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Retirement Planning Blog

on 19 April, 2018

 taxes affect retirement

It would be nice to think that, once you retire and no longer are "bringing home the bacon," worrying about paying taxes would be a thing of the past. But that is not the way Uncle Sam works. 

In fact, unanticipated taxes in retirement can disrupt an otherwise well-crafted retirement plan. Perhaps it's not surprising as to why financial professionals call this situation a "tax time bomb." For this reason, it’s important to consider the impact of taxes when preparing your retirement plan, so you can make well-informed choices ahead of time and budget for taxes as part of your retirement expenses.

What you will pay in taxes during retirement is unique to you and to the make-up of your retirement income sources. But one thing that seems to be universal can be this: how big a tax bite that retirees may face.

on 05 April, 2018

7 ways retirement plans go bust

Editor's Note: This is Part 1 of a two-part series on different ways that a retirement plan can go bust. Stay tuned for the second part of our series in the coming days.

Some investors face disadvantages in retirement due to a lack of planning. Lackluster savings, minimal guards against risks, no real strategies for high-cost healthcare or long-term care… These are just a few of myriad ways in how someone may be ill-prepared.  

But there is also the other side to consider. How about when someone does have an effective plan set? Then it's different.

Say that you have created what you feel is a rock-solid retirement plan. When you finally enter this phase of life, chances are you are quite confident about your financial future. Still, planning isn't a sure guarantee of success. Oftentimes, the question of whether someone sticks to their plan is just as important.

What you may not realize is there are several factors that could actually take a retirement plan off course. Those factors may range from being an overly generous parent or grandparent to losing your spouse and needing to adjust your lifestyle to a reduced income.

While it may not be rocket science or a magic formula, knowing these common plan-derailing pitfalls might help you avoid them.

on 18 April, 2018

equity market growth slowdown trend

Many economists and market watchers point to both national and global indicators that seem to suggest the heady days of continued market growth may be behind us. The stock market is in its 3rd-longest stretch without a new high since 2013, according to Bespoke Investment Group, which had a market commentary recently featured on MarketWatch.com.

"The Dow is around 9.2% lower from its late-January peak, while the S&P 500 is more than 8% short of its peak. By comparison, the S&P 500 achieved a max drawdown of more than 14% during a commodity and emerging-market selloff fueled by worries over China, according to Bespoke," MarketWatch reported.

Bespoke says the current slump hasn’t been unusually dramatic or long, but it has "kept equities in check after a very big run up in late 2017."

Several economic barometers have recently fallen short of expected growth projections. U.S. retail sales fell unexpectedly in January and then failed to meet expectations the following month. The U.S. added 103,000 jobs in March, well below expectations of 178,000, according to The Wall Street Journal, which noted that hiring remained strong.

Goldman Sachs’s global "current activity indicator" weakened notably in March. A record 74% of fund managers polled by Bank of America then said that the global economy was now in its "late cycle," according to a recent article in the Financial Times.

"Given that investors are already growing increasingly nervous about escalating trade tension — global equities have tumbled by more than 8 percent from their late-January peak — the bout of disappointing economic data could not have come at a worse time," the Times reported.

on 04 April, 2018

financial literacy us 2018

Editor's Note: This is the first part of a four-part series on financial literacy in the United States. Stay tuned for more helpful articles on how you can reach the retirement you have worked hard to attain.

Now that April is here, it’s National Financial Literacy Month. This is a good time to gauge our knowledge and comfort with money matters. Why? Well, because financial literacy is something that affects all of us.

In its research, the FINRA Foundation has found that financial literacy is “strongly correlated with behavior that is indicative of financial capability.” People with high literacy are more likely to plan for retirement, have an emergency fund, and avoid expensive credit card debt. In turn, those behaviors can lead to quality-of-life outcomes, including more financial wellness, more confidence, and more peace of mind.

But in the same breath, studies show a gap between what Americans say they know and how they actually rank in their financial knowledge base. A recent study brief by the FINRA Foundation drives it home.

In the study, nearly two-thirds of Americans failed a quiz on basic financial concepts.

on 17 April, 2018

 working age investors financial literacy img

Editor's Note: This is the third part of a four-part series on financial literacy in the United States. You can find Part 1 of the series here. Stay tuned for more helpful articles on how you can reach the retirement you have worked hard to attain.

Like other working-age investors, you may have a 401(k) account — or another employer retirement plan. In anticipation of the future, you probably are socking away money for retirement. And if you are lucky, your employer is even contributing to help your nest egg grow even more.

But, with April being National Financial Literacy Month, now is a good time to be honest with ourselves. Many working-age investors don’t fully know what their investments are. Various studies, like the “Wellness in the Workplace” survey by KRC Research, have shown that, in many cases, the majority of working investors don’t understand their retirement plan make-up.  

So, take a moment to ask yourself about whether everything makes sense to you. It’s okay to admit not being fluent in your 401(k) – or even retirement in general – because money matters are hard enough for many of us. And when it comes to retirement issues, you aren’t alone.

