Tag Archives: retirement reality

Do You Let These Emotions Affect Your Financial Decisions?

30 May

Have you ever made a financial decision that you later regretted? Think back. Chances are, you can pinpoint the emotion that led you to make the decision. Emotions are powerful influencers that can cause us to overreact – or not act at all when we should. Consider these common emotional mishaps to avoid.

Sudden reactions to Wall Street volatility. In a typical market year, Wall Street can see big waves of volatility. This year, it has been easy to forget that truth. During the first third of 2017, the S&P 500 saw only 3 trading days with a 1% or greater swing – or to put it another way, 1% swings occurred just 3.5% of the time. Compare that to 2015, when the S&P moved 1% or more in 29% of its trading sessions.1

The 1.80% May 17 drop of the S&P this year stirred up fear in some investors. The plunge felt earthshaking to some, given the placid climate on the Street this year. Daily retreats of this magnitude have been seen before, will be seen again, and should be taken in stride.2

Fear and anxiety that also cause stubbornness. Some people have looked at money one way all their lives. Others have always seen investing from one perspective. Then, something happens that does not mesh with their outlook or perspective. In the face of such an event, they refuse to change or admit that their opinion may be wrong. To lose faith in their entrenched point of view would make them feel uneasy or lost. So, they doggedly cling to that point of view and do things the same way as they always have, even though it no longer makes any sense for their financial present or future. In this case, emotion is simply overriding logic.

Treating revolving debt nonchalantly. Some people treat a credit card purchase like a cash purchase – or worse yet, they adopt a psychology in which buying something with a credit card feels like they are “getting it for free.” A kind of euphoria can set in: they have that dining room set or that ATV in their possession now; they can deal with paying it off tomorrow. This blissful ignorance (or dismissal) of the real cost of borrowing can dig a household deeper and deeper into debt, to the point where drawing down savings may be the only way to wipe it out.

Putting off important financial decisions. Postponing a retirement or estate planning decision does not always reflect caution or contemplation. Sometimes, it reflects a lack of knowledge or confidence. Worry and fear are the emotions clouding the picture. What clears things up? What makes these decisions easier? Communication with professionals. When the investor or saver recognizes a lack of understanding, shares his or her need to know with a financial professional, and asks for assistance, certainty can replace ambiguity.

Emotions can keep people from doing the right things with their money – or lead them to keep doing the wrong things. As you save, invest, and plan for your future, try to let logic rule. Years from now, you may be thankful you did.

Julie Newcomb, a Certified Financial Planner™ in Orange County, CA, specializes in financial planning for women.  As a wife, mom and business owner, Julie understands the pressures and challenges most women feel on a daily basis as they juggle many important priorities. Julie’s favorite thing about her job is the ability to give women peace of mind when they entrust her with their finances. To learn more about Julie Newcomb Financial, go to julienewcomb.com.    

Sources:

1 – nytimes.com/2017/05/09/upshot/the-stock-market-is-weirdly-calm-heres-a-theory-of-why.html [5/9/17]

2 – google.com/finance?q=INDEXSP:.INX&ei=6RMeWfG_JMO7euKQkagG [5/18/17]

5 Questions Couples Need to Answer to Achieve Financial Success

24 Feb

shutterstock_193636496When you marry or simply share a household with someone, your financial life changes – and your approach to managing your money may change as well. To succeed as a couple, you may also have to succeed financially. The good news is that is usually not so difficult.

At some point, you will have to ask yourselves some money questions – questions that pertain not only to your shared finances, but also to your individual finances. Waiting too long to ask (or answer) those questions might carry an emotional price. In the 2016 TD Bank Love & Money survey of 1,902 consumers who said they were in relationships, 42% of the respondents who described themselves as “unhappy” cited their number one financial error as “waiting too long” to discuss money matters with their significant other.1

#1: How will you make your money grow?

Investing is essential. Simply saving money will help you build an emergency fund, but unless you save an extraordinary amount of cash, your uninvested savings will not fund your retirement.

So, what should you invest in? Should you hold any joint investment accounts or some jointly titled assets? One of you may like to assume more risk than the other; spouses often have different individual investment preferences.

How you invest, together or separately, is less important than your commitment to investing. Some couples focus only on avoiding financial risk – to them, maintaining the status quo and not losing any money equals financial success. They could be setting themselves up for financial failure decades from now by rejecting investing and retirement planning.

An ongoing relationship with a financial professional may enhance your knowledge of the ways in which you could build your wealth and arrange to retire confidently.

#2: How much will you spend & save?

Budgeting can help you arrive at your answer. A simple budget, an elaborate budget, any attempt at a budget can prove more informative than none at all. A thorough, line-item budget may seem a little over the top, but what you learn from it may be truly eye-opening.

#3: How often will you check up on your financial progress?

