THE RETIREMENT REALITY CHECK

Little things to keep in mind for life after work.

Decades ago, there was a popular book entitled What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School. Perhaps someday, another book will appear to discuss certain aspects of the retirement experience that go unrecognized – the “fine print”, if you will. Here are some little things that can be frequently overlooked.

How will you save in retirement? More and more baby boomers are retiring with the hope that they can become centenarians. That may prove true thanks to healthcare advances and generally healthier lifestyles.

We all save for retirement; with our increasing longevity, we will also need to save in retirement for the (presumed) decades ahead. That means more than budgeting; it means investing with growth and tax efficiency in mind year after year.

Could your cash flow be more important than your savings? While the #1 retirement fear is someday running out of money, your income stream may actually prove more important than your retirement nest egg. How great will the income stream be from your accumulated wealth?

There’s a longstanding belief that retirees should withdraw about 4% of their savings annually. This “4% rule” became popular back in the 1990s, thanks to an influential article written by a financial advisor named Bill Bengen in the Journal of Financial Planning. While the “4% rule” has its followers, the respected economist William Sharpe (one of the minds behind Modern Portfolio Theory) dismissed it as simplistic and an open door to retirement income shortfalls in a widely cited 2009 essay in the Journal of Investment Management. 1

Volatility is pronounced in today’s financial markets, and the relative calm we knew prior to the last recession may take years to return. Because of this volatility, it is hard to imagine sticking to a hard-and- fast withdrawal rate in retirement – your annual withdrawal percentage may need to vary due to life and market factors.

What will you begin doing in retirement? In the classic retirement dream, every day feels like a Saturday. Your reward for decades of work is 24/7 freedom. But might all that freedom leave you bored?

Impossible, you say? It happens. Some people retire with only a vague idea of “what’s next”. After a few months or years, they find themselves in the doldrums. Shouldn’t they be doing something with all that time on their hands?

A goal-oriented retirement has its virtues. Purpose leads to objectives, objectives lead to plans, and plans can impart some structure and order to your days and weeks – and that can help cure retirement listlessness.

Will your spouse want to live the way that you live? Many couples retire with shared goals, but they find that their ambitions and day-to-day routines differ. Over time, this dissonance can be aggravating. A conversation or two may help you iron out potential conflicts. While your spouse’s “picture” of retirement will not simply be a mental photocopy of your own, the variance in retirement visions may surprise you.

When should you (and your spouse) claim Social Security benefits? “As soon as possible” may not be the wisest answer. An analysis is needed. Talk with the financial professional you trust and run the numbers. If you can wait and apply for Social Security strategically, you might realize as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars more in benefits over your lifetimes.

1 – http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2011/0523/investing-retirement-bill-bengen-savings-spending-solution.html

Why Women Are Prepared for Financial Success?

We have the ability to excel financially; it is a matter of shifting our outlook.

Statistics don’t mean everything. Read enough about women and money online, and you will run across numbers indicating that women finish a distant second to men in saving and investing. Only 42% of women save a specific amount money each month for retirement, the State Farm Center for Women and Financial Services at the American College finds. Aon Hewitt says that the average 401(k) balance for a man at the end of 2012 was about $100,000, while it was only about $59,300 for a woman. And so forth. 1,2

Depressing? Well, consider that you can be the exception. (Maybe you are right now.) You may already have the discipline and patience central to smart investing and saving.

Is making a household work all that different from making your money work for you? You may or may not have to broaden your skill set a bit to save and invest well for retirement; chances are, though, you already have some abilities you can draw on effectively.

The latest edition of Prudential’s “Financial Experience & Behaviors Among Women” study (2010-2011) shows that 54% of women either feel “very knowledgeable” or “somewhat knowledgeable” about financial products. The previous edition of the study noted that 95% of women are financial decision makers within their households, with 84% of the married women surveyed solely or jointly in charge of household finances. 3

Given that level of participation and control over household finances, is it such a stretch to believe many women could become equally financially literate in their understanding of stocks, bonds, commodities, and insurance? It isn’t a stretch, especially when you think about how much good financial knowledge is out there, some of it free of charge.

Most household financial decisions are short-term decisions. They are geared toward this month or this year, and often relate to cash flow management or debt management. The simplest step toward financial freedom for many women – perhaps the most valuable step – may be moving from a short-term financial outlook to a long-term financial outlook.

Think about becoming the “millionaire next door.” In many cases in this country, wealth is grown slowly and steadily. We all dream of a windfall, but usually individuals amass $1 million or more through a variety of factors: ongoing investment according to a consistent financial strategy, the compounding of assets/savings over time, business or professional success, and perhaps even inherited wealth.

When the focus moves from “how do we make it work this month” to “how do we make moves in pursuit of our financial goals”, the whole outlook on the meaning and purpose of money begins to change. What should money do for you? What purpose should it have in your life? What can you do to make it work harder for you, so that you might not have to work as hard in the future?

