BOSTON (MainStreet) -- Heading into 2012, one can only hope that the economy improves and retirement plans continue to recover.
But whatever good news, bad news and curveballs the next 12 months bring, we offer the following 10 resolutions we hope folks who earn their living providing retirement services will consider making:
1. We'll say enough already with the golf courses and beaches.
For 2012, we urge a resolution that retirement marketing focus more on the reasonable dreams of real people, not the flights of fancy wealthier clients may harbor.
A good chunk of retirement-related advertisements, Web sites and brochures continue to focus on dreams rather than reality.
An often repeated TV commercial for Schwab mocks the idea of "owning a vineyard" as a golden age goal. That campaign is spot on. It wasn't that long ago that a fantasy life in later years was the carrot that led folks to seriously consider saving more, but post-recession, survey after survey is showing that the public cares more about comfort and maintaining their present lifestyle rather than leaping into some new, exotic or expensive chapter of life.
T. Rowe Price earlier this year unveiled a strategy it calls the "practice retirement." Its advice: Have fun while you are still working and, therefore, still have the income to offset the costs of travel, hobbies and major purchases. A momentary retreat from fastidious saving late in life won't hurt your prospects much, and could actually help get some initial spending out of the way.
That approach may very well reveal that what seems like a great idea for retirement living doesn't always pan out. One adviser tells us of a client who had been saving up to buy post-retirement property at a golf resort. A few weeks into retirement, he abandoned that plan because after daily rounds of golf he was reminded, once again, of how bad he is at it and how much he can hate the game. He discovered, in the nick of time, that fantasy isn't always reality.
2. We'll keep calm and carry on.
For the new year, we would like to see retirement messaging that, while not ignoring the reality of our bleak savings situation, doesn't hammer us over the head with the message.
For most of 2011 (and the year prior), there was rarely a week without a press release, study or analysis sent our way sounding the clanging chimes of doom. Americans don't save enough! They need $1 million to retire! No, Make that $3 million! Maybe $4 million! We're all doomed, doomed, I tell ya!
We would certainly not advocate sticking our collective head in the sand. Yes, Americans are, on the whole, woefully underprepared for retirement. A casualty of the death of the pension system is that about one-third of all Americans will probably rely on Social Security as their only real form of retirement income; for about two-thirds it will be their largest source of money as they age.
So don't ignore the problem, by any means. But retirement professionals need to add a few wrinkles to the discussion. Too much negativity doesn't always spur folks to action. They may just throw their hands in the air and give up or ignore advice because they suspect an ulterior motive as the very people who profit from them saving more are the ones who are demanding they do so.