When finances affect two people rather than one, credit card statements and bank balances become more important. So do IRA balances, insurance premiums, and investment account yields. Looking in on these details once a month (or at least once a quarter) can keep you both informed, so that neither one of you have misconceptions about household finances or assets. Arguments can start when money misconceptions are upended by reality.

#4: What degree of independence do you want to maintain?

Do you want to have separate bank accounts? Separate “fun money” accounts? To what extent do you want to comingle your money? Some spouses need individual financial “space” of their own. There is nothing wrong with this, unless a spouse uses such “space” to hide secrets that will eventually shock the other.

#5: Can you be businesslike about your finances?

Spouses who are inattentive or nonchalant about financial matters may encounter more financial trouble than they anticipate. So, watch where your money goes, and think about ways to repeatedly pay yourselves first, rather than your creditors. Set shared short-term, medium-term, and long-term objectives, and strive to attain them.

Communication is key to all this. In the TD Bank survey, nearly 80% of the respondents who indicated they talked about money once per week said that they were happy with their relationship. Follow their lead and plan for your progress together.1

Julie Newcomb, a Certified Financial Planner™ in Orange County, CA, specializes in financial planning for women.  As a wife, mom and business owner, Julie understands the pressures and challenges most women feel on a daily basis as they juggle many important priorities. Julie’s favorite thing about her job is the ability to give women peace of mind when they entrust her with their finances. To learn more about Julie Newcomb Financial, go to julienewcomb.com.    

Sources:

1 – gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/surprising-ways-money-affects-love-life/ [9/26/16]

 

Retirement Planning for Single Parents

23 Jan

shutterstock_160939274How should a single parent plan for retirement? Diligently. Regularly. Rigorously. The good news is that you have the autonomy to decide how you want to approach saving for retirement and how aggressive you want to be. Here are some steps that may help, whether you are just beginning to do this or well on your way.

Setting a household budget is an important first step. Most households live without budgets – and because of that financial inattention, some of the money they could save and invest routinely disappears. When you set and live by a budget, you discipline yourself to spend only so much and save (or invest) some of the rest. You need not track every single expense, but try and track your expenses by category. You may find money to save as a result.

Save first, invest next. If you are starting from scratch, creating an emergency fund should be the first priority. It should grow large enough to meet 6-9 months of living expenses. If no financial emergency transpires, then you will end up with a cash reserve for retirement as well as investments.

You may want to invest less aggressively than you once did. Young, married couples can take on a lot of risk as they invest. Divorcees or widowers may not want to – there can be too much on the line, and too little time left to try and recoup portfolio losses. To understand the level of risk that may be appropriate for you at this point in life, chat with a financial professional.

There is great wisdom in “setting it and forgetting it.” Life will hand you all manner of distractions, including financial pressures to distract you from the necessity of retirement saving. You cannot be distracted away from this. So, to ward off such a hazard, use retirement savings vehicles that let you make automatic, regular contributions. Your workplace retirement plan, for example, or other investment accounts that allow them. This way, you don’t have to think about whether or not to make retirement account contributions; you just do.

Do you have life insurance, or an estate plan? Both of these become hugely important when you are a single parent. Any kind of life insurance is better than none. If you have minor children, you have the option of creating a trust and naming the trust as the beneficiary of whatever policy you choose. Disability insurance is also a good idea if you work in a physically taxing career. Name a guardian for your children in case the worst happens.1

Have you reviewed the beneficiary names on your accounts & policies? If you are divorced or widowed, your former spouse may still be the primary beneficiary of your IRA, your life insurance policy, or your investment account. If beneficiary forms are not updated, problems may result.

College planning should take a backseat to retirement planning. Your child(ren) will need to recognize that when it comes to higher education, they will likely be on their own. When they are 18 or 20, you may be 50 or 55 – and the average retirement age in this country is currently 63. Drawing down your retirement accounts in your fifties is a serious mistake, and you should not entertain that idea. Any attempt to build a college fund should be secondary to building and growing your retirement fund.2

Realize that your cash flow situation might change as retirement nears. Your household may be receiving child support, alimony, insurance payments, and, perhaps, even Social Security income. In time, some of these income streams may dry up. Can you replace them with new ones? Are you prepared to ask for a raise or look for a higher-paying job if they dry up in the years preceding your retirement? Are you willing to work part-time in retirement to offset that lost income?

Consult a financial professional who has worked with single parents. Ask another single parent whom he or she turns to for such consulting, or seek out someone who has written about the topic. You want to plan your future with someone who has some familiarity with the experience, either personally or through helping others in your shoes.

Julie Newcomb, a Certified Financial Planner™ in Orange County, CA, specializes in financial planning for women.  As a wife, mom and business owner, Julie understands the pressures and challenges most women feel on a daily basis as they juggle many important priorities. Julie’s favorite thing about her job is the ability to give women peace of mind when they entrust her with their finances. To learn more about Julie Newcomb Financial, go to julienewcomb.com.    

