If you had been carefully planning your retirement and thought that you had a few more years to accumulate a nest egg before you officially called it quits, you may be prompted during the COVID-19 pandemic, to shift gears and reevaluate your options.
Employees worldwide are enduring furloughs pending a rebound in the economy, permanent layoffs because of drastic downturns at their workplaces, or have decided not to return to a work environment that may expose them to COVID-19. If one of these, or another reason, has spurred you to consider or plan to retire sooner than you had anticipated, make sure your retirement income strategy is right for your current and future financial situation. You may want to consult a financial planner who can help you project and protect your retirement benefits while you decide when to retire.
Retirees with limited financial resources face numerous risks, including out-living their money, investment losses, unexpected health expenses, the unforeseen needs of family members, and even reductions in retirement benefits. Some workers, including teachers, restaurateurs, and healthcare providers, whose professions require close contact with others, have started withdrawing from the workforce earlier than they had planned because of challenges and concerns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has hit older workers hard. The unemployment rate among Americans age 55 and up reached a staggering 13.6 percent in April, up from just 2.6 percent in January, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of August, the percentage had gone down to 7.7 percent but other data show that one in five Americans in their 60s has lost his job or has been furloughed due to COVID-19, according to the July 2020 Retirement Confidence Index by the financial technology company SimplyWise. Overall, 15 percent of Americans are now considering claiming Social Security benefits earlier than they had anticipated. One in five respondents who was laid off during the coronavirus pandemic is now planning to retire early.
If you can identify with these staggering statistics, take a deep breath and review the following suggestions to guide you to the finish line for a financially successful retirement.
Examine Expenses and Downsize
For many employees, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how fragile their financial security is. A recent survey from the National Endowment for Financial Education found that nearly 9 in 10 (88 percent) Americans said that the COVID-19 crisis is causing stress on their personal finances. Americans who are not yet retired but whose finances have been impacted by the pandemic can use this time to review their expenses and reduce unnecessary spending. You’ll need to take inventory of your entire financial situation and determine how much cash will see you through retirement.
Take Stock of Resources and Make Adjustments
Evaluate what resources you have available. Make any necessary adjustments to savings and portfolio asset allocations, including your 401(k) or 403(b) accounts, pension plans from former or current employers, IRA accounts, and annuities as well as Social Security benefits based on your employment and age. For those who are eligible but not yet drawing Social Security payments, this is a good time to consider how to maximize your benefits.
Decide how much money you want to keep in stocks vs. bonds, based on your risk tolerance and financial goals. Keep in mind, most people need to maintain a stake in stocks, even in retirement, to get the long-term growth they need. But for those who prefer a more cautious strategy—and for older investors who have already amassed enough savings to afford a comfortable retirement—it may make sense to reduce the percentage you invest in stocks and increase your fixed-income holdings.
Rethink Withdrawal Rate
People in or nearing retirement need to review their withdrawal rate, and the pandemic has given new urgency to designing a safe withdrawal strategy. The 4 percent rule is the traditional rule of thumb for retirement withdrawals. You take out 4 percent of your portfolio in the first year, then increase that amount by the inflation rate in subsequent years. Studies show that this strategy can minimize your risk of running out of money over a 30-year retirement.
The article, “Don’t Let the Coronavirus Derail Your Retirement: How to Get Back on Track If Your 401(k) Has Taken a Hit,” published in the May 2020 issue of Consumer Reports advises retirees to consider skipping their required minimum distributions from their 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts that is permitted this year under the coronavirus relief package. If you can forgo those withdrawals, your portfolio will have more time to recover from losses.
Consider Taking Social Security Early
The longer you wait to claim Social Security benefits, the larger the payout you’re likely to receive. If you are at the full retirement age between 65 and 67 years old, you can claim benefits about 30 percent higher than if you take them early starting at age 62. By waiting until you’re 70 years old, the benefit amount would be another 32 percent higher than the amount you’d get at full retirement age.
But waiting isn’t always the best option and individuals need to be aware of how claiming benefits at different ages will impact their overall retirement strategies.
