Retirement is waiting just around the corner. People need good advice to help them build their nest eggs before "someday" becomes "now." Here are the best tips, advice and tactics for retirement planning from the top financial advisors in the business.
(BPT) - You're 10 years or less away from retirement. You can clearly see the next phase of your life down the road and it's coming up fast. Are you ready for it? Do you have a comprehensive plan in place so you don't outlive your savings?
If you're not as prepared for retirement as you should be, you're not alone. The Federal Reserve did a study and found that one-fourth of Americans have no retirement savings or pension. And a Money article reports 56 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved.
Why aren't more people prepared? There are myriad reasons. Some people are stretched thin. Credit card debt, student loans, rising mortgage and interest rates all conspire to make it difficult for them to save. Others may lack information on the importance of retirement savings, or lack the financial savvy to be comfortable managing their own investments. And then there's the gap between men and women. The Federal Reserve’s study found that among women with any level of education, investment comfort is lower than among similarly educated men.
Yet, retirement is waiting just around the corner. People need good advice to help them build their nest eggs before "someday" becomes "now."
That's why the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), a national organization representing Fee-Only financial advisors, conducted a poll of its members to get their top tips and advice for people who are nearing retirement. They want to raise consumer awareness about the urgency of preparing for retirement and the importance of having a comprehensive plan in place.
Here are the best tips, advice and tactics for retirement planning from the top financial advisors in the business.
1. Make a list of retirement “needs” and “wants.” If you do not have enough savings for all of your “needs,” make a ten-year plan to increase your funds.
2. Take a hard look at any major debts you have and develop a plan to eliminate them.
3. Brainstorm any “big ticket” financial commitments (caretaking for a family member, etc.) for the next 10 years and consider how these items might affect your ability to save for retirement.
4. Continually monitor and analyze your asset allocation to make sure it is the right one for you. Understand whether you should move to a more conservative asset allocation or continue investing for growth.
5. Be tax efficient with your investments. For example, you should defer as much of your salary as you can to your defined contribution plans.
6. Save to an emergency fund and stay aware of your company’s financial situation. Companies are prone to reorganizations and layoffs, and older workers can be vulnerable.
7. Ask your HR department about the relationship between your current health insurance and Medicare, as well as what your options are when you reach age 65. Get information about any pension or defined contribution options and any other retiree benefits.
8. Research when stock-based compensation might expire and what stock awards you can retain after retirement.
9. Double check your reported Social Security earnings and resolve any discrepancies now. Explore your Social Security claiming options and make sure you understand the timing of applying for benefits.
10. Make sure that all of your estate documents are up-to-date. Verify that your named executors and proxies know your wishes and are willing to act on them if needed.
If you think you’ll need help creating and sticking to a financial plan, NAPFA recommends working with a Fee-Only financial advisor who adheres to a strict fiduciary standard. These advisors are required to put your best interest first and don’t accept commissions on the products they recommend, which reduces potential conflicts of interest. For more information and resources on retirement planning, check out NAPFA’s infographic about the poll. To find a Fee-Only financial advisor in your area, visit the NAPFA website at www.napfa.org and NAPFA’s “Find an Advisor” search engine.
(BPT) - Across the nation, thousands of seniors have used a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), commonly called a reverse mortgage loan, as a savvy way to access the equity in their homes as part of their retirement strategy.
Those who are interested in a reverse mortgage loan should know that there are six main phases to the process: 1) educating and qualifying, 2) counseling, 3) approval, 4) funding, 5) using and 6) settling.
1. Educating and qualifying
The HECM process begins by contacting an FHA-approved lender who will review the borrower’s situation, educate them on the HECM program, and determine if they would likely qualify for a reverse mortgage loan.
“Once the lender has determined that the borrower is eligible, they work closely with them to shape the loan so it fits their needs,” says Paul Fiore, Chief Sales Officer for American Advisors Group, the leading reverse mortgage lender in the nation. “At AAG, this is a highly personalized process designed to give the borrower the best outcome for their financial situation.”
Once qualified, borrowers are referred to reverse mortgage counseling, an important consumer safeguard mandated by the government. During counseling, a HUD-approved HECM counselor reviews the borrower’s needs and circumstances. They consider how the funds might best be distributed, the financial and tax implications, and whether a HECM is right for them. If so, an application is submitted to the lender.
Next, the property will be appraised, and after that the approval process will begin. Before closing on the loan, borrowers will choose between several loan disbursement options, from taking it all out in a lump sum, receiving fixed monthly payments, opening a line of credit or any combination.
After the closing papers are signed, the homeowner has three business days to change their mind and cancel the loan (except if the loan is being used to purchase a new home). After the rescission period has passed, the funds are ready to be paid out through the payment option selected, subject to an initial disbursement limit that is determined by HUD.