Women have the wisdom, prudence and patience to make superb investors. Understanding the financial world is ultimately a matter of learning its “language” and precepts, which will quickly seem less arcane with education. Today, do yourself a money favor and ask to talk with a female financial professional who can help you define long-term and lifetime financial goals and direct some of your money in pursuit of them.

1 – http://www.cnbc.com/id/100732440

2 – http://blogs.marketwatch.com/encore/2013/08/14/401k-gender- gap-is- bigger-than- pay-gap/

3 – http://prudential.com/media/managed/Womens_Study_Final.pdf

Do you have money questions

Delayed Gratification Today, For A Better Retirement Tomorrow

A little “delayed gratification” may help you retire more comfortably.

Baby boomers are known for wanting more out of life – and for living life on their own terms. They also get a bad rap as a generation weaned on instant gratification – wanting it all now, wanting to have it both ways.
It is neither wise nor truthful to paint a generation with a broad brush. What we do know in 2016 is that more Americans than ever are poised to retire. In fact, 10,000 Americans will turn 65 each day during the, last 6 years and for the next 12 years.1 Will their retirements match their expectations?
Are boomers in for a collective shock? Many boomers are used to affluence and expect creature comforts in retirement. Yet many may not understand how much money retirement will require. A 2010 study from the non-profit Employee Benefit Research Institute estimates that about half of “early” boomers (those aged 56-62) will face a retirement shortfall – someday, they will have inadequate income to pay medical costs and core retirement expenses. EBRI also estimates that 43.7% of “late” boomers (those aged 46-55) are likely to exhaust their retirement savings as well.2

Investing aside, what about the way we spend? EBRI research director Jack VanDerhei told TheStreet.com that beyond federal policy decisions, “[what is] even more important is to identify which of those households still have time to modify their behavior to achieve retirement security, and how they need to proceed.” 2

What is a need and what is a luxury? Now here is where it gets interesting. In a new survey of more than 1,000 boomers conducted by MainStay Investments, more than half the respondents identified “pet care” and “an internet connection” and “shopping for birthdays and special occasions” as basic needs. Almost half checked off “weekend getaways” and “professional hair cutting/coloring” as basic needs. Perhaps the definition of a “basic need” is expanding. Or perhaps we have gotten so used to these perks that we can’t imagine living without them (and not spending money on them).3
Boomers are necessarily growing more pragmatic. The MainStay survey results hint at a shift in their financial outlook. The survey found that 76% of boomers were willing to work longer and save more in pursuit of more retirement comfort.3
Additionally, 40% of those surveyed said they will have to delay retirement in order to afford their desired lifestyle – and 47% said they would be willing to live in a smaller house to have more of the above luxuries/needs. A whopping 84% of respondents indicated they would be willing to allocate a portion of their assets so that they might have consistent lifelong income. However, just 52% of them were in contact with a financial consultant.3
We can learn from our elders. Look at the sacrifices made by the “greatest generation”. World War II demanded so much from Americans, not only in the theatres of combat but at home. For several years, new cars weren’t manufactured, travel was discouraged, and food, clothing and gasoline were rationed. The entire economy was rearranged, and more than 40 million Americans had to start paying federal income tax.4
This generation certainly understood delayed gratification. Yet with all that economic and political upheaval, its members collectively enjoyed the most comfortable retirement in American history (and perhaps the history of the world).
Will we pay for today’s lifestyle tomorrow? Financially, that is a risk we face. Many of us have not saved enough for retirement, and the financial markets have been especially volatile of late. So it only figures that spending less and saving more today could help us out tomorrow. Who knows – if some extra effort is put in now, we may end up with enough money to “live it up” later.
Citations
1 – http://www.sacbee.com/2010/08/29/2990176/baby-boomers-signal-shift-in-what.html
2 – http://www.thestreet.com/story/10806795/even-wealthy-face-retirement-shortfall.html
3 – http://www.reeerisa.com/news/fe_daily.aspx?StoryId={66D70228-CEFE-4782-9058-F2F2DAB68DD1}
4 – http://www.nationalww2museum.org/education/for-students/america-goes-to-war.html

Retired couple gardening

Why Women are Less Decisive

Women worry more about their financial health but lag in decision-making and self-confidence:

This difference in self-confidence has an enormous impact on the financial planning industry. A LPL Financial “Women Invest White Paper” survey shows that 67% women want an equal role in financial decision making and only approximately 20% want their husbands to make all the decisions. Yet, data shows less than two-thirds of women actually attain an equal role in financial decision-making (note: financial decision-making here refers to “big ticket item decisions,” not grocery shopping level daily or weekly decisions).

An ideal advisor will listen to both women and men – regardless of the gender of the financial decision-maker – and will avoid being patronizing toward both women and men if they lack financial understanding. Women prefer to work with female advisors, when possible. Although women comprise more than half the financial planning/investment clients in this country, fewer than one-quarter of Certified Financial Planners® (or other credentialed advisors) are female.