Evaluate Employment Opportunities
If you figure out that you don’t have enough currently saved for a comfortable retirement, consider remaining at or returning to work–even in a part-time position. Earning additional income and accumulating money in your retirement savings account will be beneficial if you can delay retirement and avoid unemployment. One of the most effective measures for protecting your finances is to amass an emergency fund that can cover three to six months of expenses—perhaps as much as a year if your job isn’t secure. That money should be kept in a safe, easily accessible account, which will spare you from having to dip into retirement funds or rely solely on credit cards for unexpected bills.
Once you have come to terms with a retirement date and a vision of a secure financial future, store copies of your decisions for portfolio changes, Social Security formulas, records of all of your 401 (k) or 403(b) accounts, pension plans, IRA accounts, annuities, and other investments at InsureYouKnow.org.
The Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (TIAA), recently sent an email to members. Their advice was clear: review your allocations carefully. Financial advisors, self-help blogs and money-smart books suggest periodically looking at your available funds and asking questions. Do you have savings? Do you have a rainy day fund? What is your income stream? The answers take us on a journey of possibilities. The resources of 401k, pensions, insurance, investments, savings and CD accounts provide the financial safety for the future.
There are few resources available to let us know when and how to access our systems. Is today the time to use the money that was set aside for later? The money set aside for retirement, supporting adult children or grandchildren, investments and dreams may be utilized at a more efficient rate now. The funds can be available today during our COVID days. The stress levels are high from furloughs, loss of jobs, reduction in hours, and lack of work for the self-employed.
401k and Pensions
Intended for future days of retirement, the 401k and pension plans were projected to be utilized by the current workforce later rather than sooner. To prevent early access, penalties for utilizing certain financial safety resources available from employers were created. These include high fees, the loss of employer matching, and limits on the amount that could be dispersed annually. Part of the lengthy Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress, addresses some of the previous restrictions although they are not eliminated completely. Although up to $100,000 can be withdrawn from accounts instead of $50,000 and are not subject to the 10% penalty, taxes will need to be paid on the amount.
Despite the risk of lower resources for the future, the Washington Posthas indicated that many people have opted to utilize their pension and 401k resources for car and home payments. For the baby boomers, cashing into the pension at 55 instead of 65 wasn’t the plan, but is a necessity in some cases. It is also the smart option when basic needs take precedence over potential losses or gains in the volatile market. There are choices between loans from the accounts or withdrawals, and each have their own set of benefits.
Whether opting for the withdrawal option instead of the loan, the premature access is worrying the financial industry globally, who have advised against utilizing this resource in light of the downward economy. In March, the Federal Reserve lowered the interest rates to close to zero to try and support the marketplace. Over the recent weeks, some accounts have seen fees above yields, leading to negative returns in some accounts. Given the current environment, and the financial volatility in personal circumstances, markets could still fall before we see the bottom. Companies like TIAA are providing certain limited and short-term fee waiver of expenses to help prevent their client accounts from having negative yields, but that may not last too long.
Your Action Items
At a minimum, review where 401k and pension resources are allocated for yourself and those that are in your care. Since the money is invested in the global stock exchange until you access it, the recession may leave you in a different place than anticipated. Morningstar’s report indicates people in aggressive portfolios have seen the largest declines.
To recall your 401k account information, log into http://www.insureyouknow.org and sign in with your personal credentials. If you do not utilize this online information storage resource, create an account with InsureYouKnow.org and start saving your documents, and files relating to your affairs. Set a reminder within the portal to revise and review the allocations as the world market changes further. There are various levels of access you can set to allow your family members, caregivers or business associates insight into the documents.
Have you wondered if you need a financial advisor? Are you puzzled about the type of financial professional you need to help with investing, financial planning, selecting insurance, repaying debt, education funding planning, tax planning as well as estate and retirement planning?
Many titles, including robo-advisor, broker, investment advisor, and financial planner are used to describe financial advisors who help clients manage their money and achieve long-term financial goals. Although there is crossover among all groups, and many financial advisors hold multiple credentials, they can be described in general as follows:
Robo-advisors use computers to select and manage your investments. Some offer access to human advisors to answer questions, but their primary service is investment management, not financial planning.