Sources:

1 – cnbc.com/2016/07/20/5-winning-money-strategies-for-single-parents.html [7/20/16]

2 – aol.com/article/2016/05/03/the-average-retirement-age-in-all-50-states/21369583/ [5/3/16]

 

 

How to “Rehearse Retirement” Before You Take the Plunge

30 Dec

shutterstock_439838155For most people, retirement is a huge shift in life as they know it. However, beyond planning the dollars and cents, few people take the extra step to “rehearse” what retirement might feel like. Your current job situation and flexibility will determine how far you can take this trial run, but here are a few steps to try before you actually retire.

Draw up a retirement budget & live on it for one, two, or three months. Make a list of essential expenses (groceries, gas, utilities, mortgage, medicines), and then a list of discretionary expenses (such as movie tickets, dinners out, spa treatments). This may reveal that you can live handily on less than what you currently spend each month.

Next, list your income sources for retirement. They might include Social Security benefits (depending on when you want to claim them), IRA Required Minimum Distributions, pension checks, dividends, freelance or consulting payments, or other revenue streams. Investment income is also in the mix here, so check with a financial professional to determine a withdrawal rate off of those accounts that you can safely maintain through your retirement. (It might differ slightly from the long-recommended 4%.) When you have your list, stack the projected total income up against your essential expenses and see how much you have left over.

Try living off of that level of monthly income for a month or more while you are still working. If it covers your necessary monthly expenses and not much else, then some adjustments in your retirement strategy might be needed – a housing change, a change in your retirement date.

 See how it feels to retire. Before you conclude your career, try to arrange some “previews” of your retirement lifestyle. If you want to serve your community, volunteer avidly for a month or two to get a taste of what daily volunteer work is like. If you see yourself traveling enthusiastically at the start of retirement, take a dream vacation or even a couple of consecutive trips (if your schedule allows) to see how they truly fit into your financial picture.

Your “rehearsal” need not be last-minute. If you think you will retire at 65, you could try doing this at 63, 60, or even before then. The earlier your attempt, the more time you have to alter your retirement plan if needed.

What else should you consider as you rehearse? Besides income, expenses, and the day-to-day retirement experience, there are a few other factors to gauge.

How much cash do you have on hand? Starting retirement with a strong cash position provides you with some insulation if you happen to retire during a market downturn. The possibility of a bear market coinciding with your entry into retirement may make you want to revisit your portfolio allocations as well.

Take a second look at your projected monthly income. Will it be consistent? If it will vary, you will want to address that. If you are in line for a pension, you will face a major, likely irrevocable, financial decision: should it be single life, or joint-and-survivor? The latter option would reduce your pension income in retirement, but give your spouse 50% or more of your pension payments after you die. Your employer might also offer you a lump-sum pension buyout; if that turns out to be the case, you will have to decide if the lump sum constitutes the better deal versus a lifelong income stream.1

How about your entry into Medicare? You may enroll in it at medicare.gov within a 6-month window of your 65th birthday (that is, beginning three months prior to your birthday month and ending three months after it). If you sign up before your birthday, you will be covered beginning on the first day of your birthday month. Sign up following your 65th birthday, and you may have to wait a few months for coverage to begin.2

If you plan to stay on the job after 65, sign up for Medicare Part A anyway (the part that pays for hospital care) within the usual 6-month window. It will not cost you anything to do so, and sometimes Part A makes up for shortcomings in employer-sponsored health plans. You can enroll in Part B and other Medicare component parts later – within eight months of your retirement, to be precise. You will want to pay attention to that 8-month deadline, as your premiums will jump 10% for every 12-month period afterward that you refrain from enrolling. If you pay for your own insurance, you will still need to enroll in Medicare when you are eligible (Medicare will make that coverage superfluous, so you can anticipate dropping it).3

Rehearsing for retirement can be very insightful. Some new retirees leave work abruptly only to have their financial and lifestyle assumptions jarred. As you want to make a smooth retirement transition to a future that corresponds to your expectations, test-driving your retirement before it begins is only wise.

Sources:

1 – kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T047-C000-S002-put-your-pension-to-work.html [1/16]

2 – medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/get-parts-a-and-b/when-coverage-starts/when-coverage-starts.html [10/20/16]

3 – fool.com/investing/2016/09/18/5-tips-to-avoiding-common-medicare-missteps.aspx [9/18/16]

How Millennials Can Get Off to a Good Financial Start

17 Jun

shutterstock_260209835You might be a millennial reading a practical article about your finances, but most likely, you are a concerned mom or dad thinking about your millennial son or daughter and their financial future. As you think about your own path, maybe you look back with confidence as you see the fruits of your discipline and saving, but maybe you look back with regret and don’t want your kids to make the same mistakes you did when it comes to saving for retirement.