Kaplan, Women and Money: Why They Avoid Risk and Lack Confidence when Making

Don’t feel patronized or left out of your financial future. Whether you’re single, married, divorced, or widowed, let’s talk about how I encourage women to take on a greater role in the decision making process. Contact me today.

Money Issues Across Your Life Cycle

Some women are co-breadwinners while others are the only source of income. Throughout a woman’s life, she will experience many money issues unique to women. A woman may experience the following situations: lower earnings, lack of retirement planning, divorce, and fewer years in the workplace because of child-rearing or caring for older parents. Many of these issues can work against a woman’s ability to accumulate money and attain stable financial status.

Lower Lifetime Earnings

As a population, women generally earn a lower income than their male counterparts. The Equal Pay Act that passed in the 1960s was supposed to narrow the earning gap between men and women, yet a gender pay gap still exists today. Women who work full-time year-round still are paid 77% of a man’s pay ($37,000 for a woman compared to $48,000 for a man in 2009) (U.S. Census Bureau 2012). Inequities start early and worsen over time. Research has shown a 5% difference one year after college graduation and a 12% difference after 10 years. The only identified explanation for the unexplained gaps was gender discrimination (Arnst 2007; Boushey, Aarons, and Smith 2010).

Breaks in Career

Women are more likely to have gaps in their work years because of child-rearing (Duke 2010). Some women may leave their jobs for extended periods of time to go on maternity leave. Other women make the choice to stay home for an extended time, reentering the job market years later. During child-rearing years, some women may leave careers behind and choose to work part-time or find a job with hours that match closely with children’s school schedules. As a result, upon retirement age, women’s income and Social Security benefits are often lower than those of their male counterparts.
Women need to pay attention to any employer retirement plan or matched contributions that may have been a job benefit. Find out about retirement or savings before you leave the job. If money is invested in a retirement plan, can it stay until you are ready to retire? What are the options?

Divorce

The divorce rate in the United States is estimated at 36%–50% (U.S. Census Bureau 2010). In general, divorce creates a financial disaster for families and may leave a woman to raise children using less money. Spending may likely need to change when a divorce occurs. It is important to review monthly expenditures and establish a budget. Since cash flow may drastically change and not be the same from week to week, continue to review income and expenses. Depending on the number of years a woman was married, she may be entitled to part of her husband’s retirement income. Be sure all financial issues are revealed and resolved during divorce proceedings.

Care of Elderly Parents

Another family obligation that may interfere with building wealth is caring for an elderly or ailing parent or other family member. Women tend to be the major caregivers for sick or older parents. Some women may take a career break or retire early to attend to the full-time care of a family member. Even if a woman continues to work, caring for the family member may become a financial burden.

Widowhood

As women age, the likelihood of living alone increases. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2010), among those 65 and older, 44% of women were married, compared to 75% of men. Widowed women account for approximately 40% of women 65 and older, but only 13% of men 65 and older are widowed (U.S. Census Bureau 2010). The average age of widowhood is 55 years old (U.S. Census Bureau 2010). A spouse’s death is not only emotionally exhausting, but also will likely end with financial consequences.

Lack of Retirement Planning

As a whole, women tend to focus less on planning for their retirement over the course of their career, having saved less for retirement than men. Because women are often the caregivers for the family, taking steps to ensure their financial future may take a backseat when other events occur.
Women are reluctant to taking risk. When women do put money into a retirement fund, it is often a conservative investment that earns lower interest rates than their male counterparts. Try to research investments and identify your best options.

What You Can Do to Prepare Yourself

Women can improve their financial status and retirement income. Financial planning and learning about investing are the first steps on the road to financial independence. Time is on your side when you start early. Small amounts of money saved and invested over time add up to a secure financial life.

(U.S. Census Bureau 2010)

Women, Money and Emotions

Women can be notorious for making financial decisions based on emotions. It can be as simple as splurging on a new dress or purse that may not be a fiscally sound decision but “you just had to have it!” Or more serious events like leaving substantial money on the table when experiencing a divorce or financial separation. These decisions are often motivated by guilt or to avoid further conflict, and often create a serious and long-term impact on a woman’s financial future.

While not all emotional decisions have a negative impact recognizing your tendency to make financial decisions based on emotions, it can help you navigate more serious issues with greater care.
What was the last emotional decision you made with money? What impact did it have on your financial situation?

You Too Can Be a Courageous Woman

Being wealthy and financially engaged takes courage. For many women, their fear of facing their financial affairs only comes to light after experiencing a personal life crisis, divorce, and loss of a spouse or involuntary retirement. At that point your actions are more about survival. It takes courage to weed through the emotional aspects of challenging life events but your lack of financial knowledge only exacerbates an already stressful situation.
True courage is when a woman proactively decides to take charge of her financial affairs especially when life is Good. Courage is when a woman voluntarily becomes more engaged in the process of managing her money asking questions even if it makes her feel stupid. Courage is when a woman becomes aware of what she spends and what she needs before a crisis occurs to prompt her into action.