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Retirement Planning Blog

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.

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, many Americans are dissatisfied with their 401(k) because they perceive shortfalls in other areas. Limited investment options, low access to personal financial advice, and lack of money control are just a few investor frustrations.

There’s 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.

on 20 March, 2017

interest rates going up

After years of waffling on a more aggressive interest rate agenda, the Federal Reserve is indicating change may be ahead. Earlier this month, a new employment report showed the U.S. added 235,000 jobs in February. With job growth, wage growth, and other indicators on the rise, the Fed decided to raise the federal funds rate – or the rate for overnight loans – to a target range of 0.75-1.0%. In turn, it will affect interest rates nationwide – from credit card rates and lending rates to mortgage interest rates and more.

This hike comes after a three-month impasse – the last time the Fed increased its benchmark rate was in December 2016. As a New York Times article noted, this is the Fed’s third rate hike since the financial crisis of 2008-2009.

Now, how can this affect retired and near-retired investors - and does it mean future interest rate hikes?

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?

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.

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.

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?

on 09 February, 2017

DOL rule updates blog post

Having been created by the Obama administration, the DOL fiduciary rule would bring wide, sweeping changes to the financial services industry. But as we noted in prior articles, a Trump administration could make this a different story. There was potential for the rule to be delayed past its April 10, 2017 “applicability date,” to undergo changes, or to even be abolished.

Since we first published on the DOL rule and its possible effects, there have been developments. Now the Trump administration has directed the Department of Labor to conduct an analysis of whether the rule could have any harmful effects, especially on retirement investors. That could potentially put the fiduciary regulations at jeopardy, depending on the department’s findings.

Because it is important to know how these news events may affect your future, let’s cover them in detail. Without further ado, here is a timeline of recent news updates, and how they may affect the outlook of the ruling.

on 02 February, 2017

donald trump retirement issues effects

Photo credit: Donald Trump at Marriott Marquis NYC, 2016. By Michael Vadon (2016), Photo Link, Attribution (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/). Photo attribution by PhotosforClass.com.

Just two weeks into his presidential tenure, Donald Trump already is taking swift action. From sweeping executive orders to bold ambitions for tax reform, immigration, job growth, and more, these times are a whirlwind. Many Americans wonder what it might mean for the future. What effects could a Trump administration have on issues relating to their retirement?

During the campaign season, President Trump was a political wildcard. Not all of his policy stances were clear, and at that point, that meant uncertainty and wide-ranging speculation for retirement investors. However, since entering the White House, Trump has clarified some of his policy positions. The question then becomes what all of this means for hard-working American households, whether retired or getting ready for that stage.

If you are retired or preparing to retire within the next four years, this post will go over a few important ways the Trump administration can be impactful. Read on for some quick takeaways that will be helpful for your retirement planning future.

on 26 January, 2017

what might a fiduciary recommendation look like

With its impending rollout in April, the DOL fiduciary rule will treat nearly all financial professionals as “fiduciaries.” As you can imagine, this has brought industry-wide changes in financial services. All types of financial companies, from stock brokerage firms and asset management companies to investment advisory organizations and insurance carriers, have been preparing for compliance. Of course, it also means change for you and other Americans, whether retired or not quite there yet.

If you have worked with a financial professional for investment decisions, you may have heard of a “fiduciary standard.” It is where an advisor holds legal and ethical obligations to provide investment advice in your best interest. In other words, the advisor serves as an impartial, independent guide. He or she is there to help you to make appropriate decisions for your financial future.

Prior to the DOL ruling, financial professionals considered fiduciaries were those paid for advice on an hourly rate or paid a percentage fee based on account holdings. Many Americans are familiar with the concept of a best-interest recommendation from those settings. But with rule’s expansion, recommendations in exchange for other forms of payment, including commissions, will fall under greater scrutiny.

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