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Start or Open a 401(k)

Start or Open a 401(k)

Nov 2020

Let's say you've started your first job. Or, maybe, you've simply started to think about saving for retirement. Your employer offers a 401(k), but you don't know where to get started (or even what that is). Here's everything you need to know.

What Is a 401(k)?

To put it in really general terms, a 401(k) is a retirement savings account offered through your employer. (If you're self-employed, you can open a Solo 401k, but that's a whole separate topic).

You set aside a certain amount of money each month from your paycheck, and use it to invest money through this account. You have the option of investing in a variety of assets (i.e. stocks, bonds, mutual funds). Over time, your money grows. Ideally, when you retire, you'll have a big stack of money that's been growing for years.

The money you earn from your 401(k) investments isn't taxed until you withdraw it—ideally, after you've retired.

Why Do I Want One?

Saving for retirement is boring, but important, and you should do it as soon as you can. Saving even $50 a month can work for you.

With a 401(k), your company might offer to match a percentage of some of your 401(k) contributions. This is basically free money. Also, since the money you invest is 'pre-tax,' you could reduce your annual tax bill. CNN Money explains:

Another benefit to having a 401(k)-retirement plan is having taxes deferred until you withdraw the money at retirement. So, since the 401(k) actually reduces your tax rate, you won't be paying taxes on the money until you withdraw it. Since many people tend to be in a lower tax bracket when they retire, the 401(k) actually has you paying a smaller tax rate on your savings when you take it out of the account.

Of course, you'll eventually have to pay taxes on this money when you retire.

How Do I Pick My Investments?

When you open your 401(k), you'll have to pick your investments. Your employer usually works with an investment broker to come up with a list of options. This means you're stuck with the list they offer, and sometimes, the list isn't great.

Either way, you'll have to pick a fund from this list that's based on a risk level you feel comfortable with. Investor Place runs down the five major types of funds you'll likely have to pick from:

Stock Funds: As the name suggests, this type of fund covers a variety of stocks that you can invest a percentage of your account in. According to Investor Place, Target-Date Funds: These funds are pretty simple and basic. You pick your target date for retirement, then pick the matching fund. Because they're so simple, there's not much maintenance, as the fund adjusts your asset allocation over time. The fees of target-date funds might be higher.

Blended-Fund Investments: These funds have a set ratio of stocks and bonds. You can pick one that's appropriate for your situation. This means you'll have to consider your tolerance for risk and how many years you have until retirement.

Bonds/Managed Income: These are funds are meant to safeguard your money, but your money won't grow much with these funds.

Money Market Funds: Investor Place calls the money market fund a 'glorified CD.' There's zero growth here, and, in fact, these funds barely keep up with inflation rates. They recommend avoiding money market funds if you want your money to grow.

1. https://twocents.lifehacker.com/a-beginner-s-guide-to-starting-a-401-k-1592233003

tags: 401k, starting a 401k

NFPR-2019-80 ACR#324833 09/19

What If I Can’t Save Enough to Reach my Retirement Goals?

What If I Can’t Save Enough to Reach my Retirement Goals?

Nov 2020

You just ran the numbers on your retirement and realized that you aren’t going to be able to save enough to make it happen. Don’t panic: There are still things you can do to better your situation, especially if you’re willing to be flexible about your plans and your lifestyle.

The first step is to determine exactly where you are. In retirement, you may have income from a number of sources:

  • Social Security
  • Pensions
  • Investment income
  • An inheritance
  • Earned income from a side hustle

Next, estimate the likely cost of your future monthly expenses: rent or mortgage, utilities, automobile payments and insurance, credit card and loan payments, food, health care (insurance plus out of pocket) and emergency repairs. A good way to capture these categories is to look at your credit card statements and checkbook and list everything you’re spending on now. If you haven’t kept track of this on paper, most online bank and credit card services offer easy access to your transaction history.

Leave out or lower your estimate for anything you won’t spend as much on when you’re retired (your commuting cost should go down, for example). Now, what about potential costs for travel, hobbies and other post-retirement fun? Will you set aside money to give to grandchildren or other relatives in the years ahead?

Once you have your monthly income and expense estimates, compare the two. Are you still coming up short?

If you don’t have enough income to cover your projected expenses, there are some things you can do. But first, there are some things you should definitely NOT do:

  • Panic.
  • Shift into higher-risk investments to try to capture higher returns.
  • Decide your head hurts, avoid thinking about it altogether and assume your health and career will allow you to work long enough to make up the difference.