Fees start as low as 0.25% of your balance and most charge 0.50% or less. Many have no or low account minimums, so you can start investing with a small amount of money.
Consider whenyou need help investing for financial goals like retirement, but don’t want or can’t afford a more holistic financial plan.
2. Online financial planning services
Relatively new to the market, these services offer investment management in conjunction with virtual financial planning. Clients typically meet with financial advisors by video or phone and receive comprehensive financial plans.
Fees, based on how much money is overseen for you, are described as “assets under management,” or AUM, that might range from 0.25% of your account balance to 1% or more, depending on the type of advisor you choose.
Consider when you are interested in investment management, a comprehensive financial plan, and ongoing access to financial planners for less than the cost of a traditional in-person advisor.
3. Traditional financial advisors
Working directly with clients to help them meet their short- and long-term financial goals, traditional financial advisors recommend specific investments and insurance products and may provide tax advice. In most cases, you’ll work with an advisor in your local area.
Fees will be based on a median financial advisor fee of about 1% of the assets managed for you, although some charge by the hour or have a set rate per service. Some require a minimum balance, such as $250,000 in assets.
Consider when you want specialized services, your situation is complex, or you want to meet your financial advisor in person.
Brokers work for broker-dealers—firms in the business of buying and selling securities (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other investment products) for customers. Brokers are required to make “suitable” recommendations for clients.
Fees are typically a mix of commissions and an advisory fee for portfolio-management services. Each firm has its own compensation formula. Statements show advisory fees and transaction costs.
Consider when you need guidance or broad advice on funds or stocks, or on how to divide your assets among stocks and bonds based on your age and risk tolerance.
Tips for finding the best financial advisor for you
Once you’ve decided which type of financial advisor is best for your situation and budget, you can start your quest of finding an advisor appropriate for you.
You should interview a few financial advisors before choosing one. Ask questions (including ones about philosophy on financial planning and investing, experience working with clients like you, and the number of years in practice) and check out their credentials and disciplinary history.
To vet a registered investment advisor, visit the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission database, search an individual’s name, and find information on qualifications, employment history, disciplinary actions by regulators, and criminal convictions.
When you’re ready to seek a financial advisor’s assistance, prepare by arming yourself with your personal financial data and specific questions to find the right pathway. Then, you can store quarterly and annual reports as well as investment portfolio changes at insureyouknow.org.
Saving for retirement for daunting. When you’re saving for something like a down payment on a house or a new car, you can have a pretty accurate figure in mind. But when you’re saving for retirement, it’s hard to know how much you’ll need. There are so many unknowns: How old will you be when you retire? Will you have any major health issues? What will your tax rate be? How long will you live?
It’s easy to want to throw up your hands and decide to worry about it later, but that is the exact wrong thing to do. Thanks to the power of compound interest, it’s important to start saving as early as possible and keep saving for as long as possible.
Not convinced? Look at the numbers. Assuming an 8 percent rate of return, if you start investing $250 a month at age 25, you will have $878,570 by age 65. If you start at age 35, you will have $375,073. And if you wait until age 45, you will have $148,236.
It’s time to stop procrastinating and develop a savings plan.
If you’re the type who likes to have an exact target, we have good news. Fidelity Investments has developed age-based milestones to help you travel the road to retirement. By biting off your savings plan into manageable chunks, you can keep track of where you are and feel more confident that you’ll get to where you need to go.
Fidelity recommends you aim for the following targets by age:
- By age 30: Have saved the equivalent of your annual salary
- By age 40: Have saved three times your salary
- By age 50: Have saved six times your salary
- By age 60: Have saved eight times your salary
- By age 67: Have saved 10 times your salary
The ultimate goal is for you to have saved enough by age 67 to be able to maintain your current lifestyle in retirement. Your personal goal may vary; if you’re planning on living modestly in retirement, you may need to save less, and if you’re planning on traveling extensively, you may need to save more.
The age at which you retire also plays an important part in your planning. If you want to retire earlier, at age 65, you will need to have saved 12 times your salary. If you wait to retire until age 70, you will need to have saved eight times your salary.
