The chairman and CEO of the world’s largest asset manager told CNBC on Wednesday that he worries about a “silent crisis of retirement,” citing global monetary policies that create disincentives for savers.
“Unquestionably, as central banks keep rates low, or negative in Europe, the savers are getting slammed,” BlackRock co-founder Larry Fink said on “Squawk Box.”
“Asset owners are the biggest beneficiaries of monetary policy, and this is why I think a year ago, two years ago, I talked about we needed more fiscal stimulus and maybe less monetary stimulus,” he added.
Fink said he believes people are increasingly beginning to put money to work in the stock market instead of keeping it in lower-risk investments or savings accounts.
While the Federal Reserve’s interest policy directly relates to short-term borrowing among banks, it still impacts savings and borrowing rates for everyday Americans. Currently, the federal funds rate is anchored near zero as the central bank tries to support an economic recovery from the Covid pandemic.
The effective federal funds rate has been below 2% for much of the post-2008 financial crisis period, with the exception of between October 2018 and September 2019, according to historical data compiled by the St. Louis Federal Reserve.
“Many of the savers are now more confused, and I think some of them are now, finally, entering into equities and other asset categories as a part of it,” said Fink, who noted he’s long advocated for 100% exposure in stocks, not that he “predicted where monetary policy would be.”
The traditional allocation for investors’ portfolios has been 60% in stocks and 40% in bonds, often tweaked depending on how close investors are to retirement.
In 2018, Fink told CNBC most people saving for retirement should have the bulk of their portfolios in stocks rather than bonds, even those as old as 50.
BlackRock benefits from people putting money into all manner of investment vehicles, including stocks and bonds. Fink’s company in the second quarter saw a 30% year-over-year increase in assets under management to nearly $9.5 trillion.
“We are going to have to address what I would call the silent crisis of retirement,” Fink said. “People are going to have to, unfortunately, whether they like it or not, they may have to work longer because they’re not earning the same returns on their savings.”
The typical retirement age in the U.S. is thought to be moving higher, as Fink suggested.
Additionally, the Social Security Administration says the full retirement age — when someone can receive their entire benefit amount — is 67 for people who are born in 1960 and later.
According to the Fed’s 2020 Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households, about 75% of non-retired U.S. adults had some money saved for retirement. About 25% “did not have any,” according to the report. That’s about the same percentage breakdown found in the 2019 report.
“While most non-retired adults had some type of retirement savings, only 36 percent of non-retirees thought their retirement saving was on track,” the Fed wrote in its 2020 report.
The stock market, after a major plunge in February and March of last year, has ripped off a major rally, thanks in part to support from the Fed. The central bank slashed interest rates to near zero and began asset purchases of at least $120 million a month. Fink’s BlackRock was hired by the Fed to help execute the bond buying program.
Congress also authorized trillions of dollars in fiscal stimulus to aid the beleaguered economy and the millions of Americans who lost their jobs.
On Wednesday, the S&P 500 hit yet another record high on an intraday basis. The broad-equity index is up around 100% since its pandemic-era low on March 23, 2020.
“If you had a balanced portfolio, over the last year you’ve done quite well,” Fink acknowledged Wednesday morning, before the market opened. “You may be being hurt on your bond or cash allocation, but on your equity allocation you’ve done quite well, and for those who own homes, obviously they’ve been a big beneficiary of rising asset prices.”