Avoid the pain of regret: a disciplined approach to retirement savings

Marino_R 150 x 150Roddy Marino, CIMAExecutive Vice President
National Accounts & Distribution

With 39 percent of Americans feeling ill-prepared for retirement, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s 2017 Retirement Confidence Survey, we are often challenged to come up with a solution to make saving easier.[1] Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions, and in the absence of unplanned windfalls, there are no shortcuts. There are, however, strategies that will help you overcome behavioral impediments by infusing discipline into your retirement savings plan. Here are six strategies to consider:

  1. Automate the process. The best way to make retirement savings a priority is to put it on autopilot, so each time you get paid you save for the future without giving it much conscious thought. If you have an employer-sponsored retirement plan, arrange for a percentage of your pay before taxes to go directly into your retirement account. Also, commit to increasing the percentage you allocate to your retirement account every time you get a raise. The impact of automated savings plans to net pay is often far less than anticipated, and after time it goes somewhat unnoticed. The impact on your nest egg, however, could be quite significant.
  2. Make it binding. Make your future self a promise to refrain from withdrawing any money from your account before retirement. The best way to protect your retirement account is to establish a separate emergency reserve fund. It is typically recommend setting aside six months’ worth of income to cover unexpected expenses like uncovered medical costs, home repairs, or other unplanned surprises. With an emergency fund, you have a resource to fund whatever immediate needs arise without tapping your retirement account or delaying your savings goals.
  3. Pay your future self what you paid your creditors. After you’ve cleared an outstanding debt, consider “continuing” those payments by making deposits into your retirement account. For example, if you pay off a car loan that previously cost you $500 a month, allocate that same amount to your retirement account.
  4. Establish a home for “found” money.  It’s not uncommon for someone to view inheritances, tax refunds, and company bonuses as “found money,” and splurge on items they would not otherwise buy. If you receive a windfall or even a little extra, consider allocating the amount into three portions: one for long-term savings goals, one for short-term savings goals, and one to reward yourself.
  5. Use reward points. Several credit card companies offer specialized cash back programs which convert rewards points into cash deposits into 529 college savings plans, brokerage accounts, or other retirement accounts (e.g., IRAs).
  6. Get an accountability partner. To increase the likelihood of meeting your retirement savings goals, ask someone to hold your feet to the fire. Your accountability partner should be objective, and unlike a spouse, have no vested interest in daily household financial decisions. Your accountability partner should track your progress, offer encouragement, and continually remind you of your long-term goal. If you are already working with a financial advisor, ask him or her to take an active role in keeping you motivated and engaged in meeting your retirement goals.

As the late Jim Rohn once said, “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or experience the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” Failing to save enough for retirement comes in as the top financial regret of older Americans.[2] So, if saving for retirement poses a challenge to you today, give some thought to the challenges your future self will face if you don’t take these steps.

For more than 10 years, Brinker Capital Retirement Plan Services has worked with advisors to offer plan sponsors the solutions to help participants reach their retirement goals. When plan sponsors appoint Brinker Capital as the ERISA 3(38) investment manager, this allows them to transfer fiduciary responsibility for the selection and management of their investments so they can focus on the best interests of their employees.  This fiduciary responsibility is something that Brinker Capital has acknowledged, in writing, since our founding in 1987.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

[1] Retirement Confidence Survey 2017, Employee Benefit Research Institute

[2] Bankrate Financial Security Index Survey, May 17, 2016

Why every retirement plan needs a managed account

Marino_R 150 x 150Roddy Marino, CIMA, Executive Vice President
National Accounts & Distribution

Meeting the unique and specialized needs of retirement plan participants requires looking beyond a “one-size fits all” solution.

Managed accounts offer personalized, tailored asset allocation for individual participants and fiduciary oversight. Using investment goals as a guide, financial advisors can help determine the appropriate asset allocation based on risk tolerance and investment time horizon. This approach provides a more holistic view for participants instead of focusing on the age of retirement as target-date funds do. Additionally, unlike target date funds, managed accounts allow for asset allocation depending on the market environment.

Managed Accounts 2

Don’t let bad behavior get in the way

Investing can be an emotional rollercoaster and many investors find themselves reacting to the market highs and lows. For this reason, its beneficial to be invested in a managed account that has a team of investment professionals monitoring the market and making asset allocation adjustments as necessary.

