By Karlan Tucker
Most Americans that accumulate retirement nest eggs have their assets in three categories. The first category is their long-term speculative investments that are generally in employer-sponsored retirement plans like a 401k or 403b or a Roth or Traditional IRA. The second category of assets are liquid investments, like CDs and Savings Accounts that have 6 months to one year’s worth of expenses set aside. The third category is the long-term guaranteed assets that include Social Security Income, Fixed Indexed Annuities and Pensions.
The harsh new economic reality that most Americans are facing is that many of their pension plans, which account for approximately 19% of their retirement nest eggs, according to the Social Security Administration’s Income of the Aged Chartbook, 2010, are being systematically cut in cities around the nation. What was once touted as an untouchable asset given to employees in exchange for their years of service at lower wages than their private-sector counterparts is now being greatly reduced or not offered.
What does this mean if you are a resident of Detroit, Michigan, San Bernardino, California or Chicago, Illinois? While you cannot count on receiving full pension benefits, you can count on working longer before receiving fewer benefits than you were promised. You can also be assured of experiencing marked decreases in overall benefits, up to 30% according to, “We Are One”.
What should you do? Consult with an income specialist immediately to come up with an amicable course of action to offset the amount of funds that your pension would have provided you in retirement, and discuss the opportunities that you have to maximize your Social Security income to help offset your decreased pension pay-outs.
Many people find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to retirement. This means, quite simply, that before you retire, you are probably only seeing the retirees in a very limited capacity. You see someone enjoying their financial freedom. You see a person who dresses in golf attire every day, enjoying AARP benefits and movie theater discounts.
However, when you reach the age at which you plan to retire, there are personal feelings and desires that you must deal with. These are things you probably don’t notice too much, because the majority of them are internal. To assist you with your retirement planning, let’s take a look at some of the positives and negatives of what you might go through leading up to your retirement, and afterwards.
In today’s age, many retirees are utilizing their time to reinvent themselves. Maybe you have a passion that you’ve been forced to curtail due to your job. Now is the time to delve into that passion and have fun with it. That could be anything from rebuilding an old clunker to starting a book club. Or, thanks to technology, that could mean creating your own website and blogging on a daily basis about a subject you’re passionate about. And for some retirees, this is a time to reinvent themselves by embarking on a new career. Now that they are no longer shackled to their jobs, many see this as a period of self-discovery and improvement in a professional sense.
Negative: Pent-up Anger
There’s a good chance that you’ve felt some anger from time to time as you’ve progressed through life. Anger is a very natural reaction when things go wrong. Retirement is definitely no exception. For example, many retirees still feel a great deal of anger over the effects caused by the Great Recession. Despite the fact that it reportedly ended three years ago, Americans are still feeling its affects daily. They might also find themselves angry over rising health care costs or the years they spent working and saving to have their retirement accounts depleted. If you find yourself holding onto this anger, you need to find ways to cope with it. Anger can quickly become a debilitating problem. It’s best to get rid of it now.
Positive: Vast Opportunity
Many individuals have a successful retirement because they’ve worked tirelessly for years and saved opportunity along the way. Now that those days are over, you have a fantastic opportunity to improve other aspects of your life. Many retirees in this situation decide to improve their family relationship. They connect with lost relatives, invest more time with their children and spouse, and even spend a great deal of time working on relationships that might have been a bit forsaken while they were working so hard to create a strong retirement.
Negative: Petrifying Fear
This can be a big issue. Although “petrifying” might be too strong a word, the fact remains that a lot of people fear what is waiting for them throughout their retirement. They see older retirees, maybe their own parents, and have taken note of what they go through. They watch while others have health problems and become dependent on family and friends. This is a life that frightens them immensely. In addition to this, many also fear being unable to cope with no longer having a purpose in life, despite how incorrect that statement might be.
Although not the answer to all retirement problems, a strong and well managed porfolio can help alleviate many of these fears by offering peace of mind that you will be protects from life’s inevitable storms.
Believe it or not, today’s retirees are experiencing what you might call a Golden Age. This means that current retirees, at least many of them, are living rather comfortably. They have enough money to last throughout their retirement, their health care is secure, and they don’t have to worry about working in order to supplement their income.
Unfortunately, many believe that those days are over. The new batch of retirees are discovering that they might not have it as easy as many of their older counterparts. Let’s take a look at some of the facts concerning this possible death of the Golden Age of Retirement. (https://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47063385/ns/business-personal_finance/#.T6fb1dVDNnU?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_broadcast=b36d5902-4b3c-4a11-a419-425dd223acc4)
Fact #1: Older Baby Boomers will have an easier time than their younger brethren.