Here are some things you CAN do:

  • Make catchup contributions to an IRA. The tax code allows workers over 50 to make extra, pre-tax contributions to boost their savings.
  • Re-think your lifestyle. Do you really need to live on a golf course? Maybe you could live near a golf course and be just as happy.
  • Take on a side hustle to create a little extra income. This could be something that’s been a hobby – tying fishing flies, restoring old cars, or knitting comforters. Or work a few hours a week at a friend’s business. Be aware, however, that your earnings may have implications for your taxes and Social Security benefits. Because the tax code governing what portion of benefits can be taxed is complex and subject to change, you should talk to an accountant or financial advisor well versed in that part of the code.
  • Do you have two cars? Maybe one would do. Or perhaps you can do just fine with a used model with a reputation for reliability and longevity.
  • Downsize. Move to a smaller house or condo, and if you’re single, maybe take on a roommate.
  • Consider relocating to a lower-cost area. The cost of living in Knoxville, TN is about 17% below the national average, and there are plenty of other places below the norm: Cheyenne, WY (-8%), Green Bay, WI (-10%) and Sherman, TX (-14%) are just a few.
  • Tap your home equity to pay expenses.
  • Consider a reverse mortgage. However, be aware that the reverse mortgage products offered by various lenders are wildly different in their terms and risks. Look at this very, very carefully before committing.
  • Delay taking Social Security benefits. Waiting until at least your full retirement age boosts your monthly check significantly; your monthly benefit will increase by about 0.67% for each month you delay past your full retirement age, and will add about 8% for each full year you wait until you reach age 70. Your full retirement age depends on your year of birth. Use the calculator on The Social Security Administration website to figure all of this out for your particular situation based on your personal earnings record.

But before you do any of these things, the most important step you can take is to talk to your financial advisor. Because they deal with the intricacies of the tax codes and Social Security every day, they can help you steer clear of landmines and set a course to that bright retirement you’ve been dreaming of.

Sources:

1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/investor/2017/06/09/what-to-do-when-you-havent-saved-enough-for-retirement/#368f06f06e20

2. https://www.aginginplace.org/are-there-taxes-on-social-security-for-seniors/

3. https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/1955-delay.html

4. https://www.kiplinger.com/slideshow/retirement/T047-S001-cheapest-places-where-you-ll-want-to-retire-2019/index.html

#save #retirement #future #wellcents

ACR# 336900 NFPR-2020-8

Frequently Overlooked Retirement Costs

Frequently Overlooked Retirement Costs

Nov 2020

Think you know how much you’ll need to retire comfortably? You might want to think again. According to the Schroders Global Investor Study 2018, which surveyed more than 22,000 investors from 30 countries, 15% of retirees lacked sufficient income to support a comfortable retirement. Moreover, the research found that people anticipate budgeting 34% of their retirement income for basic expenses but actually require nearly 50%. This disparity is understandable given the many unexpected changes that can occur during this phase of life. With that in mind, here are some costs that are often overlooked or underestimated when planning for retirement.

Taxes. No more employer means no one is withholding income taxes from your Social Security check each month (unless you specifically request it from the Social Security Administration)— and that can lead to an unwelcome surprise at tax time. Many retirees don’t realize that their Social Security benefits are taxable as income, so it’s important to plan ahead for any retirement tax bills. And you’ll pay taxes on withdrawals in retirement from your traditional (but not Roth) IRA.

Home Maintenance. Hopefully you’ll remain robust enough to continue to maintain your home yourself during retirement, but it’s often wise to put aside a little extra in case you need to make routine repairs or hire outside help for some home maintenance tasks you’ve been handling such as lawn care, laundry and general housekeeping.

Medical Costs. While many retirees are often pleased when they’re finally Medicare eligible, they’re often surprised when they learn that some costs are not covered under the government plan. For example, many dental, vision and other expenses (e.g., hearing aids) are generally out-of-pocket expenses and can run in the thousands of dollars. Also, Medicare premiums, deductibles, copayments, coinsurance and medication costs can add up once you’re no longer on your employer-sponsored health insurance plan.

Aging-in-Place Renovations. Many retirees want to be able to remain in their homes as opposed to receiving care in an assisted living or nursing home facility. Often, however, modifications to an existing floor plan to accommodate wheelchair access or a live-in caregiver become necessary. For example, you might require a walk-in tub or shower, grab bars or an entrance ramp to your home. While needs in this area can be hard to predict, additional dollars in your emergency fund to cover such renovations constitutes smart retirement planning.

Home Care. While we all hope to maintain our independence throughout our lives, the reality is that most of us will require some additional help with activities of daily living as we age. And the cost of this assistance isn’t cheap. Purchasing long-term care insurance is one way to plan for this expense, but that can be quite costly as well. Another option is relocating to a state with more favorable Medicaid benefits. Speak with your advisor about this essential part of your retirement plan.

Family Assistance. Many retirees want to be able to help out their children, grandchildren and extended family. You may wish to contribute to a college fund, treat your grandkids to a nice vacation, or help your children with a first home purchase. Try to anticipate these wants and budget for them accordingly.

Vehicle Replacement. For many retirees, retirement can last for decades. So it’s likely that you’ll need to replace your car at least once or twice if you continue to drive. This can be a significant expense to cover if not budgeted for ahead of time.

Inflation. Again, with many retirements lasting 20-30 years, it’s important to take inflation and the degradation of your retirement dollars’ purchasing power over time into account. This can be a complex cost to calculate, and it’s another good reason to consult with a professional.

Retirement is an exciting time of transition that brings with it many changes to your budget and lifestyle. Speak with your financial advisor to help you create a realistic budget that will anticipate as many of your retirement expenses as possible. Then, when the time comes, you’ll be in a better position to sit back and enjoy the adventure.

