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.
Saving money – it’s one of the most challenging tasks people face month after month, year after year. However, a few simple rules and free personal finance apps can make it easier for you to stay on top of your spending and saving habits. Consider these simple steps for building up your savings and net worth.
5 Steps to Saving Money Easily
(Family Features) Saving money – it’s one of the most challenging tasks people face month after month, year after year. However, a few simple rules and free personal finance apps can make it easier for you to stay on top of your spending and saving habits.
Consider these simple steps for building up your savings and net worth:
Track Your Spending Habits
Use Peer Pressure to Your Advantage
Identify Problem Areas
Set a (Logical) Budget
Negotiate and Change Financial Providers
Saving money can be a challenge for people in all walks of life, but creating a plan can help you change the outlook of your financial life for the better. Visit statusmoney.com to learn how much you can save.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (woman using calculator)SOURCE:
(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) - You’re familiar with the saying “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”?
Just like any other scheme to “get rich quick,” attempting to buy low and sell high based on intermittent fluctuations in the stock market—also known as “market timing”—is almost always a losing proposition over the long term for the investor. Studies have repeatedly shown that those who attempt to align their investments with short-term fluctuations earn less than those who stay in over the long haul.
“Once again, market fluctuations are messing with average investors’ minds,” says J.D. Roth, author of “Your Money: The Missing Manual” in Entrepreneur. “They panic and sell when prices drop, then fall victim to what Alan Greenspan in 1996 called ‘irrational exuberance’ and buy when prices soar. That's a sure way to lose money.”
The truth is that even the most stellar investment advisor lacks a crystal ball into the future, and can only make recommendations based on historical research, industry guidelines, and experience. Unfortunately, past performance in the stock market is not at all an indicator of future performance.
So what are some better guidelines for investing in the stock market? Consider the following sound strategies, built on the mounds of evidence saying market timing doesn’t work as a long-term strategy:
1. Establish a long-term plan.
Set clear goals and objectives such as funding children’s college educations or investing for your own retirement. An advisor can help you evaluate risks, decide on asset allocation and set benchmarks for success while minimizing risk.
2. Use dollar-cost averaging.
Instead of trading when you think it’s the right time, the principle of dollar-cost averaging (DCA) says to invest a fixed dollar amount at predetermined intervals. The result is that you’ll end up buying fewer shares when prices are high and more shares when prices are low.
The advantage of dollar-cost averaging is that you put your money into the market earlier—increasing the likelihood of price change—rather than holding onto cash until you think prices are low. Regardless of whether you have a flat, positive, or negative price return, if your investments earn dividends, dollar-cost averaging is a useful strategy for earning dividend returns.
3. Ride the market by tracking an index and optimize your costs.
Trying to achieve alpha—i.e., beating the market with price returns—isn’t necessarily the most evidence-based way of getting the highest returns over time, especially looking at your returns net of costs and taxes.
By investing in funds that largely track a market index (index funds), historical results show that the lower fees typical of index funds and the long-term gains often outperform actively managed funds with higher fees. Investors should always focus on what they take home over the long term after fees and taxes. Looking purely at the price return can lead to lower-than-expected results.
4. Be aware of tax implications.
A major reason why investors should lean on professional support in today’s world is so that they can optimize their investments to lower taxes. Specifically, how assets are located within tax-advantaged and taxable accounts can be managed to lower your tax liability. Also, investment losses can be “harvested” via a process called “tax-loss harvesting,” and that’s generally a process many investors cannot do themselves.
Finally, any time you want to reinvest dividends or have reason to switch to a different investment, there are ways to make regular transactions as tax-efficient as possible. The same goes for making your eventual withdrawal. This kind of back-office tax work can have a major impact on how much you, as an investor, keep from your investment, so it’s important to find the right solution—whether that’s a financial advisor or learning to do it yourself.
5. Stay skeptical.
When it comes to outlasting a spike in the market, any investor should be aware of their own biases and behaviors. Pay little attention to financial TV shows and other media reports that hype short-term fluctuations. And be cognizant of the speaker’s motivation. Those who think they have a real get-rich-quick scheme are unlikely to share it with others.
Above all, don’t let uncertainty stop you from investing. If you look back all the way to 1926, keeping your money in cash/cash equivalents has underperformed both bonds and stocks. The key thing is to just get invested.
Betterment optimizes its technology and experience to help you make informed decisions in your investment strategy. Founded in 2008, the company manages $9 billion in assets. Investing in securities involves risks, and there is always the potential of losing money when you invest in securities. Before investing, consider your investment objectives and Betterment’s charges and expenses. Betterment distributed this article through Brandpoint. Visit Betterment.com for more information.
Whether you’re trying to pay off bills, save for a dream vacation or create a nest egg for retirement, having a sound budget is often the first step toward bringing your financial goals to fruition. While budgeting is often associated with finding places to curb your spending, creating and sticking to a budget can be a fairly painless process with these guidelines that can help you build, manage and maintain a realistic budget that will set you on the path toward reaching your financial aspirations.
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