Choose a comprehensive retirement partner

Because no two investors are alike, it’s important to work with a firm that offers retirement options that are personalized to individual participant goals rather than focusing on one component, the age of retirement.

Helping participants today

The retirement landscape is rapidly evolving and its important to evaluate the available options to find a partner that will offer the most appropriate solutions for participant’s needs. Offering a sophisticated managed account solution that addresses needs, risk tolerance, and investment time horizon can help participants reach their retirement goals.

For more than 10 years, Brinker Capital Retirement Plan Services has worked with advisors to offer plan sponsors the solutions to help participants reach their retirement goals. When plan sponsors appoint Brinker Capital as the ERISA 3(38) investment manager, this allows them to transfer fiduciary responsibility for the selection and management of their investments so they can focus on the best interests of their employees.  This fiduciary responsibility is something that Brinker Capital has acknowledged, in writing, since our founding in 1987.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Plan Today, Retire Tomorrow

Roddy MarinoRoddy Marino, CIMA, Executive Vice President
National Accounts & Distribution

One essential consideration, whether you’re retiring next month or 50 years from now,  is that you ensure that your savings are aligned with your investment goals. With 33% of U.S. employees not adequately saving to fund their retirement1, this is a good opportunity to look at your own plan today and address any gaps.

While we know that there are behavioral impediments that we must overcome as we prepare for retirement, there are also some certainties that we need to account for:

  1. You’ll need cash.
  2. The amount you spend impacts how long your savings will last.
  3. Money that is not set aside for spending should be invested wisely.
  4. You’ll fare better when you know where you stand. Don’t just wait for your quarterly report to see how you’re doing—have regular check-ins with your financial advisor.
  5. Markets are volatile and can at times be a bumpy ride; but it important to stay the course.

A financial professional can help to guide you through the ups and downs of the market and work with you to create a retirement plan that meets your needs.  While longevity, medical expenses and taxes are among some of the elephants in the room that may be keeping you from planning for retirement, those who begin early develop formal plans and have little to fear.  Retirement resources are growing as quickly as our lifespans—oftentimes you simply just have to ask!

For 10 years, Brinker Capital Retirement Plan Services has been working with advisors to offer plan sponsors the solutions to help participants reach their retirement goals.  The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Source:

1Retirement Confidence Survey 2015, Employee Benefit Research Institute

It’s National Retirement Security Week!

Roddy MarinoRoddy Marino, CIMA, Executive Vice President
National Accounts & Distribution

It’s National Retirement Security Week!

Doesn’t sounds familiar?  You’re not the only one.

This week kicks off the sixth year celebration of National Retirement Security Week (formally National Save for Retirement Week), sponsored by the National Association of Government Defined Contribution Administrators (NAGDCA).  While this is not a Hallmark-holiday, this important week marks a national effort to raise public awareness of the importance of saving for retirement.  The goals of this week are to:

  1. encourage employees to save and participate in their employee-sponsored retirement plans
  2. educate employees about how saving for retirement is crucial to security during retirement years
  3. increase awareness of the various retirement saving options

With the American life expectancy currently at 78.8 years1 and children born today expecting that nearly one-third of their contemporaries may live to see 100 years of age2, we are living lives with greater comfort and more free time than any other point in history. It is truly an incredible time to be alive, but even the best advances can have unintended complications. Such is the case with ever-increasing longevity and the reality of preparing for a retirement of unprecedented length. Successful retirement planning requires a great deal of forethought, tolerance for uncertainty and consistently delayed gratification. This can be challenging for some facing retirement because individuals must invest in risk assets if they are to retire comfortably and most individuals are emotionally and psychologically ill equipped to invest in risk assets.

So, why must you invest if you are to retire? As of today, the median wage in the U.S. is $26,695 and the median household income is $50,500. Let us suppose for illustrative purposes, however, that you are four times as clever as average and have managed to secure a comfortable annual salary of $100,000. Let us further suppose you set aside 10% of your gross income each year until the first day of your retirement. Assuming you begin saving at age 25 and retire at age 65, your efforts will have yielded a nest egg totaling $400,000.

While $400,000 may seem like a decent sum of money, it hardly provides much for someone who could easily live another 30 years in retirement. At $13,333 per year, you would be living near the poverty line by today’s math, to say nothing of how dramatically inflation would have eroded the purchasing power of that figure 40 years on.