Young or old, we all know the value of saving for retirement as early as possible, but how many of us do/did that?

Prudential Financial is currently running an ad campaign where they ask a group of young people to paint a line next to the age they think they should start saving for retirement. Next, they asked a group of older people to paint a line next to the age when they ACTUALLY started saving for retirement. They call this the “action gap.” Here are some practical steps to take and important habits to form to help close the action gap for the next generation.

Reduce your debt. You probably have some student loan debt to pay off. According to the Institute for College Access and Success, which tracks college costs, the average education debt owed by a college graduate is now $28,950. Hopefully, yours is not that high and you are paying off whatever education debt remains via an automatic monthly deduction from your checking account. If you are struggling to pay your student loan off, take a look at some of the income-driven repayment plans offered to federal student loan borrowers, and options for refinancing your loan into a lower-rate one (which could potentially save you thousands).1

You cannot build wealth simply by wiping out debt, but freeing yourself of major consumer debts frees you to build wealth like nothing else. The good news is that saving, investing, and reducing your debt are not mutually exclusive. As financially arduous as it may sound, you should strive to do all three at once. If you do, you may be surprised five or ten years from now at the transformation of your personal finances.

Save for retirement. If you are working full-time for a decently-sized employer, chances are a retirement plan is available to you. If you are not automatically enrolled in the plan, go ahead and sign up for it. You can contribute a little of each paycheck. Even if you start by contributing only $50 or $100 per pay period, you will start far ahead of many of your peers.1

Away from the workplace, traditional IRAs offer you the same perks. Roth IRAs and Roth workplace retirement plans are the exceptions – when you “go Roth,” your contributions are not tax-deductible, but you can eventually withdraw the earnings tax-free after age 59½ as long as you abide by IRS rules.1,2

Workplace retirement plans are not panaceas – they can charge administrative fees exceeding 1% and their investment choices can sometimes seem limited. Consumer pressure is driving these administrative fees down, however; in 2015, they were lower than they had been in a decade and they are expected to lessen further.3

Keep an eye on your credit score. Paying off your student loans and getting started saving for retirement are a great start, but what about your immediate future? You’re entitled to three free credit reports per year from TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Take advantage of them and watch for unfamiliar charges and other suspicious entries. Be sure to get in touch with the company that issued your credit report if you find anything that shouldn’t be there. Maintaining good credit can mean a great deal to your long-term financial goals, so monitoring your credit reports is a good habit to get into.1

Do not fear Wall Street. We all remember the Great Recession and the wild ride investments took. The stock market plunged, but then it recovered – in fact, the S&P 500 index, the benchmark that is synonymous in investing shorthand for “the market,” gained back all the loss from that plunge in a little over four years. Two years later, it reached new record peaks, and it is only a short distance from those peaks today.

Equity investments – the kind Wall Street is built on – offer you the potential for double-digit returns in a good year. As interest rates are still near historic lows, many fixed-income investments are yielding very little right now, and cash just sits there. If you want to make your money grow faster than inflation – and you certainly do – then equity investing is the way to go. To avoid it is to risk falling behind and coming up short of retirement money, unless you accumulate it through other means. Some workplace retirement plans even feature investments that will direct a sizable portion of your periodic contribution into equities, then adjust it so that you are investing more conservatively as you age.

Invest regularly; stay invested. When you keep putting money toward your retirement effort and that money is invested, there can often be a snowball effect. In fact, if you invest $5,000 at age 25 and just watch it sit there for 35 years as it grows 6% a year, the math says you will have $38,430 with annual compounding at age 60. In contrast, if you invest $5,000 each year under the same conditions, with annual compounding you are looking at $596,050 at age 60. That is a great argument for saving and investing consistently through the years.5

It is never too early to start working with a financial advisor (and you don’t have to be wealthy) so you can set some realistic goals and a strategy for increasing your retirement savings as time goes on.

Julie Newcomb, a Certified Financial Planner™ in Orange County, CA, specializes in financial planning for women.  As a wife, mom and business owner, Julie understands the pressures and challenges most women feel on a daily basis as they juggle many important priorities. Julie’s favorite thing about her job is the ability to give women peace of mind when they entrust her with their finances. To learn more about Julie Newcomb Financial, go to julienewcomb.com.

Sources:

1 – gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/money-steps-need-after-graduating/ [5/20/16]

2 – usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2015/07/03/money-tips-gen-y-adviceiq/29624039/ [7/3/15]

3 – tinyurl.com/hgzgsw4 [12/2/15]

4 – marketwatch.com/story/bear-markets-can-be-shorter-than-you-think-2016-03-21 [3/21/16]

5 – investor.gov/tools/calculators/compound-interest-calculator [5/26/16]

5 Things to Consider When One Spouse Retires Before the Other

26 May

shutterstock_202991146While all couples talk about the big picture of saving for retirement, not all consider the ramifications of what happens when one spouse retires before the other. Sometimes that reality reflects an age difference, other times one person wants to keep working for income or health coverage reasons. If you retire years before your spouse or partner does, you may want to consider how your lifestyle might change as well as your household finances.