Those numbers probably still sound daunting, but they’re a good starting point. After all, the hardest part can be taking that first step.There are a number of ways you can save for retirement, including participating in a 401(k) plan offered by your employer and/or contributing to a separate IRA. No matter how you do it, be sure to store all your important retirement documents at InsureYouKnow.org. That way, when it’s time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor, you’ll know how to access all the money you’ve painstakingly saved for years.
You’re a responsible person. You’re saving for retirement. You have a 529 plan set up to help pay for your daughter’s college education. Your car is paid off. You have an adequate amount of life insurance. You’re using InsureYouKnow to make sure your loved ones know how to access your important documents and financial information if needed. And you have six months of living expenses set aside in an emergency fund.
Then the unexpected happens: The alternator goes out in your car. It’s going to cost $400 to replace it.
Where do you find the money to pay for it?
If you answered, “My emergency fund,” you may want to take another look at your definition of “emergency.”
Your emergency fund is money you have socked away in case of a major life event, such as a job loss, divorce, or medical issue. This money would be used to cover your day-to-day expenses and bills if needed.
Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary advocates the use of a separate fund—the “life happens” fund—for those pesky but somewhat predictable expenses that crop up.
“You’ll withdraw money from this fund to pay for unexpected or major expenses that don’t quite fit the dire straits definition,” Singletary wrote. “Car repairs would come out of this account. Start with trying to save $500, ideally increasing to a few thousand.”
Whether you call it the “life happens” fund, the “just in case” fund, or some other term, this fund is for those immediate expenses that aren’t quite catastrophic. These are expenses that result from situations that people often treat as emergencies but that in reality are expected, if irregular, like a broken appliance.
In an ideal world, you’d never touch your emergency fund. You wouldn’t lose your job. You wouldn’t get diagnosed with a major medical condition. You would have a regular, steady income with no major disruptive events in your life. For many people, this is indeed the case. That money sits in an easily accessible savings account where it earns minimal interest but supplies maximum peace of mind.
But even in an ideal world, you’re probably going to tap into your life happens fund fairly regularly. Even the most budget-obsessed person can’t predict every expense that may appear, such as the following:
- A storm blows through, knocking large tree branches onto the roof of your house that have to be sawed apart and hauled away.
- Your dog swallows a tennis ball and needs emergency surgery to remove it.
- Your toddler climbs onto the dishwasher door one too many times and it finally breaks.
- Your aunt dies and you need to fly out for the funeral.
In many of these situations, life is already stressful enough without you needing to scramble to come up with money for the resulting expenses. And you don’t want to tap into your emergency fund because that’s money you never want to touch. The life happens fund is the perfect compromise. Like an emergency fund, it’s kept in a savings account where it’s accessible on a moment’s notice. But unlike an emergency fund, taking money out of it won’t potentially result in your water getting shut off when you suddenly find yourself without an income.
Keep in mind that because you do need to access this fund somewhat regularly, it’s important to replace any money you take out as soon as possible. After all, life happens—and you never know when the next storm is going to pass through town.
Plаnnіng fоr уоur rеtіrеmеnt іѕ nо ѕmаll tаѕk. It rеԛuіrеѕ thаt уоu knоw hоw muсh mоnеу уоu wіll hаvе ѕаvеd uр, аnd hоw muсh уоu wіll nееd реr уеаr fоr еасh уеаr аftеr уоur rеtіrеmеnt. Bоth оf these fасtоrѕ аrе whаt mаkе rеtіrеmеnt fіnаnсіаl рlаnnіng ѕо dіffісult, ѕіnсе уоu hаvе tо kеер trасk оf уоur rеtіrеmеnt ѕаvіngѕ ассоuntѕ аnd іnvеѕtmеntѕ, аѕ wеll аѕ уоur ѕtаndаrd оf lіvіng аnd thе аmоunt іt соѕtѕ tо kеер іt uр.
