You are here
The Rolling Stones knows what you need: an annuity
SO it's come to this: surgery, deferred annuities and rock 'n' roll.
The Rolling Stones, the bad boys of rock in the 1960s and '70s, are showing their age. In April, the band postponed the start of its North American tour so that Mick Jagger could have surgery, reportedly to replace a damaged heart valve. Now, he is prancing onstage again, and the band's three-month tour is off to a rollicking start.
I'd like to believe that the Stones are as ageless as Peter Pan. But it turns out that the band chose, as its sole tour sponsor, the Alliance for Lifetime Income - a trade association that promotes the sale of annuities. Yet, preparing for retirement isn't what "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" is all about.
Perhaps none of this should be surprising. The Stones started performing in the summer of 1962, and all four current members are over 70. They are not really immortal, and neither am I (or so I'm told).
And yet, as a Stones fan since the 1960s, I never expected to see this phrase: "You can get what you need, when you have an annuity." Really?
To be fair, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger didn't alter their classic hit, "You Can't Always Get What You Want". The alliance did. The organisation adjusted the words on its website, which is meant to educate people about the importance of "reducing risk" in their lives, as the surviving Stones may be doing to survive for as long as they have.
Ads for cigarettes, alcohol and fast cars are what I would have expected from the Stones' brand a decade ago. Sorry: Two decades ago. Maybe three or four or even five decades.
But not in 2019. The band's demographic has aged, and that has commercial consequences.
John Covach, a Rolling Stones scholar and professor of music theory who directs the University of Rochester's Institute for Popular Music, said: "When fans move with the musicians, there's no reason that advertising shouldn't move with them."
The Stones' audience is perfect for the Alliance for Lifetime Income, said Jean Statler, executive director of the annuities group, a non-profit with 24 financial service companies as members. They include AIG, Allianz, Axa, Goldman Sachs, Prudential, State Street and TIAA.
She said people who attend the band's shows are "our target demographic: 45- to 72-year-olds with investable assets between US$75,000 and US$2 million". Such people are "not huge investors with really a lot of money; they are the middle class," she said. "They are people who have worked hard and accumulated some savings and may have the benefit of living longer than they had ever planned, and realise they may not have enough savings to last that life span."
The millions of people who belong to this group - and I am one of them - may never have imagined, when they were teenagers, that anyone would ever connect the Stones and annuities. I didn't. I had no idea what an annuity was. Maybe you don't know now.
No problem. It is a financial instrument that provides a regular income stream in exchange for an investment. Or, as the alliance puts it, an annuity "can give you income that's protected and that you can count on to last the rest of your life". Social Security is by far the most important annuity in the United States, and it has been reliable since the first check was issued in 1940. But the programme is facing a financing shortfall, and benefits could be cut in 15 years. Demanding a fix from your government representatives could be the best thing you can do to ensure your future.
The alliance is talking about private supplements to Social Security, bought with the counsel of a financial adviser, perhaps from an alliance member. Buying an annuity may be a reasonable choice, if it's cheap enough - although, as I've written, Social Security will provide a cheaper annuity than anything available on the marketplace for those able to work past their full retirement age (assuming Social Security continues to provide full benefits).
I'd be happier if the Alliance for Lifetime Income were devoted to restoring financial strength to Social Security. Oh, well. You can't always get what you want.
Still, because I'm a Stones fan right in the centre of the target demographic, active on Twitter and also interested in annuities (if only for journalistic reasons), I started to see a stream of promotional messages from the alliance about the Stones, and annuities, online. They are fun, but startling, juxtaposing the band and its lascivious tongue-and-lips logo, with serious messages about financial planning.
I've started to feel as if I wandered into a strange zone - a 2019 version of the entertainment and advertising geared toward a geriatric crowd, like the old Lawrence Welk TV show.
Welk's sponsors included Geritol, a vitamin concoction that promised to energise people with "iron-poor blood". He performed beloved music from another era - I thought it was hokey - but he was my grandmother's favourite just as I was becoming infatuated with the Stones.
Covach, who teaches a free Stones course on the website Coursera, empathised.
"I think you're trying to cope with the fact that a group we understood to be about youth and rebellion - and sex and drugs and all that - has essentially turned into a bunch of people endorsing retirement plans. And what does that mean about the end of life for all of us in that generation?"
He shuddered: "Imagine for the next tour: The Stones could be sponsored by undertakers or morticians or a co-op for cemetery plots. Is this where we're heading?"
We're not there yet. The Stones are still rolling, but time is not on our side. NYTIMES