Baby Boomers who are enjoying retirement right now are doing exactly that: enjoying it. Many of these lucky millions are well off thanks to such things as company pensions, sizable inheritances, the equity in their expensive homes, and a number of other luxuries. Unfortunately, the same is not true for people who are currently approaching retirement, including the younger portion of the Baby Boomer clan. These new retirees are not in the same financial circumstances that their older peers are. This is why many are saying that this marks the end of the Golden Age.
Fact #2: Spending has not stopped.
Spending has always been a problem for millions of Americans. We want what we want, and many of us are likely to buy items that we desire even when we can’t afford it. This is especially true for a number of Baby Boomers, because many of them were quite comfortable with their finances, and had the money to spend. They were never afraid to spend their cash, because more was always on the horizon. Spending money isn’t a crime, of course, but if you choose to do so, then you need to also make sure that money is being put away for your future. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be happening as much as it should. (https://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/29/business/americans-savings-rate-drops-again-puzzling-experts.html)
Fact #3: The recent financial crisis is partly to blame.
Four and a half years ago, we entered an era dubbed the Great Recession. Since then, millions of Americans have either lost their jobs, seen their financial portfolio dwindle, or both. Officially, this Great Recession ended in 2009, but the effects have proven to be long-lasting. Many people approaching retirement are still reeling from their own financial collapse, whether that may be due to a severe decrease in inheritance, a lack of a company pension, or some other similar reason. Of course, people need to realize that the financial crisis isn’t the only reason they’re experiencing problems.
Fact #4: The recent financial crisis isn’t the only issue.
While many people have blamed the financial crisis for their troubles, and rightfully so, a number of individuals approaching retirement have caused their own problems. The most important of these is also the simplest … they are, flat out, not saving for retirement. They are procrastinating each and every year, and all this will do is ensure that their retirement doesn’t exactly go as planned. Some of these individuals may have been hurt by the financial crisis as well, but their actions are not helping things to get better. No one is going to save for your retirement for you. It’s all up to you. Future retirees have a difficult road ahead, and if you don’t take steps to avoid the pitfalls, you may find yourself looking back with regret.
If you’re like most investors,, it is very likely that you have a 401k as part of your retirement plan. In fact, there’s a solid chance that your 401k could be the backbone of your entire financial portfolio. If this is the case, you definitely aren’t alone. They can supply you with a healthy amount of retirement income, there are tax benefits, and if you obtain one through your employer, you may receive matching contributions.
That being said, 401k plans could be in trouble. And we’re here to tell you exactly how…
Federal Government’s Massive Budget Deficit
Unless you’ve been living on the moon, you’ve surely been painfully aware of the deficit our country is facing. The federal government is trying to decide how exactly to bring down that iever-growing amount, and 401k plans could become a target. More precisely, proposals have recently been made that would target the tax benefits enjoyed by the contributions you make into your 401k. The effect would especially be felt by individuals with a higher income. The basic thinking is that the contributions you’ve been making into your 401k cannot be taxed right away, and that is something that has raised the eyebrows of a variety of lawmakers.
Flat Tax Credit Proposal
Last September, an idea was given to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee to help improve the country’s deficit. It was suggested that the pre-tax and tax-deductible contributions be replaced by a flat tax credit of 18%. This would go for both companies and their workers who contribute into these accounts and take advantage of their tax benefits. While this would raise $458 billion over the next decade for the government, individuals would be forced to pay taxes on any money contributed into their 401k accounts. Losing this benefit could be devastating, at least to those with a sizable amount of income.
Lower Income Would Benefit, Higher Income Would Suffer…
How you feel about this proposed change might very well have a lot to do with whether you are considered to be in the lower income or higher income bracket. Basically, this change would add an increased incentive for those in the former category, while those in the latter category would be negatively affected. Why? Because a 15% tax bracket would be the line dividing the two groups. If you are below this bracket, you would receive a greater benefit with this proposed “new” system. If you’re above the 15%, however, your benefit would decrease from how it exists in the current plan.
… Or Maybe the Higher Income Individuals Wouldn’t Suffer, After All
Despite the decrease that this proposed system would cause to pre-tax benefits, there is a good chance that most, if not all, higher income individuals wouldn’t be affected. This is because they would simply alter their financial portfolios to take this into consideration. In all likelihood, they would simply move the funds normally utilized for a 401k and other newly taxable accounts into a retirement account where contributions are not taxed. Shifting funds might be a bit of an inconvenience, but it’s something most higher income individuals would be fine with. Especially since many of them have a financial adviser that handles all of these issues for them. Plus, the lower income investors could really use an incentive, seeing as how a recent survey by EBRI found that barely a third of individuals earning less than a $35,000 yearly salary are currently saving for retirement.
Millions of Americans are finding themselves in a bit of a quandary. Years ago, they began designing a retirement plan in order to secure their future. They chose strong retirement accounts, socked away a sizable sum of money, and didn’t overspend. But even so, their retirement portfolio isn’t what they thought it would be.
