U.S. Retirement End-Investor 2021

Solving for the Decumulation Phase

Segment, Analyze, Strategize

  • Explore the increased prevalence of Roth savings
  • Identify investor sentiment regarding customization, confidentiality, and cybersecurity
  • Evaluate the impact of the pandemic and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on participant loans, withdrawals, and retirement outlook


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US Retirement End Investor 2020 Detail

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Maeve Flanagan

Maeve Flanagan

Senior Account Manager


This annual report represents Cerulli’s investor-level retirement research. The report features detailed coverage of the IRA market, including Cerulli’s IRA rollover sizing model, with in-depth market analysis and projections. The report also includes comprehensive coverage of 401(k) plan participants and IRA owners, examining savings behavior and sources of financial stress. Additionally, this research explores retirement investor trends for different age and wealth cohorts.

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Each report is lead authored by a senior Cerulli analyst with significant industry experience. The report incorporates qualitative and quantitative inputs, based on Cerulli’s proprietary research process. For more on our research process, click here.

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A Note From the Author

Looking Toward More Retiree-Friendly DC Plans

Shawn O'Brien, CFA

Shawn O'Brien, CFA


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Shawn O'Brien, CFA

Shawn O'Brien, CFA


Shawn leads the U.S. Retirement research practice, which focuses on the defined contribution (DC) and individual retirement account (IRA) markets. He also leads and supports strategic consulting projects for asset managers on their DC-related market entry and product distribution strategies.

Prior to joining Cerulli Associates, Shawn worked as a Research Associate at Harvard Business School, where he co-authored case studies on investment management for professional and personal investors and managing and innovating in financial services. Prior to that, he worked in the Currency Management group at State Street Global Markets, employing currency overlay strategies for large asset managers and asset owners.

Full biography here.

Many plan fiduciaries and providers are acutely aware of the potential benefits—to both plan sponsors and participants—of keeping participant assets in-plan during retirement, and some plan sponsors are implementing, or strongly considering, plan design changes necessary to make their plans more effective decumulation vehicles.

Creating a retiree-friendly plan provides sponsors with the benefit of scale. By successfully retaining retiree assets during the decumulation phase, plan sponsors may achieve greater scale with which to negotiate more favorable pricing while participants maintain access to institutionally priced investment products and services during their retirement years. Conversely, “to retirement” plans that do not seek to retain retiree assets remain fertile grounds for cultivating potential wealth management clients for providers that offer these services in a retail market.

Retirees are a decidedly heterogeneous cohort and those who decide to keep their defined contribution (DC) assets in-plan will inevitably turn to their retirement providers to guide them through critical financial decisions related to healthcare expenses and Social Security, and to help them construct an effective investment and drawdown strategy. In many cases, making DC plans effective decumulation vehicles will call for substantial plan design changes to ensure participants have the planning tools, advisory services, withdrawal options, and investment opportunity set necessary to carry out their retirement income strategies.

Our report, U.S. Retirement End-Investor: Solving for the Decumulation Phase, provides a holistic look at retirement investors’ investment decision-making factors, financial stressors, sources of advice, and topics of interest, among other key considerations, and how the enactment of decumulation-oriented plan design changes could result in fresh opportunities for asset managers and other retirement providers. Explore these topics and more.


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