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National Television Documentary Finds Fear Mixed with Newfound Optimism Among Americans Approaching Retirement


MassMutual data also finds recession has sparked dramatic changes in retirement planning.

(Springfield, MA) - As millions of Americans near retirement they have less confidence in the economy and new fears about whether they can afford the high cost of growing older. But in a nationally broadcast special to air this fall on PBS, television news anchor Paula Zahn reports on new glimmers of hope and dramatic changes people are making to help ensure they can afford to retire. Zahn will share the deeply personal stories of several families on Retirement Revolution: The New Reality®, premiering September 15, 2009 on PBS, and sponsored by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual).

“For millions of Americans, the recession has effectively eliminated their plans to retire,” says Zahn. “They’re up against lost jobs, diminished retirement plan investments and rising health care costs. The New Reality will help them navigate these troubling waters by offering solid advice, opinions and insight about money, health and Medicare from a host of economists and financial planning experts.”

The New Reality is the second installment of the Retirement Revolution® series, which debuted last spring, with support from Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) as the exclusive national underwriter. The series is co-produced by PBS affiliate WTTW National Productions in Chicago and Boyer Productions, Ltd.

“The recession has been a wake-up call for many people who are just now realizing they may not have the right plan in place for a successful retirement – but the good news is they’re starting to do something about it. The New Reality allows MassMutual to help bring national attention to the importance of planning and saving for retirement; MassMutual is committed to education regarding retirement, helping individuals achieve their definition of a successful retirement,” said Elaine A. Sarsynski, Executive Vice President MassMutual Retirement Services and Chairman and CEO MassMutual International, LLC.

MassMutual research shows the recession is causing seismic shifts in the way many Americans view and prepare for retirement. Traditional retirement vehicles remain immensely popular. According to MassMutual, the vast majority of participants are staying the course and have not stopped contributing to their 401(k) plans, despite the volatile financial markets.

This conservative approach by some investors is underscored by the move to whole life insurance by many Americans. Sales for this stable and secure product increased a record 16% for MassMutual in 2008; sales remain strong this year, above industry averages. The trend indicates younger Americans are just now learning what 79-year old Texas lawyer Jack Leon realized 40 years ago when he bought his first whole life policy.

“The best value for the buck was whole life; I’ve stayed away from more exotic investments with all their bells and whistles,” said Leon.

Leon has been a lawyer in San Antonio for fifty years. Married with seven children, the death benefit of whole life appeals to him – but he says there’s more to it than that.

“In the long run that’s what you’re looking for – slow build of cash value. It’s a buffer from the volatility of the stock market. Stocks go up and they go down – I can’t predict what the market is going to do. But the cash value of my whole life policy has always grown, in good times and bad,” said Leon.

For boomers on the brink of retirement to millennials just entering the job market, the new retirement reality is grounded in sound planning and foresight. There are more than two dozen free calculators at to help people plan for their retirement determine their net worth and make realistic savings goals.


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