#1: How will retiring affect your identity?

If you are one of those people who derives a great deal of pride and sense of self from your profession, leaving that career for life around the house may feel odd. Who are you now? Who will you become next? Can you retire and still be who you were? Hopefully, your spouse recognizes that you may have to entertain these questions. They may prompt some soul-searching, even enough to affect a relationship.

#2: How much down time do you want?

That is worth discussing with your spouse or partner. If you absolutely hate your job, you may want weeks, months, or years of relaxation after leaving it. You can figure out what to do next in good time. Alternately, you may see every day of retirement as a day for achievement; a day to get something done or connect with someone new. Your significant other should know whether you prefer an active, ambitious retirement or a more relaxed one.

#3: How will household chores or caregiving be handled?

Picture your loved one arising at 6:30am on a January morning, bundling up, heading for work and navigating inclement weather, all as you sleep in. Your spouse or partner may grow a bit envious of your retirement freedom. One way to offset that envy is to assume more of the everyday chores around the house.

For many baby boomers, caregiving is also a daily event. When one spouse or partner retires, that can rebalance the caregiving “equation.” One or more individuals have to provide 100% of the eldercare needed, and retirement can make shared percentages more equitable or allow a greater role for a son or daughter in that caregiving. Some people even retire to become a caregiver to Mom or Dad.

#4: Do you have kids living at home?

Adult children? Right now, in this country, every fifth young adult is living with his or her parents. With so many new college graduates having to accept part-time or low-paying service industry jobs, and with education loan debt averaging roughly $30,000 per indebted graduate, this situation will persist for years and, perhaps, even become a new normal.1

#5: You and your loved ones may find yourself on different timetables.

Maybe your spouse or partner works from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in a high-stress job. Maybe your children attend school on roughly the same schedule. How do they get to and from those places? Probably through a rush-hour commute, either in a car or amid the crowds lined up for mass transit. If you have abandoned the daily grind, you may have an enthusiasm and a chattiness in the evening that they lack. Maybe they just want to unwind at 6:30pm, but you might be anxious to reconnect with them after a day alone at home.

Talk about retirement before you retire. What should your daily life look like? What are the most important things you want out of the retirement experience? How do your answers to those questions align or contrast with the answers of your best friend? As you retire, make sure that your spouse or partner knows your point of view, and be sure to respect his or hers in the bargain.

Julie Newcomb, a Certified Financial Planner™ in Orange County, CA, specializes in financial planning for women.  As a wife, mom and business owner, Julie understands the pressures and challenges most women feel on a daily basis as they juggle many important priorities. Julie’s favorite thing about her job is the ability to give women peace of mind when they entrust her with their finances. To learn more about Julie Newcomb Financial, go to julienewcomb.com.

  

Souces:

1 – chicagotribune.com/business/success/savingsgame/tca-boomerang-children-affecting-parents-retirement-plans-20160413-story.html [4/13/16]

 

Should You Plan to Retire on 80% of Your Income?

30 Apr

shutterstock_296967869A classic retirement planning rule states that you should retire on 80% of the income you earned in your last year of work. Is this old axiom still true, or does it need reconsidering? Some new research suggests that retirees may not need that much annual income to keep up their standard of living.

The 80% rule is really just a guideline. It refers to 80% of a retiree’s final yearly gross income, rather than his or her net pay. The difference between gross income and wages after withholdings and taxes is significant to say the least.1

The major financial challenge for the new retiree is how to replace his or her paycheck, not his or her gross income. So concluded Texas Tech University professor Michael Finke, who analyzed the 80% rule last year and published his conclusions in Research, a magazine for financial services industry professionals. Finke concluded that the typical retiree could probably sustain their lifestyle with no more than 77% of an end salary, or 60% of his or her average annual lifetime income.1

Retirees need to determine the expenses that will diminish in retirement. Some examples include:

  • You will no longer be deferring part of your income to retirement savings. This could range from as little as 5% up to 25% of your income.
  • Contributions to Social Security and Medicare.
  • Cost of your daily commute to work and the expenses that accompany it.
  • Most people retire into a lower income tax bracket.
  • You will no longer need to purchase work attire and incur the associated dry-cleaning expenses.

New retirees may not necessarily find themselves living on less. The retirement experience differs for everyone, and so does retiree personal spending. A timeline of typical retiree spending resembles a “smile.” A 2013 study from investment research firm Morningstar noted that a retiree household’s inflation-adjusted spending usually dips at the start of retirement, bottoms out in the middle of the retirement experience, and then increases toward the very end.2

A retirement budget is a very good idea. There will be some out-of-budget costs, of course, ranging from the pleasant to the unpleasant. Those financial exceptions aside, abiding by a monthly budget (with or without the use of free online tools) may help you to rein in any questionable spending.