If we turn back the clock 40 years from now, we see that roughly $90,000 in 1975 money would get you $400,000 in purchasing power in today’s dollars. A little back of the napkin math tells us that even though $400,000 may seem alright today, we will need more like $1.5 million 40 years from now to maintain that same level of purchasing power.

Remember too that the average American couple currently spends an estimated $245,0004 in retirement on health-related expenses above and beyond their monthly premiums. Factoring in even modest inflation over the next 40 years, the money spent on medical bills alone would far outstrip your savings on the high-earning-always-saving model.

While you could complicate the assumptions above to greater reflect the reality of the average worker (most people don’t make $100,000 right out of college, most people get raises over the course of a career, most people don’t save 10% of their income), the basic math is the same. You simply aren’t going to get to the necessary savings target by age 65 without a little help from risk assets whose returns exceed the insidious and corrosive power of inflation.

As Burton Malkiel said far more succinctly, “It is clear that if we are to cope with even a mild inflation, we must undertake investment strategies that maintain our real purchasing power; otherwise, we are doomed to an ever-decreasing standard of living.”3

While 2/3 of U.S. employees are saving for retirement, according to data from the 2015 Retirement Confidence Survey conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, they are not adequately saving to fund their retirement.  In the coming days, we will examine three behavioral impediments to retirement preparation that many plan participants experience and ways to overcome them. This week serves as a great time to remind employees of the importance of saving for retirement and provide them with a realistic picture of how to get to their goals.

For 10 years, Brinker Capital Retirement Plan Services has been working with advisors to offer plan sponsors the solutions to help participants reach their retirement goals.  The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

 Sources:

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/life-expectancy.htm

2 Live long and prosper, The Economist, June 4, 2016.  http://www.economist.com/news/books-and-arts/21699886-how-plan-long-long-life-live-long-and-prosper

3 A Random Walk Down Wall Street, Burton Malkiel.

4 “Health Care Costs for Couples in Retirement Rise to an Estimated $245,000,”  Fidelity Investments, October 7, 2015.  https://www.fidelity.com/about-fidelity/employer-services/health-care-costs-for-couples-retirement-rise

Eight Signs You Are Ready to Retire

Roddy MarinoRoddy Marino, CIMA, Executive Vice President
National Accounts & Distribution

New England Patriots quarterback is famous, and infamous, for a number of things both on and off the football field. His stance on retirement, however, is a personal favorite. When asked when he will retire, the then 37-year old quarterback said, “When I suck.”

Brady has the benefit of stats, sacks and millions of armchair quarterbacks to tell him when it’s time for him to hang up his cleats, but the decision to retire isn’t as clear for most Americans.

According to a survey conducted by Ameriprise Financial, nearly half of retirees (47%) felt ready to retire, but approached it with mixed emotions. 25% of the people surveyed said they could hardly wait for retirement, but nearly as many (21%) felt uncertain or felt that they were just not ready.[1]

If you are among the group of pre-retirees who feel uncertainty, here are eight signs that will help you decide if the time is right for you to consider retirement:

