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Products, Tools, and Strategies that Address Retirement Risks

Background and Content 

In recent years increased attention has been paid to the concepts of financial literacy and wellness, and retirement preparedness and security.   The Society of Actuaries (SOA) has, in each of the past four years, compiled a collection of essays that address a variety of issues including diverse risks encountered in retirement; developments in financial wellness; perspectives and potential solutions to the problem of ensuring retirement preparedness, innovations for securing future retirements, and the role that family structure can have on financial and retirement security (

Given the role of the SOA’s Aging and Retirement Strategic Research Program in helping the public understand retirement issues, its Committee on Post Retirement Needs and Risk (the Committee) is interested in exploring innovations and ideas that help workers and retirees meet two objectives: (1) identify retirement risks, and (2) plan for and maintain a secure retirement.  Along those lines, this year’s call for essays is focused on helping pre-retirees and retirees meet these two objectives.  Essays should address new developments in tools, products and/or strategies not constrained by whether they currently exist. To the extent a concept is not feasible in the current market, authors are encouraged to identify what changes are needed for such concepts to become a reality.

In issuing this call for essays, the Committee aims to gather perspectives, opinions and data on how to advance the state of effective tools, products, and strategies to assist individuals, financial advisors, employers and other stakeholders. As in prior years, the essays are intended to be published in a collection on the SOA website and promoted for general public interest. Also, as in prior years, the SOA may invite select authors to present their essays at an SOA meeting.

As a point of reference, authors are encouraged to review an SOA report, Managing Post-Retirement Risks: A Guide to Retirement Planning which identifies significant risks faced during retirement, and gaps in the process of financial planning and decision-making. This report is in the process of being updated and nearing completion. Upon completion later this fall, it can be found at:

Authors may also find it helpful to review a recently completed SOA guide to selecting retirement planning tools. This report can also be found at:

Please note that essays promoting specific products or tools are outside the scope of this call for essay’s publication. However, there is interest in essays describing innovative features and components of products or tools that effectively address retirement risks.

In crafting essays, authors should consider the following general guidelines:

  • Case studies and examples can be helpful to demonstrate concepts but are not required.
  • Information about approaches used outside of the United States are acceptable and encouraged.
  • The focus of an essay can be on both public and private sector strategies. However, any product ideas are desired primarily for the private sector.

The following are suggested areas/topics and questions for respondents to consider. The list is neither exhaustive nor intended to be restrictive of other related areas.

Products, Tools and/or Strategies Needed

  • What type of products, tools and strategies are needed to address specific retirement risks and help eliminate/mitigate them? (“Products” include items such as insurance, financial, bill paying services, etc., and “Tools” include financial planning or broader range software, spreadsheets or guides that help people manage their financial planning efforts, e.g. paying off mortgages, opting to delay the commencement of Social Security benefits).
  • What are some of the publicly available resources available that can help individuals assess and manage retirement risks? What gaps are there for which new resources should be developed or made available? What are the most effective ways for individuals to access appropriate tools?
  • What tools, products or strategies are available or need to be developed to help individuals better use their housing values to support retirement? Reverse mortgages are an approach, but are there other effective strategies that can be employed?
  • What are the greatest gaps today in terms of material risks that retirees face that are not being readily addressed through available tools, products or strategies?
  • Is there a need for different or innovative retirement products, tools or strategies for individuals who do not have access to employee benefit programs?

Concerning Tools

  • What features/components should effective tools have?
  • Are there tools or different solutions that are flexible for use at different ages or life stages? Are there tools or different solutions more suitable for particular ages or life stages?
  • How has the role and/or definition of retirement tools changed over time?  Is there a need for more tools geared toward advisors and employers, or to individuals?
  • How, if at all, might artificial Intelligence tools play a more prominent role in identifying, targeting and educating individuals based on their needs for retirement saving?
  • How should explanation of retirement planning concepts and software guides be effectively integrated into a tool?
  • How can a user assess the reliability of a tool?
  • What are the best ways to deploy electronic and online tools to benefit near retirees and retirees in financial planning, considering often a lower level of comfort with technology?
  • Are there ways to simplify tools being developed or offered for certain populations? Authors are encouraged to consider tools needed for lower- or middle-income individuals.

Concerning Management of Specific Risks:

  • There is considerable interest among retirement professionals for products that offer guaranteed regular retirement income. Yet, many consumers do not choose existing products that guarantee this.  What new innovations or modifications to existing products might make them more attractive?  Are there lessons that can be learned from what is available in other countries? 
  • Long-term disability can seriously affect or derail retirement security.  What products, tools or strategies would better protect retirement savings and improve retirement security in the event of long-term disability?
  • What tools and products are available or needed to help individuals think about the cost, financing and options for managing long-term care?

Stakeholder Perspectives

Essays may consider an issue from the perspective of an individual or other stakeholder (e.g., regulators, advisors, or employers) and identify the applicable considerations for each stakeholder.  For this call for essays, there is particular interest in the individual and how new products and tools can help with an individual’s retirement security.

Examples of key stakeholders include the following entities:

  • Individuals and/or family members
  • Policymakers
  • Regulators
  • Employers
  • Financial advisors
  • Trade groups
  • Providers


Week of September 2, 2019: Call for essays issued

November 30, 2019: Deadline for submission of essays 

Mid-November through December 2019: Review of essays and selection for publication by December 31, 2019.

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 18, 2019 to:

Barbara Scott, Sr. 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.

Authors are ineligible for awards if an essay is based on an SOA-sponsored and funded research study conducted by the author. However, authors are welcome to submit such essays for publication consideration.

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 be 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, Sr. Research Actuary 
Society of Actuaries