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Retirement Planning Blog

in 401(k)
on 13 April, 2017

How can High 401k Fees Affect Your Retirement Success

Note: This is the third part of a month-long series on financial awareness in the U.S., 401(k) plans, and how investors are planning – or not preparing – for retirement. If you have an employer-sponsored retirement plan, here are some strong insights into how high 401(k) plan fees can be detrimental for retirement saving goals.

As prior posts have mentioned, the 401(k) is the retirement savings plan most used by U.S. employers. And millions of Americans use it for their retirement saving goals. It’s no surprise as to why.

For one, the IRS permits pre-tax employee contributions of up to $18,000 (2017 contribution limit). Plan participants aged 50 and up are able to make pre-tax, “catch-up” contributions of an additional $6,000. Many 401(k)s also come with an employer match, providing a powerful savings incentive for U.S. workers.

Yet while the 401(k) is a valuable retirement savings vehicle, it has its downsides. One negative is the presence of high cumulative fees within some 401(k) plans and their in-plan investment menu. Over time, costly high fees can dwindle away earnings, which also siphons off money that would grow with compounding.

So there is also the opportunity cost of the money investors could have earned if those funds remained within their 401(k). It could be a difference of thousands, if not tens of thousands of lost dollars in potential retirement income.

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on 24 February, 2017

How Does Longevity Risk Affect Retirement Planning Intro Image

It’s been said that the 70s are the new 50s. But if a new research study is any indicator, U.S. life expectancy may be set to grow even more. With current American life expectancy sitting at 78.8 years, researchers at Imperial College and the World Health Organization project that longer lifespans could be in store.

According to the researchers’ findings, U.S. life expectancy would lengthen to 83.3 years for women and to 79.5 years for men. The predictions jar against data published in December 2016 in a longevity report from the Center for Disease Control, which found U.S. life expectancy dropped in 2015 – the first time in 20 years.

Now, why does this matter? Longevity risk, or the possibility of running out of money in retirement. As life expectancy rises, the amount of post-work years for which you will need money may increase. According to the Social Security Administration, 25% of 65-year-old Americans today will live past age 90, and 10% of 65-year-old Americans will exceed 95 years of age. So, it’s important than ever to plan for old age in your financial future.

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on 07 April, 2017

Financial Illiteracy and the Great 401k Experiment

Note: This is the second part of a month-long series on financial awareness in the U.S., 401(k) plans, and how investors are planning – or not preparing – for retirement. If you have an employer-sponsored retirement plan, read on for insights on how a lack of financial education can tie into people’s experiences with their 401(k) plans.

Financial Literacy: A Must for Retirement Success

Financial wellness is the ground-spring for a happy and financially secure retirement. As common sense may indicate, this begins with well-informed retirement planning decisions. But many Americans fall short in their knowledge of even the basics, as numerous consumer surveys document, year after year. And in turn, this knowledge gap can lead into broken retirement dreams: crushing debt, depletion of savings, scaled-back lifestyles, and other headaches that undermine Americans’ post-work standard of living.

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on 16 February, 2017

Diversification asset allocation blog post img 1

Chances are you know the concept of asset allocation. As Forbes contributor Mitch Tuchman puts it, asset allocation is the “collection of investments you own,” depending on your risk tolerance and your desire for potential investment returns.

In the investing world, it is a strategy of apportioning assets to achieve a strategic balance of potential risks and returns that is right for an individual investor.

What Does That Have to Do with Retirement Planning?

That’s all good and fun, you may say. But what does that have to do with retirement planning?

Well, from a planning standpoint, plenty. It is the same question of deciding how to allocate a retirement portfolio.

But in this case, decisions revolve around striking a balance between managing potential risks and achieving desired retirement outcomes, like income certainty, wealth protection, or other goals. In financial lexicon, this strategy is known as “diversification.”

When it comes to retirement planning, diversification is arguably an essential part of a successful retirement strategy. But why?

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in 401(k)
on 30 March, 2017

Will Your 401k Help You Meet Your Retirement Goals

When it comes to retirement saving plans, Americans can have a variety of options. For millions, employer-sponsored plans are a primary savings vehicle – especially 401(k) plans.

It’s no surprise as to why. A 401(k) plan offers a number of benefits, including tax-deferred accumulation, a high contribution limit for pre-tax savings, and in many cases an employer match.

As retirement nears for many Americans, it brings up an important question: How will their 401(k) plan prepare them to enjoy a comfortable, meaningful post-work lifestyle?

Even with these benefits, some Americans are dissatisfied with their 401(k) because they perceive shortfalls in other areas. Personal perceptions of there being limited investment options, "low" access to personal financial guidance with some plans, and a lack of money control are just a few investor frustrations.

There is also the issue of subpar financial knowledge. Surveys indicate many people don’t understand 401(k)s, even though these plans dominate the workplace savings landscape.