  1. shutterstock_447538888You are emotionally ready. Choosing when to retire has as much to do with emotions as it does finances. The transition from a full-time job that, for many, shaped their identity, to life with less structure can be scary. According to the Ameriprise study, losing connections with colleagues (37%), getting used to a different routine (32%), and finding purposeful ways to pass the time (22%) pose the greatest challenge for the newly-retired. Despite these challenges, 65%say they fell into their new routine fairly quickly, and half (52%) report to having less time on their hands than they would have thought.
  2. You’ve paid down your debt. Debt represents a key barometer in retirement readiness. If possible, you will want to keep working until your high-interest credit card debt, personal loans or auto loans have been satisfied—or you have a plan to retire such debt.
  3. You have an emergency fund. It’s important to plan in advance for how you will address emergencies, big and small, in retirement. The same survey revealed that 90% of Americans have endured at least one setback that harmed their retirement savings. Setbacks vary from caring for adult children, to college expenses stretching over six years instead of four. Others include loss of a job, assisted living expenses, and disappointing stock performance. As the survey indicates, unexpected life events cost the retirement accounts of the respondents $117,000 on average. An emergency fund can serve to prevent you from having to resort to retirement savings during hard financial times.
  4. You know what it’s going to cost. Some people believe they will enjoy a significant decrease in post-retirement expenses; however, that may not be the case. Instead, many retirees experience trade-off in expenses. For example, instead of daily commute costs, retirees may take longer trips thereby canceling out any savings in transportation expenses. Most retirees’ expenses follow a U-shaped pattern. For the first few years, the expenses mimic pre-retirement expenses, then as the retiree settles in, expenses dip only to rise as health care costs kick in.
  5. You know how you will create income. Much of retirement planning involves asset accumulation, but it is equally important to figure out what assets to tap, and in what order. Your income plan should include a decision on when you will elect to receive Social Security benefits. It should also take into consideration all sources of income including fixed, immediate, and indexed annuity strategies, pensions, and even your house. It should also address the timing as to when and you will withdraw income from all potential sources.
  6. Your children have their financial lives in order. Family dynamics play a significant role in shaping one’s retirement experience, yet are often overlooked during the planning process. Many retirees do not anticipate or underestimate the financial toll associated with providing financial support to their adult children. If you are thinking of retiring and still have a financially dependent child, consider establishing parameters for the arrangement, set expectations, and deepen the child’s understanding and appreciation of what is at stake for you.
  7. You have prioritized your health. When it comes to determining retirement well-being, health is typically more important than wealth. Retirees in better health have the added peace of mind that comes from financial security. They tend to enjoy retirement more, feel fulfilled and are not as prone to negative emotions as their less healthy counterparts.[2] For most, health care costs top the retirement expenses charts so your ability to pay for medical care you will eventually need should be a key consideration. Healthy habits and preventive medical treatment before retirement can help to serve as a cost-containment measurement as well as a lifestyle booster.
  8. shutterstock_128132981Someone you trust can help you make your financial decisions. A trusted advisor is invaluable throughout your retirement journey. He or she can help you manage your retirement portfolio to meet your preservation and growth objectives, help you establish an income strategy matched to your spending needs, and track your spending versus assumptions. If a crisis arises, a trusted financial advisor will already know your financial history and can help make decisions that are in your best interests. Similarly, it is extremely helpful to have a trusted advisor relationship solidified in the event your cognitive abilities decline, and you need help with decisions.

[1] Ameriprise Study: First Wave of Baby Boomers Say Health and Emotional Preparation Are Keys to a Successful Retirement, 2/3/15: http://newsroom.ameriprise.com/news/ameriprise-study-first-wave-baby-boomers-say-health-and-emotional-preparation-are-keys-to-successful-retirement.htm

[2] Health, Wealth and Happiness in Retirement, MassMutual. 3/25/15

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

The Impact of Student Loans on Your Own Retirement

Roddy MarinoRoddy Marino, CIMA, Executive Vice President
National Accounts & Distribution

An education is one of the greatest gifts a parent or grandparent can give to the next generation. The problem for many, however, is that it comes at the cost of their own retirement.

People over the age of 60 represent the fastest-growing segment of individuals taking out loans for education. Over the past decade, student loans taken out by individuals over the age of 60 grew from $6 billion in 2004 to $58 billion in 2014. To put the dollars into perspective, consider another staggering statistic—the numbers of senior citizens with student debt exceed 760,000. Some have co-signed loans or taken Parent PLUS loans to help children or grandchildren get an education. Other seniors carry old debt from when they returned to school to get advanced degrees or in the pursuit of new skills needed for a career change.

A mistake some retirees make is they incorrectly assume that they will never have to repay their student debt. Only two things can make federal college debt go away: satisfaction or death of the borrower.

shutterstock_44454148Federal student loans aren’t forgiven at retirement or any age after. Bankruptcy won’t even discharge a federal student loan, and the consequences to a senior who defaults on a federal loan are severe. The government can garnish Social Security benefits and other wages. Recent reports indicate over 150,000 retirees have at least one Social Security payment reduced to offset federal student loans. This number represents a drastic increase from the 31,000 impacted in the year 2002.

The government can withhold up to 15% of a borrower’s retirement benefits and can also withhold tax refunds in the event the borrower defaults on a college loan.

If repayment is not possible, you may want to explore a few options to minimize the impact on cash flow once you are on a fixed income. You could stretch out the term of the loan as long as possible through extended payments, or enter into an income-driven repayment plan. Typically, borrowers must pay 10-20% of discretionary income in an income-contingent scenario.

Both strategies could reduce your monthly payments; however, ultimately either strategy will result in higher total payments. To put it simply, debt of any kind is best retired before you retire.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.