Here are 5 financial wellness moves you need to master this year!
(BPT) - If you had to grade your financial literacy, what would it be? Are you an A+ saver, investor and planner, or do you think you could do better? If you grade yourself average at best, you’re not alone.
When asked to grade their own financial literacy, more than half of Americans say they’d earn a “C” or lower, according to new data from Prudential Financial. This isn’t surprising, considering data from Prudential’s Financial Wellness Census shows less than half of Americans are on track to meet their financial goals, including planning for retirement.
“Regardless of where you are on your family’s financial wellness journey, the best way forward is through financial literacy,” says Prudential Advisors President Brad Hearn. “Researching, educating yourself and getting advice from a financial professional can help you make the best decisions based on your life stage, risk tolerance and goals.”
Hearn says each family’s situation and goals are unique, and things like life stage and personal preference will impact how they choose to prepare for their financial future. To get started, here are five financial wellness basics every family should master:
Set up an emergency fund
Life is a series of experiences, and sometimes the unexpected can hit your finances hard. Whether it’s a car breaking down, your AC unit on the fritz or even losing a job, it’s important to be prepared for emergencies. If you don’t already have an emergency fund, start saving a little each month until you reach your goal. A good rule of thumb is to have three months’ worth of expenses saved in an emergency fund. So, if your monthly expenses are $2,500, you should have $7,500 saved.
Create a budget
Saving for college? A new car? How about starting that emergency fund? Whatever your family’s financial goals are, it’s important to have a plan in place that helps you achieve those goals. Budget to manage day-to-day expenses, and include in that budget a commitment to save for bigger milestones. For tips on getting started, do some research. There’s no shortage of advice, whether you decide to go it alone or consider using the help of a professional financial advisor.
Plan for the unimaginable
If you have people who count on you for financial support or caregiving, you should have life insurance. A life insurance policy can help give your family financial peace of mind should the worst happen. There is no rule as to how much life insurance you need, but important things to consider are your annual income, mortgage debt, potential college costs for kids and other future financial obligations.
Save for retirement
According to Prudential data, of Americans who have retirement savings and debt, nearly one-quarter have more in total debt than in retirement savings (23%), while 15% of Americans say that they have no debt, but also have nothing saved for retirement. Planning for retirement is something that should start as soon as possible. If your work offers any type of matching program, make sure to take advantage. If you don’t, you’re essentially leaving free money on the table.
Seek professional advice
Retirement, life insurance and savings can be confusing. Information overload is partly to blame. According to Prudential data, two-thirds of Americans agree that the list of things they need to learn to successfully manage their finances keeps growing, not shrinking. That’s where financial literacy programs and professional financial advice can play a key role. Nearly two-thirds of Americans don’t have a financial advisor. They say they cannot afford one (42%) or don’t believe their financial situation warrants needing an advisor’s help (26%). The reality is that advice is more within reach than ever before — and it’s not just for the wealthy. A financial professional can help at various stages in life and work with you to create a strategy based on your timeline, risk tolerance and goals.
“Financial wellness isn’t always a matter of having more money,” says Hearn. “Instead, it’s a journey that takes a combination of proactive effort, dedication and professional guidance.”
Prudential Advisors is a brand name of The Prudential Insurance Company of America and its subsidiaries. Life insurance is issued by The Prudential Insurance Company of America, Newark, NJ and its affiliates.
The bottom line is that protected retirement income can help provide much-needed peace of mind for many Americans.
(BPT) - How big is your retirement nest egg? Is there a chance you could outlive it? Even if you're socking money into your 401(k) every paycheck like clockwork, that's a question worth pondering.
Americans are living longer, more active, younger lives. They say that 60 is the new 40, and if you look around at who we used to call "senior citizens," you'll see people in their prime. That's the good news.
It also presents a problem. We're all facing a silent, growing crisis. Study after study, including financial research organization LIMRA’s 2016 Secure Retirement Study, shows that many Americans underestimate their retirement expenses. Today, retirement isn't the end of your life, it's a transition point. It's about enjoying the fruits of your labors without the stress of your 9-to-5. Will you have enough money to do that for the rest of your life?