#costreduction #overlookedcosts #wellcents #financialwellness

Sources:

1. https://www.schroders.com/en/media-relations/newsroom/all_news_releases/schroders-global-investor-study-2018-people-significantly-underestimating-cost-of-living-in-retirement/

2. https://www.advisortoday.com/2018/07/17/people-underestimate-cost-of-living-in-retirement/

3. https://www.ssa.gov/planners/taxwithold.html

How Much Will I Actually Need to Retire?

How Much Will I Actually Need to Retire?

Nov 2020

There are many formulas for figuring out how much money you need to retire. Almost all of them can end up being wrong for a variety of reasons.

Let’s face it: We love fast food, and we love “fast-food” formulas - simplistic rules of thumb that we can use instead of actually thinking about a problem in depth. The retirement investing space is filled with these. Some say you need eight-to-12 times your current annual income or that you should have 25 times your annual expenses, 80% of your income at the time of retirement or - and this is a good round number - $1 million.

While thinking seriously about retirement finances is useful, for most people, these formulas aren’t going to come close to what your retirement actually looks like.

Taking Stock

To truly get comfortable with your retirement plan, the first thing you need to do is actually plan your retirement. How long are you likely going to live based on averages, genetics and behavior? What will be meaningful and enjoyable to you after you finish working full time? Do you plan to travel or pursue a hobby? Where do you want to live? And what’s your style - hanging out at a pricey country club restaurant every night, or cooking for yourself and staying in? Do you expect to go shopping at trendy boutiques weekly, or are you more of a “I bought these pants at the Gap five years ago, and they still look good” person?

In short, it’s your lifestyle and your length of life that will drive your financial needs once you’re no longer working. To gauge your needs, try this exercise. Carve out a couple of hours of quiet time. Turn off your phone, close your email and tell your family members to leave you alone. Better yet, maybe you and your significant other can take a long weekend in a place that’s comfortable, but not so fascinating as to be distracting, and do this together.

Think really hard about what “retirement” means to you. At a younger age, “not having to go to work” seems like what retirement is - and should be - all about. But if your mentality never evolves beyond that, then you can’t take full advantage of new opportunities. Instead, think about your bucket list - places you want to go as well as experiences you want to have.

Think about how you want to live your life and where. Living in a dense urban area affords you easy access to cultural amenities like concerts, festivals, museums and more. However, it may be more crowded than living in a suburb, exurb or rural area. If you do live in the city, you probably won’t need to drive a lot, and you may not even need a car at all with easy access to public transportation. Have you considered moving to another part of the country? Or even another country altogether? Tens of thousands of people do. Some hate it and come back, but many find it’s an adventure that keeps them engaged.

List things that would be meaningful to you. They may be volunteering for a charitable organization, mentoring others, or painting, gardening, beekeeping, birding or learning to play the zither.

Now your future is starting to come into focus. Extend the exercise by imagining what an average retirement day is going to be like: Where will you be? And with whom? Doing what?

How Much is Enough?

Once you have a fix on your future - the where, the how, the what and with whom - it’s much easier to put actual numbers on that lifestyle. Multiply that need by the number of years you expect to live - taking into account slowing activity as you get older - and you’ll come to a much closer estimate than any formula can provide. Throw in a little extra for increasing lifespans. Want to feel optimistic? Here’s what the Social Security Administration’s actuarial scientists say: “That mortality rates are found to continue to decline, at every age for which adequate data are available, demonstrates that no absolute limit to the biological life span for humans has yet been reached, and that such a limit is unlikely to exist.”

Write a brief overview of your conclusions and then schedule a conference with your financial advisor. With a clear picture of where you want to go, he or she will be able to help you build a solid map of how to get there.

Be optimistic: Retirement really can be some of the best years of your life.

#retirement #wellcents

Source:

http://www.ssa.gov/oact/NOTES/as120/LifeTables_Body.html

Evaluate How Much You Need for Retirement

Evaluate How Much You Need for Retirement

Nov 2020

Many people who are saving for retirement haven’t taken the time to figure out how much they may need when they retire. Financial planners who do pension consulting point out that saving without a goal could leave you in trouble when you reach retirement. After all, how do you know if you’re saving enough if you don’t know how much you may need?

Factors to consider - One way to start figuring out how much you’ll need in retirement is to look at how much you’re spending now. That will at least provide you with a starting point. Remember, though, your expenses will change after you retire:

  • Expenses that may go down include income taxes, mortgage payments (particularly if you downsize), utilities, and expenses for children. Also, you may save money on commuting expenses (including gas, tolls, car payments, and insurance) and other work-related costs like clothing.
  • Expenses that could go up include travel and entertainment costs and health care. While joining Medicare can reduce your expenses, you may need additional insurance and your costs may go up if your health declines.

Most financial advisors believe you’ll need about 80 percent of your current income in retirement to maintain your current standard of living1.

Review Your Income - You’ll need to assess any income you’re going to receive in retirement, such as Social Security, a pension, rent from property you may own, or other recurring income you receive.

Once you add up your income and subtract your expenses, you’ll know how much you need have saved by the time you reach retirement.

Tags: retirement planning, retirement, evaluate


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