumers?
    2. Are there products or strategies available that address a preference to retain assets and withdraw only the Required Minimum Distribution from retirement plan funds?
    3. How do/can products/strategies address the issues of inflation and low interest rates? Examples include use of inflation indexed bonds, TIPS, inflation indexed annuities, annuities linked to GDP, longevity linked instruments, bonds longer than 30 years, annuity ladders and hedging techniques. Is there a market for these types of approaches?
    4. What has the impact of the decline in pension benefit coverage had on the products developed and available in the individual and employee benefit marketplace?
    5. What products and approaches are available to help individuals fund health benefits in retirement?  What approaches are desirable for funding long term services and supports (LTSS)?
    6. What products/tools are available in the market place to better educate and assist individuals to make retirement decisions?
    7. Are there products readily available in the marketplace that enable people to pre-fund/accumulate sufficient savings for a fundamentally sound retirement?
    8. What are recommended products that are not available today?  What changes in law and/or the marketplace would be needed to bring them forward?

Stakeholder Perspectives:  Essays may consider an issue from the perspective of an individual or other stakeholders (e.g., regulators or employers) and identify the applicable considerations for each stakeholder.  For this call for essays, there is particular interest in the perspective of an individual and how other parties can influence an individual’s retirement security. Examples of key stakeholders include the following entities:

  • policymakers
  • regulators
  • employers
  • employees
  • trade groups

Related to this, discussion of program design for special groups: women, persons with disabilities, minorities, low income, and so forth is also welcome.


September 1, 2017: Call for essays issued

November 1, 2017: Deadline for submission of essays

November-December 2017: Review of essays and selection by December 31, 2017.

Length and Instructions for Submission

Essays must be submitted in English with a length requirement of between 1,000 and 2,500 words. In the event that an essay exceeds 2,500 words, the essay may be declined or returned to the author with a request for further editing and resubmission. There is no requirement for formal or extensive footnoting.

Author information must be submitted with the essay and include name; credentials or designations (if appropriate); title; organization/company; e-mail address; and phone number. Please provide all author information at the beginning of the essay.

Essays that contain any overt political statements, commercial content, and other inappropriate material will not be accepted. Articles must comply with the SOA's antitrust guidelines.

Please submit your essay via e–mail by November 1, 2017 to:

Barbara Scott, Research Administrator
Society of Actuaries


$10,000 in award money has been allocated for this call for essays.  The review committee will select the leading essays and determine how to allocate the award money.  Consideration will be given to creativity, originality and the extent to which an idea could contribute to the further development of solutions.  In exchange for award money, selected authors will be required to assign all copyrights in their essays to the Society of Actuaries.

Publication and Presentation

Depending on how many essays are received and the diversity among the topic areas, a suitable format for electronic publication and dissemination will be selected.  Essays may also be presented at an SOA meeting, webcast, or other professional development event.

In addition, other venues for publication or presentation of the ideas outside of the SOA will considered. It is hoped that publication of the collected essays will further knowledge and stimulate discussion as well as promote future efforts in this area.

Rights Granted

Please understand that by submitting an essay for consideration, the essay author(s) is granting to the Society of Actuaries an unlimited license to print or republish their essay, with proper attribution given to the author. 


Please direct any questions regarding this Call for Essays to:

Steven Siegel, Research Actuary
Society of Actuaries
ph: +1-847-706-3578