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  • With support from New York Life, a new doctoral program will educate retirement specialists.


New Ph.D. program will aid consumers’ retirement planning

Today’s retirees and pre-retirees are facing a vastly different retirement than their parents. Not only has the economic downturn affected their nest eggs, but the fate of Social Security is still hotly debated. Add to that the fact that the current wave of retirees—baby boomers—will be one of the largest and longest living in history, and the challenges of ensuring a comfortable retirement become apparent.

In September, New York Life took a step to help remedy this situation when it awarded $5 million to The American College, in Bryn Mawr, PA, to establish a financial doctorate in business administration, with a concentration in financial literacy and retirement planning. This 12-course professional doctorate is the only one of its kind in the country. The college, a non-profit educational institution devoted to financial services, began accepting applications for the program in October.

“The development of the doctoral program at The American College could have a profound impact on consumers and help millions of Americans achieve financial security during their golden years,” said Dr. Larry Barton, president and chief executive officer at The American College.

“I believe this new doctoral program will be a game changer,” echoes New York Life’s Chris Blunt, president of the Insurance Group and member of the board of trustees at The American College. “There is a retirement crisis in America, so the need for education and training of the industry’s financial professionals has never been greater. This type of long-term investment in the industry, its people and in general retirement preparedness will benefit the country for generations.”

John Rocco Sr., a leading New York Life agent in Boston, agrees. Rocco has been active with the college for 20 years and is a member of several of its boards. “Agents need a better understanding of our business because it’s more complicated these days,” he explains. “The industry needs educated individuals who know retirement planning, all its advantages and drawbacks. There aren’t enough experts out there.”

“This program is designed to fill that need,” says Blunt. “Increasingly, retirees will need to more actively manage their income while pre-retirees need to be better prepared for retirement. As a result, there is a greater need for financial guidance.”

According to Blunt, well over 100 insurance agents and financial advisers from across the industry expressed interest in the program.

And that appeal, says Rocco, will be key to the program’s success. “That’s what is so good about this program. It’s for everyone in our industry, whether it’s a life insurance agent or financial adviser.”

Blunt sees establishing this program as the first step to bigger things. “My personal hope is that the doctoral program will be the catalyst that will spark the establishment of retirement planning departments at major universities throughout the U.S., helping to establish ‘financial professionals and advisers’ as one of the most sought-after professions for future college students,” he says.

New York Life has a long-standing relationship with the college. In 2007, it donated $2 million to establish the New York Life Center for Retirement Income to help address the demand for sound retirement income solutions among retired Americans. The gift provided permanent support for programming and research at the college.

“Thanks to New York Life’s generous support, knowledgeable academics dedicated to better understanding the issues associated with financial services and retirement income will have the opportunity to create and disseminate the results of advanced research,” says Barton. “That will lead to better trained professionals and, ultimately, more informed consumers, who will be better prepared to successfully navigate retirement planning.”

“The development of the doctoral program... could help millions of Americans achieve financial security during their golden years,” Dr. Larry Barton, president and chief executive officer,The American College.