Any retirement income strategy should be personalized. Your own strategy should be based on an accurate, detailed assessment of your income needs and your available income resources. That information will help you discern just how much income you will need when retired.

Julie Newcomb, a Certified Financial Planner™ in Orange County, CA, specializes in financial planning for women.  As a wife, mom and business owner, Julie understands the pressures and challenges most women feel on a daily basis as they juggle many important priorities. Julie’s favorite thing about her job is the ability to give women peace of mind when they entrust her with their finances. To learn more about Julie Newcomb Financial, go to julienewcomb.com.

Sources:

1 – marketwatch.com/story/you-may-need-less-retirement-income-than-you-think-2015-11-30 [12/24/15]

2 – money.cnn.com/2015/12/02/retirement/retirement-income/ [12/2/15]

 

The 5 Chapters of Retirement

27 Feb

Julie Newcomb 1

Even if you still have 30 years left until retirement, you’ve probably already started imagining what your retirement might look like. Whether those thoughts are filled with dreams or dread, it’s natural to wonder about the next chapter in your journey.

  • What will life without the demands of a job look and feel like?
  • What type of lifestyle will I be able to afford?
  • Will I be healthy & wealthy enough to travel?

The journey to and through retirement occurs gradually, like successive chapters in a book. Each chapter has its own things to consider. While the journey is different for everyone, here’s a preview.

Chapter 1: The Fifties

At this stage of life, retirement becomes less like a far-off dream and more like a forthcoming reality. You begin to think about when you can retire, and about taking the right steps to retire comfortably.

By one measure, men have their peak earning years in their mid-fifties. Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows the median male worker earning 127% of his initial salary at that time. The peak earning years for women are harder to statistically gauge, as some women leave the paid workforce for years-long intervals. In inflation-adjusted terms, earnings actually peak earlier in life. PayScale estimates that on average, pay growth for women flattens at age 39 (at a median salary of $60,000), and at age 48 for men (at a median salary of $95,000). So by the fifties, many people are receiving raises to keep up with the cost of living, but essentially earning the equivalent of what they made a decade or more ago.1,2

During your fifties, you may contend with “lifestyle creep” – the phenomenon of your household expenses growing along with your pay raises. These increased expenses may include housing costs, education costs, healthcare costs, even eldercare costs. Despite these financial strains, the inflow of new money into retirement accounts must not cease; your retirement plan assets should not be drawn down through loans or withdrawn too early.

Chapter 2: The Early Sixties

The anticipation builds at this point; you start to think about the process of retiring and the precise financial and lifestyle steps involved. You also begin to think about the near future – not only what you will do next, but how you will do it.

According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, the average American man now retires at age 64, the average American woman at age 62. So the reality is that the early sixties coincide with retirement for many people. This reality is worth noting in light of the difference between Americans’ envisioned and actual retirement ages. Last April, a Gallup poll asked pre-retirees when they expected to leave the workforce: 37% saw themselves working past 65, 32% before 65, and 24% at 65. The same poll asked older, retired Americans when they had stopped working full-time, and 67% of those respondents said they had done so before 65.3,4

You may have to act on your plans to volunteer or start an encore career earlier than you think. If you do not have a set plan for the next chapter, a phased retirement may give you more of an opportunity to determine one.

This is also a time to dial down risk in your portfolio, especially if a bear market occurs right before you retire. You have little time to recover from a downturn.

Chapter 3: The Start of Retired Life

The first year or so of retirement is akin to a “honeymoon phase” – you have the time and perhaps the money to pursue all kinds of dreams. The key is not to spend wildly. Lifestyle creep also affects new retirees; free time often means more chances to spend money.

The good news is that you may spend less than you think. Transportation, insurance, housing, clothing and food costs may all decline. The common view is that you will need to live on 80% of your end salary for a comfortable retirement, but in a 2014 T. Rowe Price survey of retirees, the average respondent was living on 66% of his or her pre-retirement income. Eighty-five percent of those retirees said they were maintaining their standard of living with less money.5

Chapter 4: The Mid-Sixties thru Late Seventies

This is when some people get a little restless. It is also when some people find their retirement savings growing disturbingly smaller. You may get bored with all-leisure, all-the-time and want to volunteer or work on your own terms, health permitting. You may want to adjust your retirement income strategy or see if new streams of income can be arranged.

Chapter 5: Eight & Afterward

The last chapter of retirement is one frequently characterized by the sharing of legacies and life lessons, a new perspective on the process of living and aging, and deeper engagement (or reengagement) with children and grandchildren. This is also the time when you should think about your financial legacy, and review or update your estate plan so that when you leave this world, things are in good order and your wishes are followed.