Thе 403b retirement рlаn іѕ аvаіlаblе tо US rеѕіdеntѕ wоrkіng іn ѕресіfіс ѕесtоrѕ, аnd оffеrѕ аn аttrасtіvе аltеrnаtіvе tо thе uѕuаl 401k. Emрlоуееѕ whо аrе еlіgіblе fоr thе 403b wоrk іn оrgаnіzаtіоnѕ thаt аrе tаx еxеmрt, рublіс ѕсhооlѕ, оr аrе ѕеlf-еmрlоуеd аѕ a rеlіgіоuѕ mіnіѕtеr. Thеrе аrе bеnеfіtѕ fоr bоth thе еmрlоуее аnd thе еmрlоуеr іn сhооѕіng a 403b.
Mаnу соmраnіеѕ uѕе thеіr 403b рlаnѕ tо аttrасt аnd rеtаіn thе bеѕt саndіdаtеѕ fоr еmрlоуmеnt. Onе rеаѕоn whу еmрlоуееѕ bеnеfіt frоm thе 403b іѕ thаt іt hаѕ аn еxсеllеnt mаtсhіng рlаn. Thеrе іѕ аlѕо nо nееd fоr еіthеr thе соmраnу оr thе еmрlоуее tо рау tаx оn соntrіbutіоnѕ thаt аrе gоіng іntо a 403b. Thе recipient оnlу hаѕ tо ѕtаrt рауіng tаx whеn thеу bеgіn tо wіthdrаw fundѕ.
Thеrе is a mаxіmum аmоunt, whісh саn bе раіd іn thаt іѕ ѕеt fоr еvеrу уеаr, аnd employees wіll оnlу rесеіvе thіѕ mаxіmum іf thе соmраnу іѕ dоіng wеll.
It іѕ аlѕо роѕѕіblе tо tаkе оut a lоаn аgаіnѕt thе ассumulаtеd fundѕ іn a 403b, whісh саn bе uѕеful іn аn еmеrgеnсу. Tаkіng оut tуре оf lоаn аnd mаkіng rерауmеntѕ tо іt wіll hаvе tаx соnѕеԛuеnсеѕ, hоwеvеr.
If thе еmрlоуее wіѕhеѕ tо wіthdrаw fundѕ frоm thе 403b bеfоrе thеу hаvе rеасhеd thе еxресtеd аgе оf 59.5 уеаrѕ, thеrе wіll bе fіnаnсіаl реnаltіеѕ. Onсе thе rесіріеnt іѕ оvеr thе аgе lіmіt thеу wіll оnlу bе сhаrgеd tаx fоr thе аmоunt thаt іѕ tаkеn оut, but younger реорlе wіll аlѕо hаvе tо рау аn аddіtіоnаl реnаltу оf 10%.
Pеорlе whо оwn оvеr 5% оf thе соmраnу thаt thеу аrе wоrkіng fоr аrе ѕubjесt tо аddіtіоnаl rulеѕ. Thіѕ іѕ іn оrdеr tо рrеvеnt thе wеаlthіеѕt mеmbеrѕ оf ѕосіеtу frоm uѕіng thе 403b tо ассumulаtе vаѕt аmоuntѕ оf tаx-frее ѕаvіngѕ.
Onсе thе еmрlоуее іѕ оf rеtіrеmеnt аgе thе аmоunt thеу hаvе ѕаvеd іn thе 403b wіll bе dіѕtrіbutеd ассоrdіng tо hоw muсh thеу hаvе ѕаvеd аnd thеіr еѕtіmаtеd lіfе еxресtаnсу. Thіѕ аіdѕ іn dіѕtrіbutіng thе fund in a fаіr mаnnеr. However, іf уоu dо nоt tаkе аt lеаѕt thе mіnіmum рауmеnt аvаіlаblе, уоu wіll bе сhаrgеd tаx оn your 403b ѕаvіngѕ аt a vеrу hіgh rаtе.
Emрlоуееѕ whо аrе еlіgіblе fоr a 403b ѕhоuld tаkе thе tіmе tо mаkе ѕurе thеу undеrѕtаnd bоth thе ѕаvіngѕ thеу саn mаkе оn tаx whіlе thе funds аrе bеіng buіlt uр, аnd thе іntеrеѕt, саріtаl gаіnѕ аnd dіvіdеndѕ thеу саn rесеіvе frоm thе рlаn.