Money Missteps to Avoid in Retirement

frank_randallFrank Randall, AIF®, Regional Director, Retirement Plan Services

 “Good decisions come from experience,

and experience comes from bad decisions.”

By the time you feel ready enough to retire, you have likely had your fair share of blunders along the way. Now seasoned with experience, the realization that mistakes are inevitable, and having the ability to recover can make the difference between success and failure.

Here are some of the most common missteps in retirement:

  • Focusing on the wrong factors. Many people decide to retire when they reach a certain age, job fluctuations or business cycles. While these factors may have influence, your emotional readiness, savings, debt, future budget and income plan to sustain your desired lifestyle must also be considered.
  • Overlooking the importance of your Social Security election. Some experts say the difference between a good Social Security benefit election and a poor one could equate to more than $100,000 in income.[1] The biggest decision retirees face concerning Social Security is when to start collecting. Just because you can start receiving benefits at age 62 doesn’t necessarily mean you should. If you delay your election until age 70, you may receive 32% more in payments so it may make sense to delay receipt of benefits as long as you can meet your expense obligations.
  • Underestimating the cost of retirement. Most people estimate retirement expenses to be around 85% of after-tax working income. In reality, however, many retirees experience lifestyle sticker-shock as the realities of retirement. One common problem retirees have when budgeting for retirement expenses is that they overlook items like inflation, future taxes, health care, home and car maintenance, and the financial dependence of their loved ones (e.g., sandwich generation costs).
  • Retiring with too much debt. A simple rule of thumb is to pay off as much debt as possible during your earning years. Otherwise, debt repayment will cause a strain on your retirement savings.
  • Failing to come up with an income strategy. Saving is only part of the retirement planning process. You also have to think about spending and decide where and in what order to tap investments. When thinking about cash flow needs throughout retirement, one must also consider how retirement funds can continue to generate growth. An effective way to solve retirement income needs is to have a liquid cash reserve account tied to your portfolio.  The reserve is tapped to deliver a “paycheck” to help you meet predictable expenses. The cash withdrawn is replenished by investments in dividend- and income-producing securities.
  • Dialing too far back on investment risk. As many workers near retirement, they become fixated on cash needs, thus dialing back risk and becoming more conservative in their investments. Unfortunately, the returns generated by ultra-conservative investments may not keep pace with inflation and future tax liabilities. Because retirement can last upwards of 20 years, retirees must set both preservation and growth investment objectives.
  • Not validating the assumptions made during the retirement planning process. You make certain assumptions about investment performance, expenses, and retirement age when you initially create your projected retirement plan. At least annually, you should reconcile your projections against reality. Are you spending more and earning less than anticipated? If so, you may have to make changes, either to your plan or your lifestyle.
  • Providing financial support to adult children. Over the last decade, the number of adult children who live with their parents has risen 15% to a historic high of 36%. Providing financial support to anyone, particularly an adult child, is stressful. It could strain retirement savings and ultimately could create long-term financial dependency in your child.
  • Going it alone. While your financial mission in retirement may seem straightforward—don’t outlive your money—the decisions you make along the way can be complicated. An experienced financial advisor can give you piece of mind for many reasons. An advisor can help you manage your retirement portfolio to meet your preservation and growth objectives, help you establish an income strategy that is 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] http://www.cbsnews.com/news/a-great-new-tool-for-deciding-when-to-take-social-security/

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.

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.

Your Personal Iceberg: There is More to Measuring Success Than What Lies on the Surface

Wallens, JordanJordan Wallens, Regional Director, Retirement Plan Services

This is part two of a two-part blog series.

Next time you catch yourself bemoaning a down day in the stock market, calmly ask yourself, “Did I need the money today?” Benchmarking yourself against daily fluctuations is like looking outside and wondering why that tree in your yard doesn’t look any taller today than it did yesterday.

All of this is not to suggest that you shouldn’t seek help – you should. Simply put, having two sets of eyes and experience on the bridge is always better than one. You’ll fare far better at the essential behavioral art of saving yourself from your base instinct to Buy High and Sell Low, by retaining a seasoned financial advisor to walk beside you and talk you down from the ledge of your litany of poorly-timed short-sighted misbegotten past investment decisions.

The key is to once and for all truly personalize your benchmarks, rather than sweat the screeching heads on CNBC, aka Nickelodeon for adults. Better to diligently establish and maintain your own benchmarks, chart your progress, toward your concrete unchanging goals, including past progress, not just fleeting future predictions.

3.22.13 Wallens Personal Benchmarks2Suppose for example you already have a plan in place to save for retirement. What percentage of annual portfolio growth did you assume? 7%? And how much longer do you expect to work? Well how did you do last year? Forgot already? Too bad, especially if say you earned 12%. Why? Because the good news is, that properly harnessed, last year’s out-performance could very well result in meeting your goals a year earlier than planned. Congratulations, you’re money and you didn’t even know it. (Industry should’ve told you so.) My guess is that rather than properly recognizing, accounting for, and adjusting your risk, you’ve probably already moved on to, “So what’s the best stock to own this year?”

