Technology and the Modern Retirement

How Baby Boomers are embracing fintech to enhance their investing experience


March 17, 2021

By Marianne Ahlmann, Senior Manager, Communications

For all the attention on how fintech firms are modernizing investing for people in their 20’s and 30’s, it can be easy to miss the rising adoption numbers among Baby Boomers using digital planning and investment solutions. The idea that people aged 60+ might be averse to technology is a myth. There is no age limit for appreciating simple experiences – and this is inspiring providers like Schwab to continue innovating the investing experience for everyone, including seniors. 

60+ and tech savvy

Schwab research underscores just how comfortable Boomers are with using technology to help manage their money:

  • 51 percent say technology gives them more peace of mind when it comes to their finances
  • 44 percent say technology has helped them reach financial goals
  • And 42 percent are more comfortable relying on technology than people to answer questions and solve problems

The research also shows that Boomers don’t see technology as a replacement for human support, but as a complement to it.

Sara quote

“Consumers today expect a combination of people and tech to make everything easier – from fitness memberships to ordering a ride share. Why should managing retirement investing be any different? Ten thousand Boomers turn 65 every day. The urgency is there, and it’s on us to continue developing retirement investing solutions that are accessible and easy to use. The age of the modern retirement is here.” 

Sara Tresch, Senior Vice President of Digital Transformation and User Experience and head of Schwab’s Digital Accelerator program


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Modernizing the mundane

This points to a broader story about the investing experiences that people want and enjoy when they are near (or in) retirement. It’s also what’s driving the work within Schwab’s Retirement Accelerator.

Schwab’s Retirement Accelerator is part of the company’s broader Digital Accelerator program, which launched in 2018 to innovate rapidly around client needs, constantly improving and delivering new digital solutions. Within the Retirement Accelerator, the focus is on removing friction in day-to-day activities like opening an account or transferring assets, and making the digital investing experience easy, efficient, and modern.

Kristina quote

“So much of managing life moments in retirement has involved painful paperwork. In many ways our work has been about modernizing the mundane, making it easy and secure to send us a document, open an account online, or just get an answer to a question. These might seem like small details, but we’re optimizing tools and experiences clients use every day, so the impact can be huge.”

Kristina T., Senior Managing Director of Digital Services, who leads the Retirement Accelerator

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The approach that Kristina and her team takes to deliver on their mission is best described as “guerilla research.” They go right into the homes of clients (or via video call these days) to conduct interviews, share ideas, and collect feedback.

“It’s an invaluable part of the process for us, and clients enjoy it too,” says Kristina. “One retiree told us recently that participating in a research study made them feel really connected – that they were part of our product. And what’s more important than connection, especially in a pandemic?”

The Retirement Accelerator rapidly ideates, iterates, and tests new ideas, leading to enhancements that are helping to simplify the often-cumbersome retirement investing experience. Two examples include:

  • RMDs Made Easy: Managing a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) used to require a nine-page paper process or a phone call every year. Now retirees can manage their RMDs with a simple three-step online process. Uptake has been swift. Since launch, more than 50,000 clients have taken their RMD online for the first time.
  • Inheritance Document Management Streamlined: The Retirement Accelerator developed a simple, fast way to manage inheritance documents online or on a mobile device with digital document upload. The previous process could take weeks or even months, requiring documents to be delivered by fax, mail, or visiting a branch.

The timeliness of these solutions is important. Clients today are in a world transformed by the Covid-19 pandemic, and they need ways to engage with their finances without regular face-to-face interaction. That helps to explain why adoption has been strong. It also signals more is coming. While branches have remained available to clients virtually throughout the pandemic, without the opportunity to visit a physical branch or talk to a financial consultant in person, clients are discovering and using digital options, such as opening an account online or uploading financial documents digitally, that Schwab had all along.

Innovation on the road ahead

There is enormous opportunity to make the retirement experience more streamlined. The process should be easier for retirees and their families, and digitization will help. Updates on the road ahead for the Retirement Accelerator include more improvements that will help inheritors manage the process on their own time through automated updates, alerts, and digital content, with the option to talk to someone only when they want to; more personalized retirement planning tools; and innovations focused on simplifying the complexity and confusion of the inheritance process.