According to the Investment Company Institute, as of December 31, 2016 Americans held $7 trillion in all employer-based defined-contribution plans. Of this, $4 trillion was in 401(k) plans – or 57.1% of total defined-contribution plan assets.

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in 401(k)
on 11 January, 2017

what are my 401k rollover options intro img

Retirement planning involves many decisions. For many retirement savers, an important question is what to do with their 401(k) retirement account. As they near retirement, investors must decide whether to leave the money within their account or choose another option, such as an IRA rollover.

The good news is Americans typically have six options for moving 401(k) assets around or leaving them alone. But not all of these possibilities may be appropriate, depending on the merits and downsides of a particular rollover option for your personal situation.

It’s also not unusual for an investor to have the lion’s share, or even a large bulk, of their retirement assets in a 401(k) plan account. So, whatever they do with these retirement assets, it’s a decision that will have tremendous implications for the future.

If you are mulling over 401(k) rollover options, be sure whoever you work with understands all the ins-and-outs of different rollover outcomes. Your financial professional should clearly explain the positives, negatives, and details of each rollover option to you. They should go over how it may help or hurt your personal situation.

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on 10 March, 2017

Can You Afford to Gamble with Your Retirement Money

The stock market has been surging to new highs. For the first time ever, the Dow Jones exceeded 20,000 in January. Then on the heels of President Trump’s first address to Congress, it charged ahead yet again. The Dow posted a 300-point jump, closing at over 21,000 on Wednesday, March 1. These gains come at a time when market volatility has also been on the decline. In early February the CBOE Volatility Index – more commonly known as the “investor fear index” – showed investor concerns on the decline.

However, even as the market goes up many people still worry about their investments. What will the market do next? Do they own too many stocks? When the market goes down, will it be just be a spill, a correction, or a crash? For that matter, do they have too much money in other risky, market-based investments?

For people close to retirement, this brings up an important question. Should you stay with your current portfolio allocation mix, or is it time to move into a safer strategy?

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on 23 November, 2016

5 ways to boost your financial wellness during the holiday season

The holidays offer a great opportunity for us to reconnect with loved ones, relatives, and friends. From Thanksgiving dinners and seasonal gift shopping to holiday get-togethers and family gatherings, these times are truly special. But apart from the joy, merriment, good cheer, and great company, many Americans find this period financially stressful.

Discretionary spending, in the form of gift buying and other holiday shopping, ups the pressure on household budgets. And for a large proportion of retired and working Americans, the coming year-end may increase the brunt of existing financial pressures and obligations. Having sufficient income and healthy cash-flow is a concern for all households, especially people in their retirement years. The holidays are an ideal time-frame for financial review, but it can be intimidating to get our house in order, as personal finances are tedious, detailed, and, for many, overwhelming.

However, a secure financial life is well within reach, and it involves taking the right steps. If you are retired or approaching your golden years, read on for four quick tips to boost your financial wellness this holiday season.

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on 02 March, 2017

planning for longevity in retirement

Good news: People are living longer. But it does come with downsides. For one, increasing lifespans bring greater financial risk, like outliving your retirement money or forking over income for costly health expenditures. Then there is the evolving question of what a longer retirement looks like.

Just some decades ago, many Americans shared a common vision. You worked for the same company for years, often in exchange for a defined-benefit pension. Then you left your job and shifted into a post-work lifestyle, drawing on your pension and living comfortably.

However, times have changed. As evolving trends and statistical projections indicate, retirement could last as long as 20-30 years, or perhaps even 40 years! Now it’s hard to define what retirement should be. That brings yet another challenge: How can we prepare financially for an extended post-work lifespan?

If you wonder about what you can do, here are some quick tips you can put into action. Before we go into those, let’s address an important topic affecting the near future: the pace at which longevity has changed over time.

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in Annuity
on 16 November, 2016

using annuities for income or growth blog image

After years of hard work, all of us want a comfortable retirement. But it may be unclear as to what we need to achieve this. What steps are necessary for a worry-free financial life – the ability to spend with confidence?

Part of it means a transition in thinking. In real-world terms, it encompasses a shift in focus from asset values to monthly income. We want to be sure we have sufficient cash-flow for funding a retirement lifestyle. On the other hand, we should also be attentive to the matter of preserving wealth. With all those savings accumulated over many years, our money will now need to last for the rest of our lifetime.

However, this doesn’t mean that savings growth has to be put on the back-burner. For Americans looking for “safe money financial” vehicles, annuities may be attractive. In particular, fixed-type annuities can offer guaranteed lifelong income, tax-deferred accumulation, and growth via guaranteed interest rates or rising index values.

If you are investigating fixed annuities or fixed index annuities for personal growth or income goals, here’s a quick look at a few variables to consider.

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