Before and during your retirement, it is wise to keep in touch with a financial professional who can guide and consult you when questions about income, investments, wealth protection, and wealth transfer arise.

Julie Newcomb, a Certified Financial Planner™ in Orange County, CA, specializes in financial planning for women.  As a wife, mom and business owner, Julie understands the pressures and challenges most women feel on a daily basis as they juggle many important priorities. Julie’s favorite thing about her job is the ability to give women peace of mind when they entrust her with their finances. To learn more about Julie Newcomb Financial, go to julienewcomb.com. 

Sources:

1 – marketwatch.com/story/peak-earnings-for-men-come-in-their-early-50s-2015-06-18 [6/18/15]

2 – fastcompany.com/3025564/how-to-be-a-success-at-everything/when-are-your-high-earning-years-how-much-you-should-make- [1/30/14]

3 – crr.bc.edu/briefs/the-average-retirement-age-an-update/ [3/15]

4 – gallup.com/poll/182939/americans-settling-older-retirement-age.aspx [4/29/15]

5 – news.investors.com/investing/073014-711065-people-adjust-to-lower-income-in-retirement.htm [7/30/14]

Are You a Victim of the Retirement Savings Gender Gap?

5 Jan

shutterstock_108591956You may or may not be surprised to hear that there is a gender gap when it comes to retirement savings between men and women.

 In fact

  • The median IRA/workplace retirement savings balance for a 45-year-old woman is $43,446.
  • The median IRA/workplace retirement savings balance for a 45-year-old man is $63,875.

Obviously, you cannot retire on that. The 2015 edition of Financial Finesse’s annual survey, The Gender Gap in Financial Literacy, gauged the additional amount of savings that the median 45-year-old male employee and the median 45-year-old female employee would need to replace 70% of pre-retirement income and pay for estimated medical expenses (long term care not included.) It found a 26% disparity:

  • The median male employee saver needed $212,256 to reach that goal
  • The median female employee needed $268,404.1

A gap in some aspects of financial literacy was also notable.

  • Just 67% of pre-retiree women responded that they had a general knowledge of investment classes compared to 84% of their male peers.
  • While 78% of men surveyed said that they had an emergency fund, merely 67% of women did.
  • Just 34% of women were confident about the way their portfolios were allocated, versus 48% of men.2

Is the solution to simply work longer?

Some women hope to keep working into their seventies, but that may not happen. Earlier in this decade, MetLife studied “leading edge” baby boomers born in 1946 as they turned 66 in 2012. It found that 52% were already retired, and 43% had claimed Social Security earlier than they anticipated.3

How can women plan to address this?

  1. Find out where you stand in terms of savings now. A simple retirement planning calculator (there are many available online) can help you see how much more you need to save, per year and over the course of your career.
  2. Save enough to get the match. If your employer will match a percentage of your retirement plan contributions per paycheck, strive to contribute enough to your plan each paycheck so that the match occurs.
  3. Ask about automatic escalation. Some workplace retirement plans have this option, through which you can boost your retirement contributions by 1% a year. This is a nice “autopilot” way to promote larger retirement nest eggs.
  4. Make tax efficiency one of your goals. Consult a financial professional about this, for there are potential advantages to having your money in taxable, tax-deferred, and tax-exempt accounts. For example, when you contribute to a traditional IRA or a typical employer-sponsored retirement plan, you make tax-deferred contributions. This lowers your taxable income today, although the distributions from those accounts will be taxable in retirement. You defer after-tax dollars into Roth IRAs; those dollars are taxable today, but you will eventually get tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals if you follow IRS rules. Taxable investment accounts may seem less preferable, but they too can potentially help you pursue financial goals.4
  5. Determine an appropriate “glide path.” Many financial professionals caution retirement savers to gradually reduce the risk in their portfolio as they age – to “glide” from a portfolio mainly invested in equities to one less invested in them. (Some retirement plan accounts will actually adjust your investment mix for you as you age.) Glide paths are different for everyone, however. If you really need to accelerate your retirement savings effort, then you may need to accept more risk in your portfolio in exchange for the possibility of greater returns. (Again, this is a good topic for a conversation with a financial professional.)   

In some ways, women are narrowing the retirement saving gender gap. Financial Finesse found that 4.2% more women had adopted an investment strategy in the 2015 survey compared to the 2012 edition, and 2% more had done a basic retirement savings projection.  In passing, it also noted that the percentage of women who said they were on track to meet their retirement savings goal rose 4.2% from 2012 to 2014.2

Julie Newcomb, a Certified Financial Planner™ in Orange County, CA, specializes in financial planning for women.  As a wife, mom and business owner, Julie understands the pressures and challenges most women feel on a daily basis as they juggle many important priorities. Julie’s favorite thing about her job is the ability to give women peace of mind when they entrust her with their finances. To learn more about Julie Newcomb Financial, go to julienewcomb.com. 