Of course, there could be a number of reasons for this. But for many, the reason is very simple: children. Of course, the problem isn’t the fact that people had rasied children. No, this issue involves children that are well into adulthood. The truth is, many Americans are finding themselves taking care of their kids far past the point they envisioned, and their retirement is being harmed because of it.
Recent Survey Shows Disturbing Trends
The recent Money Across Generations II survey, conducted by Ameriprise, aimed to discover where investor’s money was going, and what they found was both encouraging and disheartening. The encouraging part is pretty simple to understand. People love their families. They want to take care of them no matter what. After all, how many of us have given money to an adult relative in need, or gone above and beyond what would be considered common courtesy for the simple fact that we are related to them?
Unfortunately, this assistance can go too far. More than half of those who took part in the study admitted that they had allowed their adult children to move back in with them and live rent-free. Think about that for a moment: half. While some think this will never happen to them, the truth is a number of people are one financial crisis away from granting their adult children the same opportunity.
The problem with this, of course, is the fact that many parents are damaging their own finances for the sake of their adult children. Many parents are not stopping at simply a place to stay. They are paying off their adult kids’ credit card debt and student loans, and some are even providing money for meals, car payments, medical bills, and various other needs. While assisting loved ones sounds commendable, retirees should be aware that sacrificing their own retirement is a dangerous game to play.
The Numbers are Depressing and Getting Worse
The truth is, those approaching retirement have enough to worry about without bringing the needs of their adult children into the mix. When the first Money Across Generations survey was conducted in 2007, it found that 44% of baby boomers were putting money away for their retirement. But the new survey demonstrated that only 24% were currently doing the same. This drop is alarming, to say the least. In addition, 24% also said that they were simply attempting to maintain what savings they have. The needs of your adult children notwithstanding, these numbers are reflective of a society that doesn’t appreciate the negative effects they will feel from their actions.
Saying no to family can be a difficult thing. In addition to adult children who need assistance, many people approaching retirement also have an elderly parent to care for. According to the survey, almost 70% indicated that they planned to put money toward their retirement rather than pay off a child’s credit card. But more than 50% stated that they would choose to assist a parent with long-term care over their own savings. Plus, nearly 90% said they didn’t regret their decisions and would do it all over again, if needed.
The difference between what we believe will happen and what actually happens can be quite astonishing. This goes for nearly every facet of life, including retirement. Before you retire, there are certain expectations that you might have concerning your quality of life, finances, health, etc. Once you get there, however, you may find that your expectations do not exactly align with reality.
The Harvard School of Public Health, in association with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and NPR, set out to measure the differences between the expectations and realities of retirement. What they found, which is summarized in this video, might surprise you.
QUALITY OF LIFE
The first thing that the survey looked at was a person’s overall lifestyle. Basically, it was a measurement that was just as it sounds: how a person who is planning to retire feels that their overall life will be, and then how it actually ends up for those who are already retired. For those who are planning to retire, only 14% believed that their overall quality of life would be worse once they reached retirement. However, of those surveyed who were already retired, 25% stated that their overall quality of life was worse than before.
It is a fact of life that as we get older, our bodies begin to break down faster than ever. We are more susceptible to illness and injury. Despite these facts, only 13% of people who took part in the survey and were planning to retire believed that their health would worsen in their later years. The reality according to those who had already retired, however, was that a whopping 39% had worse health issues than before they retired. This is not a very hopeful scenario.
Making sure that you maintain your finances throughout your retirement can be a harrowing ordeal, one that many people have difficulty achieving. It’s often difficult to keep the money coming in, unless you’re working at least part-time in your later years. Even so, a rather shocking 22% of those who were not yet retired expected their finances to decrease. In reality, 35% of participants who were already retired claimed that their financial outlook went down after retirement.
This part of the survey was possibly the most shocking. Out of the participants who were still waiting for retirement, a miniscule 1% expected a detriment to their ability to exercise. But on the other side of the retirement line, 34% stated that their exercise capabilities lessened. That difference is incredible, to say the least.
Millions of Americans love to travel. Whether it’s taking a road trip across the country or flying halfway across the globe to an exotic location, many of us simply love to get out and explore the world that’s surrounding us. Perhaps that’s why only 11% of those surveyed who were planning to retire predict that their travel would lessen. But for the ones surveyed who were already retired, 34% reported that they were not able to travel as much as they had before retirement.
As you can see, there is often a huge difference between our expectations regarding retirement, and the reality of that retirement. We tend to think that everything will remain the same, even as we get older. But it’s important to recognize the difference between blind expectations and reality, so that we can prepare for life’s little inconveniences. With measured goals and a clear plan, retirement can happen “on purpose”, rather than by luck.