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.

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.

Investment Insights Podcast – July 18, 2014

Bill MillerBill Miller, Chief Investment Officer

On this week’s podcast (recorded July 16, 2014) the subject matter pertains to the Congressional Budget Office’s release of their long-term outlook. It’s important to note that this forecast is a 75-year time horizon; so focus should be on the near-term debate in Washington:

What we like: Raised the long-term growth rate of the economy; lowered healthcare costs and interest rate costs which is a positive in the near term

What we don’t like: Healthcare and interest rate costs in the long term; interest rates likely to rise eventually; Social Security likely to rise in the near future; defense spending cutbacks

What we are doing about it: As citizens, being thoughtful when exercising the right to vote; keeping an eye on higher interest rates and impact on fixed income

Click the play icon below to launch the audio recording or click here.

Source: CNBC

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.

Demographic Changes Looming (Part One)

10.17.13_BlogRyan Dressel, Investment Analyst, Brinker Capital

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

In 2013, it seems the financial headlines have been dominated lately by policy changes of the Federal Reserve, dysfunction in Washington, China’s threat of a hard economic landing, or Europe’s ongoing sovereign debt crisis.  Lost in these headlines are some major demographic trends that are already under way, or are looming on the horizon over the next decade.  Many of these changes will have a profound impact on investors, governments and societies in the United States and abroad.

Aging Population

The world’s developed countries are aging quite quickly.  As of the most recent 2010 census, the median age in the U.S. is 37.1, compared to 28.2 in 1970.  This is actually fairly low in comparison to some of the world’s other developed nations.

10.17.13_Demographics_Part1

This is not a huge surprise as the baby boomer generation is reaching middle age.  It does, however, have some large implications that need to be watched closely by investors, companies and governments over the next decade.

What implications does this trend have for the U.S. and abroad?  For starters, an aging population will put a large strain on healthcare costs as the number of people who need access Medicare increases.  A study by Health Affairs cites aging population as a main driver of rising health care cost forecasts.  It projects national health care spending to grow at an average annual rate of 5.8% over the 2012 – 2022 period (currently near 4% in 2013).  By 2022 health care spending financed by federal, state, and local governments is projected to account for 49% of total national health expenditures and to reach a total of $2.4 trillion.[1]

Second, smaller subsequent generations (Gen X, Gen Y) will have to increase productivity to maintain the current low, single-digit GDP growth in the United States.  The responsibilities of the baby boomer generation upon retirement will naturally have to be absorbed by younger generations.  A 2013 study released by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) indicates that this trend is already occurring. It cites that there are more job openings created as a result of retirements today than in the 1990s.[2] The U.S. can fuel this productivity by increasing competitiveness in manufacturing, and using competitive advantages such as low energy costs and technological advancements.

Third, an increased focus will be put on fixed income and absolute return investment strategies, especially if the U.S is entering a rising interest-rate environment as many economists believe.  As populations age, their risk tolerance will naturally decrease as people need to plan for their years in retirement.  In 2012, only 7% of households aged 65 or older were willing to take above-average or substantial investment risk, compared to 25% of households in which the household head was between 35-49 years old.  Despite a growing life expectancy, the retirement age is still 65. This has major causes for concern for social security, capital gains tax policies, and corporate pension plans.  Subsequent generations will need to place an increased importance on individual retirement saving should the program terms change, or disappear altogether.

Part two of this blog will look at two additional trends of urbanization and wealth inequality.


[1] Health Affairs.  National Health Expenditure Projections, 2012 – 22: Slow Growth Until Coverage Expands and Economy Improves. September 18, 2013.

[2] Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce.
http://cew.georgetown.edu/failuretolaunch/. September 30, 2013.

Is America’s Retirement System Broken?

SimonBill Simon, Managing Director, Retirement Plan Services

In an article earlier this week, Mr. John Bogle, founder of the Vanguard Group, decreed that America’s current retirement system is broken. As far as a fix, he offers only two suggestions. The first is to increase the current level of taxable income subject to Social Security taxes to $140,000-$150,000. The second is a reduction in the automatic cost of living adjustments that are used to calculate benefits.

While both would generate significant increases and savings to Social Security, they do not address the larger issues with our retirement system. As Bogle notes, the three pillars of retirement are Social Security, Defined Benefit plans and Defined Contribution plans—and they are in bad shape. In order for defined contributions plans to work better, we need to continue to automate as much of the functionality as possible, incentivize larger contributions, and make sure that an appropriate investment option is selected based on the participants age and realistic expectations about goals and markets.

5.15.13_Simon_BogleArticleHere is some food for thought. What if you could earn an additional tax credit by deferring at least 10% of salary or not having a loan against your 401(k)? What if an employer gave one additional vacation day per year if a company-wide goal of participation and contribution was reached? Ultimately, the system can work, but we need to continue to innovate and provide fresh ideas.

Click here to read more on John Bogle’s comments.

How 401(k)s are failing millions of Americans

Recently, some startling facts have surfaced that hint at a looming widespread retirement crisis.

Consider these statistics:

  • According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), there are 50 million 401(k) participants in the U.S.
  • The average 401(k) balance of those is slightly over $60,000
  • The average 401(k) balance of those within 10 years of retirement is $78,000—a third of them actually have less than $25,000 saved.
  • 43% of workers ages 45-54 are not currently saving for retirement at all.
  • In 1980, 60% of private sector workers had access to a lifetime income in the form of a corporate pension. As of 2006, only 10% still have access to a pension.
  • It is estimated that a middle-class lifestyle will require a nest egg of $900,000 at retirement.
  • Social Security only pays $14,780 per year for individuals and $22,000 per year to couples.

To read the entire article on How 401(k)s are failing millions of Americans, click here.

[1] “How 401(k)s are failing millions of Americans. The Week. April 20, 2012. <http://theweek.com/article/index/226886/how-401ks-are-failing-millions-of-americans>