A comprehensive barometer of U.S. adults’ readiness to make sound financial decisions is found in the TIAA Institute-GFLEC Personal Finance Index (P-Fin Index) from TIAA Institute and the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center. This report examines financial literacy across eight common activities: earning, spending, saving, investing, borrowing, insuring, understanding risk, and gathering information.

And the findings aren’t great.

on 02 April, 2018

 steps to create a retirement income plan

Remember those television commercials from a decade ago showing people walking around town carrying a giant orange “retirement number” under their arms?

That is what everyone thought a retirement plan should look like. A big number that you divvy up and draw down during your golden years. With that strategy you are taking 100 percent of the risks many retirees may face, from market volatility to longevity risk to healthcare risk.

Modern thinking has taught us that, as the average life expectancy continues to climb (Could age 90 be the new 70?), our real concern should be more than a magic number for retirement savings. It should be creating a retirement income plan that ensures we will have income in retirement that lasts as long as we will.

on 10 April, 2018

7 ways retirement plans go bust pt 2

Editor's Note: This is Part 2 of a two-part series on different ways that a retirement plan can go bust. You can find Part 1 of this two-part series here.

In many ways, retirement is like a puzzle. It’s a matter of fitting different pieces together. You probably know what you want your retirement lifestyle to be. The next step is making that vision real. You put together a financial plan to make things happen.

But just planning for retirement isn’t a guaranteed formula for success. We also have to stick to the plan and, at times, revisit it to see if any adjustments should be made. After all, life throws curveballs and life situations change.

Even so, there are many situations that can throw a retirement plan off balance. Those variables can vary, from suddenly finding oneself as a surviving spouse to having personal health decline or taking on the responsibility of caregiver for parents.

While it isn’t a complete solution, understanding some situations that might put a financial plan on the rocks is a good starting point.

on 28 March, 2018

 gen xers money concerns

Generation Xers, you have probably heard yourselves referred to you as the "Sandwich Generation." For those of you on the upper end of Gen X’s age range (35 to 55) this means that, not only are you likely to be responsible for caring for your long-living parents. You will also likely provide some financial support to your children. For many Gen X parents, that may be helping with college tuition. 

And there you are in the middle, needing to build a retirement nest egg and prepare for your own future needs, like the possibility of long-term care. What's more, you have to account for all the other routine expenses facing retirees.

You may not be feeling like the middle of a sandwich as much as you are feeling like the middle of a famous chocolate sandwich cookie. The two rigid outside edges (financial support for both parents and kids) may seem like they are squishing you—and your financial future—in the middle.

In a recent survey, the Insured Retirement Institute found three key money risks that worry Gen Xers. Below are those money concerns, as well as some ideas to help you preserve your financial strength and maybe even “Double Stuf” your retirement resources in the face of them. But first you need to start the conversation.

on 09 April, 2018

 americans feeling stress money matters

Editor's Note: This is the first part of a four-part series on financial literacy in the United States. You can find Part 1 of the series here. Stay tuned for more helpful articles on how you can reach the retirement you have worked hard to attain.

If financial matters concern you, you aren't alone.

A recent survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Purchasing Power, reveals that 87% of survey participants who are employed full-time (or have a spouse employed full-time) are at least somewhat stressed about their current finances. And 25% of the people feeling the heat over money matters measure their stress level as either "quite a bit" or "a great deal" of stress.

So what’s worrying everyone? Plenty. Household bills are the major cause of financial stress among the 900 participants in the Purchasing Power survey.

The primary stress triggers, ranked in order, are:

  • Household bills (mortgage/rent, utilities and transportation) - 47%
  • Lack of funds to cover unexpected expenses (car and home repairs) - 43%
  • Retirement planning (little/ no retirement savings, no post-employment plan) - 37%
  • Healthcare expenses - 34%
  • High credit balance - 30%
  • Accumulating credit card debt - 29%
  • Lifestyle changes (loss of/decrease in household income, elderly care) - 25%
  • Education (tuition, daycare fees, student loan payments) - 21%

 
In turn, these money stressors and others may have a profound impact on people's quality of life.

on 26 March, 2018

 social security earnings test question

Choosing when to take your Social Security benefits — whether that moment is before, at, or beyond your Full Retirement Age (or Normal Retirement Age) — could be one of the most important decisions you will make for your retirement income plan.

Why is knowing your Full Retirement Age (FRA) so critical? Claiming your Social Security benefits prior to reaching your FRA results in a reduction of your benefit, a reduction that lasts for your entire life. Since Social Security is likely to be the largest “income asset” for many people, understanding what could reduce that payout, and potentially how to avoid that reduction, is paramount.

It's not just that. If you are working and take Social Security benefits before attaining your Full Retirement Age, the Social Security Administration will also reduce your benefits payments should your earnings exceed certain limits. This is called the "Earnings Test" by the SSA and financial professionals. According to Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, 53% of workers plan to work past 65, and 56% plan to work after they retire.

Given that lots of Americans have working plans for their retirement future, how could the Earnings Test affect their benefits payments? For one, it isn't clear to many people exactly what earnings apply toward the Earnings Test -- and therefore what could affect their benefits payouts. 

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