Whenever someone touts a fresh baked personal stock pick, I have a pat response for that too. I ask the inquirer what was the top performing stock last year. For the record, in 2012 that would be homebuilder PulteGroup, yet not a single putative stockpicker polled has answered it correctly. This they rarely relish either. So let me get this straight, if you can’t figure out what was the top stock in the past, do you really think you’ve got edge on what’ll outperform the pack in the future? Sorry, ya don’t. But the best news is, it just doesn’t matter.

Get help, it’s never too late. Start early, and you couldn’t screw it up if you tried. Start too late, and there’s nothing Cramer or anyone can do to help. Rehabilitate your investor behavior. Assess via readily available online tools your personal risk tolerance. Establish and zealously maintain your personal benchmark, un-phased by the chattering masses.

Quit obsessing over schizophrenic ever-changing variables that are outside your control, beyond your comprehension, and have nothing to do with your steady consistent lifelong goals. Ignore the reports of others’ flashy investment performance, and instead manage your personal investor behavior, to achieve the glide path, experience, and inalienable progress toward the life of your dreams. You’ll find you arrive at the station on time and intact, and best of all, without ever disembarking from your righteous path at the least opportune moments.

Another wise fellow declared, “Be the change you hope to see in the world.” But in this instance, ’tis far wiser to simply “Stay the same you want to see from the world.”

Your Personal Iceberg: There is More to Measuring Success Than What Lies on the Surface

Wallens, JordanJordan Wallens, Regional Director, Retirement Plan Services

This is part one of a two-part blog series.

As a financial professional, I’m often asked what equity markets will do next. My response never changes: “It will fluctuate”. This truth they do not relish.

A wise man once declared that the beauty of an iceberg lies in the fact that it is 8/9 submerged. Yet when it comes to our investments, we too often make ill-advised decisions driven by passing metrics, subjective outlooks, weather, inputs, and theories that concern only the 1/9 of our personal iceberg showing above the water’s surface. The true tale of the tape for all of us will ultimately be measured not by those investment results, but by our own investor behavior, which accounts for the 8/9 of the iceberg that wise man spoke of. We fret and posture over raindrops when we should in fact, focus on our vessel and navigating the ocean beneath us.

According to a recent nationwide advertising campaign conducted by a prominent global financial services firm, we, as investors, are surrounded on all sides and ever beset by a constantly changing system of confusing and complex variable equations. Whoa, really? Getting anxious? Good, that’s what they intended.

3.12.13_Wallens_PersonalBenchmarksDeep breath and relax. This is but a typical modern example of the financial industrial complex’s fundamental mistruth laid bare by author Michael Lewis, who pointed out that the reason financial types speak in such stilted esoteric jargon, is to constantly remind individual investors that they should never ever consider trying to do this stuff for themselves. They tout “custom strategic solutions” yet sow widespread tactical bewilderment.

And besides, nothing could be further from the truth. Though the eddies of Finance, Economics, and Mathematics may swirl around all of us, the one and only equation that does not change is the “you” part. Your personal benchmark isn’t the S&P500, unless you trade at a 14 P/E and aspire to be one of America’s 500 largest companies. No, your personal benchmarks, like progress toward retirement, college funding, security, vacation home, trip around the world, or whatever you aspire to, are far more static than media barkers would have you believe—which is a good thing (for you, not them).

Worse, this type of indiscrete industry mongering exerts a deleterious effect on individuals’ resolve to do something, anything, to embark upon preparing for retirement, or at least take proper control of their financial future. So what can be done? The good news is things are not nearly as complicated as industry “Chicken Littles” would have you fear. Salvation begins with divorcing the benchmark, and eliminating that pesky habit of gauging your progress by how any given index performs today, this month, this quarter.

Look for Part Two of this blog next week!

Reaction: ‘Plain English’ on 401(k) Fees Often Reads More Like Gibberish

Bill Simon, Brinker Capital

Many businesses and advisors may be glad to have 408(b)(2) and 404(a)(5) behind them, but the reality is that the more difficult work may just be starting. As fiduciaries or advisors to the plan, it is the responsibility of the plan sponsor to review and analyze their plans’ fees and services to assure plan participants that they are reasonable. As a recent Wall Street Journal article points out, not only have a significant percentage of small business owners not even reviewed the disclosure notices, but of those that have, more than half don’t fully understand what they are reading. Confusion creates opportunity. At Brinker Capital we can clearly demonstrate how our 408(b)(2) disclosure is designed to provide clarity and transparency to this critical requirement while providing assistance and support to the advisor and plan sponsor.