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Newsletter aims to fill void in retirement resources for boomers

Posted: Friday, December 26, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) Type ''retirement planning'' into Google's search engine, and you'll get nearly 4.2 million returns. Add ''boomer'' to the search, and you'll find fewer than 17,500.

Although baby boomers represent the generation about to retire, relatively few resources specifically target them, analysts say. Most of what's out there is aimed at seniors or the general population.

At least one company is trying to fill the void, by starting a weekly newsletter on retirement aimed at boomers. And CBS MarketWatch believes there's such a demand for it that it's charging $29 a year for the newsletters, with eventual plans to double the price to $59.

''If you look at most of the content that's out there, much of it focuses on general personal finance issues,'' said Robert Powell, hired by the Web site to produce the Retirement Weekly newsletters. ''It's maybe a hit or miss whether it speaks to you.''

The newsletters, which began in October, are sent via e-mail in .pdf format.

They attempt to address the needs of the so-called sandwich generation, people who, while trying to save for their own retirements, are having to pay for kids to attend college and parents who need long-term care.

Items in recent issues include how to have a sit-down with parents on health care costs and estate planning; whether to start a Roth IRA; and when to borrow from 401(k) accounts.

The newsletter also tries to give meaning to current events. A recent issue discussed health savings accounts created under the new Medicare law. Another included a write-up on new discount cards for prescription drugs.

Powell notes that boomers are less likely than seniors to have employer-sponsored drug plans, so the new Medicare programs are particularly relevant to what he calls pre-retirees.

Lynnette Khalfani, a financial planning consultant in West Orange, N.J., who is preparing a book called ''Investing Success for Baby Boomers,'' agreed there's little available for baby boomers.

''There are certainly no shortage of information online for people interested in retirement planning, but it's a challenge for baby boomers to find something more targeted and applicable to their specific needs,'' Khalfani said.

She said many resources on retirement planning come from companies selling investment services and they like to target seniors already in retirement because they are the ones with the assets, not the boomers who are still spending instead of saving.

Yet boomers are seeking such information.

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 50 percent of Internet users who are boomers, ages 38 to 56, have gotten financial information online, compared with 42 percent for the general Internet population. That's about the same usage as seniors, but greater than Generation X, ages 25-37.

Nonetheless, Forrester Research analyst Chris Charron questions whether the new newsletter can make that much money. (Officials at MarketWatch.com Inc. refused to provide subscription figures but said it was in the thousands and had exceeded expectations.)

''Consumers aren't spending a lot of money on content on the Internet, and when they do spend money, they spend money for content that is exclusive in some ways,'' Charron said.

There's plenty of information on financial planning and retirement online, he said, even if it is spread out and not all that targeted.

Many resources that don't target boomers are still applicable to them.

Jaime Galvan, a certified financial planner with Spectrum Strategies in Dallas, said many sites, including his, offer retirement calculators that can be used by boomers.

Dorit Murciano, vice president of retirement and savings at MetLife, said that although its online materials do not single out boomers, the company is mindful that boomers have special circumstances.

For instance, Murciano said, boomers are relying less on traditional pension plans and more on 401(k)s and other investments, so MetLife offers strategies on what to do with their money.

Bill Bishop, general manager of MarketWatch.com Inc., said surveys the company conducted suggested boomers want a targeted newsletter and would be willing to pay for one.

Boomers can indeed get the same information by visiting scores of Web sites, he said, but they don't always have the time or the expertise to determine what's most useful to their generation.

''There are lots of products out there,'' Bishop said. ''The reaction of our audience definitely indicates that we're filling some net need out there in the marketplace.''



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