Sources:.

1 – 2015_Gender_Gap_report_final_brief_v2.pdf [12/3/15]

2 – forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2015/09/17/the-unexpected-news-about-women-men-and-retirement/ [9/17/15]

3 – metlife.com/mmi/research/oldest-boomers.html#graphic [12/3/15]

4 – nerdwallet.com/blog/advisorvoices/prioritize-key-retirement-savings-steps/ [12/1/15]

 

Are You Prepared for Long Term Care Costs?

30 Oct

Long-term CareAs the average life span increases, so do your odds that you’ll need to utilize long term care in the future. But, how can you plan for it? How do you pay for it?  

 Strategic insurance choices should always play a role when you’re planning for retirement. Having the right insurance to cover unforeseen, and often large, expenses can really take the stress off. However, as medical costs skyrocket the price of long term care insurance is really going up as well. If you are a baby boomer and you have kept your eye on it for a few years, chances are you have noticed much costlier premiums for LTC coverage today compared to several years ago. For example, in 2015 the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance found that married 60-year-olds would pay $2,170 annually to get a total of $328,000 of coverage.1

As CNBC notes, about three-quarters of the insurers that sold LTC policies ten years ago have stopped doing so. Demand for LTC coverage will only grow as more baby boomers retire – and in light of that, insurance providers have introduced new options for those who want to LTC coverage.1

Hybrid LTC products have emerged. Some insurers are structuring “cash rich” whole life insurance policies so you can tap part of the death benefit while living to pay for long term care. You can use up to $330 a day of the death benefit under such policies, with no reduction to the cash value. Other insurance products are being marketed featuring similar potential benefits.2

This option often costs a few hundred dollars more per year – not bad given that level annual premiums on a whole life policy with a half-million or million-dollar payout often come to several thousand dollars. The policyholder becomes eligible for the LTC coverage when he or she is judged to require assistance with two or more of six daily living activities (dressing, bathing, eating, etc.) or is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or some other kind of cognitive deficiency.2

This way, you can get what you want from one insurance policy rather than having to pay for two. Contrast that with a situation in which you buy a discrete LTC policy but die without requiring any long term care, with the premiums on that policy paid for nothing.

The basics of securing LTC coverage applies to these policies. As with a standard LTC policy, the earlier you start paying premiums for one of these hybrid insurance products, the lower the premiums will likely be. You must pass medical underwriting to qualify for coverage. The encouraging news here is that some people who are not healthy enough to qualify for a standalone LTC insurance policy may qualify for a hybrid policy.3

These hybrid LTC products usually require lump sum funding. An initial premium payment of $50,000 is common. Sometimes installment payments can be arranged in smaller lump sums over the course of a few years or a decade. For a high net worth individual or couple, this is no major hurdle, especially since appreciated assets from other life insurance products can be transferred into a hybrid product through a 1035 exchange.1,3

Are these hybrid policies just mediocre compromises? They have detractors as well as fans, and the detractors cite the fact that a stand alone LTC policy generally offers greater LTC coverage per premium dollar paid than a hybrid policy. They also cite their two sets of fees, per their two forms of insurance coverage. While it is possible to deduct the cost of premiums paid on a conventional LTC policy, hybrid policies allow no such opportunity.3

Paying a lump sum premium at the inauguration of the policy has both an upside and a downside. You will not contend with potential premium increases over time, as owners of stock LTC policies often do; on the other hand, the return on the insurance product may be locked into today’s (minimal) interest rates.

Another reality is that many middle-class seniors have little or no need to go out and buy a life insurance policy. Their heirs will not face inheritance taxes, because their estates aren’t large enough to exceed the federal estate tax exemption. Moreover, their children may be adults and financially stable themselves; a large death benefit for these heirs is nice, but the opportunity cost of paying the life insurance premiums may be significant.4

Cash value life insurance can be a crucial element in estate planning for those with large or complex estates, however – and if some of its death benefit can be directed toward long term care for the policyholder, it may prove even more useful than commonly assumed.

Julie Newcomb, a Certified Financial Planner™ in Orange County, CA, specializes in financial planning for women.  As a wife, mom and business owner, Julie understands the pressures and challenges most women feel on a daily basis as they juggle many important priorities. Julie’s favorite thing about her job is the ability to give women peace of mind when they entrust her with their finances. To learn more about Julie Newcomb Financial, go to julienewcomb.com.

Sources:

1 – cnbc.com/2015/08/07/fer-more-products-that-cover-long-term-care-costs.html [8/7/15]

2 – consumerreports.org/cro/news/2015/04/get-long-term-care-from-whole-life-insurance/index.htm [4/16/15]

3 – tinyurl.com/o3ty2j3 [5/4/14]

4 – marketwatch.com/story/hedging-your-bets-on-long-term-care-2013-11-06 [11/6/13]