Kent Sluyter, president of Prudential Annuities, says the first step toward achieving that goal is to change your mindset. We're all programmed to think about retirement savings, contributing to that 401(k) and accumulating wealth month after month and year after year. That's important, no doubt, but it's only one part of the retirement puzzle. It's also about generating regular income during retirement, so you're not simply depleting your accumulated retirement savings with nothing coming in to replenish the pot.
One way to get a regular "paycheck" during retirement, Sluyter says, is with annuities. But they're not top of mind for many people, and misinformation and confusion is floating around out there, even in financial advisors' offices.
"The annuities market is at an inflection point," says Sluyter. "Annuities are passed over by many consumers and investors because they are often perceived as expensive and unnecessary."
Annuity sales fell 8 percent in 2017, according to LIMRA data. Observers attribute much of the drop to the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule that governs the way financial professionals sell and market annuities. The rule made it less attractive for many to sell annuities and created a great deal of media coverage that amplified existing negative perceptions of them. Annuities have a reputation of being complex, which only increases the risk of their being misunderstood. However, annuities can serve a critical purpose within a retirement portfolio among a combination of strategies, investments and products.
That’s why several companies, including Prudential, recently established the Alliance for Lifetime Income with the goal of promoting greater understanding of how annuities can protect retirement income and help grow retirement savings.
“Through the Alliance, we’re fostering clarity and simplicity, so consumers have confidence in lifetime income solutions such as annuities," says Sluyter.
What are annuities, exactly, and how do they differ from other retirement savings? Here's a short course in Annuity 101.
An annuity is an insurance product that guarantees income. Just like an insurance policy, you pay into it, often in a lump sum, and it guarantees you monthly, quarterly or yearly payouts for the rest of your life. There are three different types:
Why are more consumers investing in annuities? Sluyter explains:
The bottom line is that protected retirement income can help provide much-needed peace of mind for many Americans.
Annuities are issued by The Prudential Insurance Company of America, Pruco Life Insurance Company (in New York, by Pruco Life Insurance Company of New Jersey), located in Newark, NJ (main office), or by Prudential Annuities Life Assurance Corporation located in Shelton, CT. (main office). Variable annuities are distributed by Prudential Annuities Distributors, Inc., Shelton, CT. All are Prudential Financial companies and each is solely responsible for its own financial condition and contractual obligations.
(BPT) - A recent study by the Center for Retirement Research (CRR) at Boston College suggests an alarming state of awareness about retirement readiness: Of surveyed households, 33 percent realize they are not well prepared, 19 percent are not well prepared but don't know it, and 24 percent are well prepared but don't know it.
For the Americans at risk of not being able to maintain an adequate retirement lifestyle, it's critical to take action. For the households that are well prepared and don't know it, they risk sacrificing a comfortable retirement. Understanding the behaviors associated with good retirement planning, in turn, can help you get a better sense of where you stand. Consider the following behaviors, which are more likely to be modeled by those who are well prepared for retirement.
A high-level approach to ensuring adequate retirement assets is to save a minimum of 10 percent of your gross income each year. You may need to save even more depending on your asset accumulation goals and how many years you have left to save before retirement.
If you would rather have a dollar goal, multiply your annual income goal by 25 to arrive at the amount you should try to save. For example, if after considering Social Security and any pension payment, you want $30,000 more of annual income in retirement, you will need to save $750,000. Lower goals mean you need to withdraw at a faster rate and increase the risk you will deplete your assets too soon.
Not all budgets need to detail specific spending items. Rather, you can consider yourself working within a budget if you know that each year you are saving and not creating new debt (and paying off legacy debt for your education or home). If you want to squeeze out more savings, a line-by-line review of spending may well be fruitful.
Many of us are saddled with personal debt from college and graduate school. This debt has become so burdensome that the customary progression to home ownership has been delayed for many. The debt has also had a domino effect on the ability to save for retirement. Paying down personal debt should be job one. Other personal debt, such as for a car purchase, should be avoided, minimized or paid down as quickly as possible. Credit card debt, which carries high interest rates, should be avoided entirely. Remember, each dollar of debt limits your ability to save for the future.