5. Using your loan
The loan servicer will generally disburse funds via direct deposit or mail on the first business day of the month, following the funding of the loan. The borrower can live in the home as long as they like without making monthly mortgage payments, as long as they continue to pay property taxes and insurance on the home, maintain it in good condition and comply with any other loan terms.
6. Settling your loan
If the last surviving borrower sells or transfers the property, passes away, or does not use the property as a principal residence for more than 12 months, the loan has reached a “maturity event,” meaning that the loan comes due and no further funds can be disbursed. Borrowers also have the option of paying off their loan in full at any time without penalty.
Following a maturity event, an appraisal will be ordered by the loan servicer to determine the property’s current market value. The heirs can sell the property to repay the loan, or purchase the property for 95 percent of its appraised value. Since HECMs are non-recourse loans, the proceeds from the sale of the home are the only asset that can be taken to pay the loan’s balance, even if the loan amount exceeds the value of the home.
A home equity conversion mortgage can be shaped to fit an individual’s needs. With new consumer safeguards in place, many seniors are discovering that it is an important part of their retirement strategy.
(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.
(BPT) - The banking and credit union worlds are as much the same as they are different. Both are eager to earn your business and to provide you with loans, mortgages, savings and checking accounts. With that said, there are some significant differences between the two financial institutions. In today’s world, with cutthroat competition for your money, it’s worth understanding the advantages of both, and perhaps making a switch to one or the other to put yourself in a better financial position.
Credit union and banks: The differences
The primary difference between a credit union and a bank is that a credit union is a not-for-profit cooperative, meaning it’s owned by its members or customers. Profits made by credit unions are returned back to members in the form of reduced fees, higher savings rates and lower loan rates. A bank, on the other hand, is for-profit, owned by shareholders and focused on its stock value.
Joining a credit union is fairly simple, and membership is inexpensive — typically a one-time fee of between $5 and $25. Depending on where you live, many credit unions serve a geographic area, such as a state or metropolitan area, and are open to anyone who lives in that area. Some credit unions are employer-sponsored, so that anyone (including family members) who works for that organization can join.
There is no membership fee to “join” a bank. All you need to provide is some money to open a checking or savings account, a government-issued ID card, and some personal information (address, Social Security number, etc.).
Credit union advantages
Credit unions, by and large, are able to provide better rates to their members. Unlike a for-profit bank, credit unions return their "profits" to members in the form of lower rates on loans, higher interest on deposits and more personalized services. Other advantages of a credit union are that they tend to have lower fees on checks, withdrawals and electronic transactions, and many offer checking accounts with no minimum balance and without a monthly service charge. Finally, because credit unions are smaller and have a focus on member service, they may be more flexible when it comes to working with someone with financial challenges.
Banks, because of their size and scale, tend to offer more financial products than credit unions. For example, a credit union may have two or three different types of checking and savings accounts, whereas a bank may have dozens to choose from. Depending on where you live, banks will most likely have more locations for convenient access and more advanced online and mobile banking capabilities. Because of their geographic reach and wider range of offerings, a large bank could be a better fit for someone who wants specialized financial products (annuities, trusts) and needs access to nationwide locations.
Credit unions catching up
Depending on where you live, you may have numerous options for selecting a credit union. Some credit unions may have only one location and offer basic financial services like auto loans, checking and savings accounts. Other credit unions may have a large footprint in a market or state and offer the breadth of services you’d find in a bank. Most offer free, nationwide ATM access, and since many credit unions belong to cooperatives, members can access accounts across the country through other credit union branches. Bellco, for example, offers a full range of financial products and services, including mortgages, auto loans and checking accounts. Today, Bellco has more than 300,000 members who benefit from the advantages of a credit union, including lower interest rates on loans, higher yields on savings and access to thousands of ATMs nationwide.
Choosing a bank or credit union
Depending on where you live — urban vs. suburban vs. rural — your banking and credit union options will vary considerably. If you are in an area that offers both, there are several features to weigh and consider:
Services: Compare the basic banking services and access to specialized financial products, including advanced online services and mobile banking.
Rates and incentives: Look at the current rates, fees, and incentives — as well as overall benefits to being a customer or a member of the bank or credit union. Are there good reasons for joining one over the other?
Location: Evaluate options to access your accounts, whether it’s branch locations or ATMs or mobile banking services, and decide whether a national footprint is a requirement for your banking.
Finally, it’s important to note that both banks and credit unions insure your money up to $250,000 per person, across a group of accounts (checking, savings, and CDs would be considered one group). The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insures banks, and credit unions are backed by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).
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