It used to be commonly accepted that you pay off your mortgage before retirement, but more and more retirees are entering retirement with mortgage debt. The old rule remains the best approach, since any indebtedness in retirement will limit your ability to react and adjust to poor investment return on your assets.
With traditional pension plans less commonly offered by employers, Social Security has become an even more important source of guaranteed lifetime retirement income. By waiting to age 70, you can increase the benefit payment significantly, which is also the base for annual Social Security cost-of-living increases for the rest of your life. That increased Social Security benefit may also increase the benefit that a surviving spouse will receive after you die. Unless you have a health care issue that could reduce your life expectancy and no spouse who might need a spousal benefit based on your earnings record, claiming Social Security early is the greatest retirement planning mistake made.
Health care is the single greatest cost in retirement, and various studies estimate the cost to be $250,000 or more for a healthy 65-year-old couple. The cost of health care will be even greater to the extent one retires before age 65 and Medicare eligibility.
Moreover, health care costs can vary and may come sooner than expected. The best plan, then, is to work until at least age 65 and understand that health care is a unique challenge in retirement. To the extent possible, utilize Health Savings Accounts and bank any unused amounts annually to build up a tax-free health care fund for retirement.
No later than 10 years before your planned retirement, you should be translating your retirement assets into an annual or monthly retirement income stream. Start with your Social Security and any pension plan payments as your income base, and then consider how much income your other assets can safely generate. Depending on this analysis, you may want to consider purchasing an annuity to make more of your retirement income guaranteed and avoid the twin risks of poor investment return and living longer than expected.
Consider also that many of your retirement assets have an embedded tax liability. You will need to look through your retirement assets to determine after-tax income, since your food, rent and cable bills are paid with after-tax money. Only by seeing your after-tax income can you decide if you have enough to live on.
Annual financial wellness check-ups
During your early working years, you are likely to be focused on debt reduction and asset accumulation. As you get closer to retirement, you will need to focus on the strategies associated with Social Security, health care and income generation. At all times you should annually revisit your goals and make adjustments, as needed, to how much and where you are saving, how much you are spending, how aggressively you are investing, and when your target retirement date is.
Modeling such behaviors will make it more likely you will be well prepared for retirement. By doing so you will also make it more likely that you are properly assessing the state of your retirement readiness and not over- or underestimating your financial health.
Face Your Financial Fears
Take action to save for retirement
(Family Features) Retirement is supposed to be a reward for decades of hard work, but if you haven’t planned well, the milestone may be a dark cloud on your horizon. In fact, new data shows that nearly 50 percent of Americans are most afraid of outliving their income or the inability to maintain their current lifestyle, and nearly 20 percent are worried about having enough money to cover health care expenses.
The research, released by the Indexed Annuity Leadership Council (IALC), also found that despite these very real fears, Americans are failing to take action to address them. For example, a quarter of Baby Boomers, the age group closest to retirement, have less than $5,000 saved for retirement and nearly one in five Americans have no idea how much they’ve saved.
The findings indicate that Americans are afraid of the unknown when it comes to managing their money and retirement. While you can budget for leisure and travel, health care expenses and life expectancy are unpredictable.
“Americans are living longer than ever, so it’s no surprise that the No. 1 retirement fear is that they’ll run out of money in their final years,” said Jim Poolman, executive director of the IALC. “Thankfully, there are strategies and products out there that can help you create sufficient retirement income to last throughout your lifetime, which can help with this crippling fear.”
To take control of the uncertainty and create peace of mind when it comes to retirement, here are some simple steps you can follow:
Make a budget.
Balance is key.
Plan to adjust.
Monitor the balance.
Small changes count.
Make it automatic.
Understanding Fixed Indexed Annuities
According to the Indexed Annuity Leadership Council’s research, 45 percent of Americans are interested in retirement products, such as Fixed Indexed Annuities, that offer steady lifetime income and protect your principal even if the stock market goes down.
Find more tips and tools to guide your retirement planning at FIAinsights.org.
Photo courtesy of Getty ImagesSOURCE:
Indexed Annuity Leadership Council
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