ON THE CORNER OF MY desk, there are two binders. One contains my financial plan and the other my longevity lifestyle plan. One is no good without the other. How can I know if I’ve saved enough money if I don’t have a clear idea of what I want to do in retirement and how much that lifestyle will cost me?
The financial services industry’s focus has been on financial planning, with the objective of helping people accumulate as much money as possible.
WHAT WILL RETIREMENT cost? One solution to this riddle is to save as much as we can and hope it’ll cover our expected expenses. Finding the right answer—the exact amount of savings required—can involve hours of calculation, and even then there’s a fair amount of uncertainty.
At my financial planning firm, we help clients with this calculation. Our starting point: We believe the foundation of most retirement plans should be Social Security. Many Americans choose to take Social Security earlier than their full retirement age (FRA).
I HAVE A MILESTONE birthday this month—turning age 65. This has long been considered the standard retirement age.
When the Social Security Act was signed into law in 1935, 65 was the age at which workers could receive retirement benefits. Many companies’ defined benefit pension plans still use 65 as the age at which employees can receive an unreduced pension. And 65 is the age at which folks become eligible for Medicare.
This is also the median age at which workers expect to retire,
I OFTEN MEET PEOPLE who have saved more than enough to retire. In my role as a financial planner, I share numbers with them showing that, if they retire today, there’s a high degree of certainty they’ll never exhaust their savings. I often tell them that, if they ran out of money, it would be because capitalism failed, and we all might as well learn to hunt and gather.
Yet few of these people retire.
ELEVEN YEARS AGO, at age 56, I lost my job as a mid-level manager at a Fortune 500 company. I had joined the organization at age 28 with no savings. Twenty-eight years later, I was able to retire at a relatively young age with a pension and a seven-figure 401(k).
During those 28 years, I was passed over several times for promotion to vice president. Instead, I settled into my director-level position, never earning a salary of more than $150,000,
EQUITABLE FINANCIAL Life Insurance Co. agreed last month to pay a $50 million fine for engaging in fraud. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, since at least 2016, Equitable gave the false impression to 1.4 million investors that they were paying $0 in fees and expenses for their variable annuities. The majority of the investors were educators saving for retirement.
The SEC found that Equitable’s statements “listed only certain types of fees that investors infrequently incurred” and that “more often than not the statements had $0.00 listed for fees.” The commission concluded these were “misleading statements and omissions” of the true fees investors actually paid.
HAVE YOU GOT children or grandchildren with summer jobs? That means you could put them on the path to financial success—by helping them open a Roth IRA.
My brothers and I always had jobs, including delivering newspapers, bussing tables, mowing lawns and valet parking. My sons also had jobs at an early age, including shucking thousands of ears of corn at our local swim club. Later on, they were lifeguards, along with many of their friends from the swim team.
AM I ALLOWED another rant?
I have a tip for anyone under age 50. Someday—if you’re lucky—you’ll stop working and still need income to live. Most of us call that retirement.
How in the world do people reach their 50s and suddenly have a revelation that retirement is somewhere in their future?
I get it. If you’re in your 20s or even early 30s, it’s time to have fun. But there’s the trap. Fun for too long,
AH, SUMMER. Over the July 4 weekend, we spent time relaxing at our neighbor’s house. A three-year-old jumped into the pool from the diving board for the first time. He had a big smile and many supporters.
It’s always fun to chat with neighbors we haven’t seen for a while, and also meet new visitors. One man swimming with his kids turned out to be an investigative reporter for a local news station. We didn’t talk for long,
I SPEND SIGNIFICANT time reading the viewpoints of people who are planning for retirement or who are already retired. My frequent reaction: What are they thinking?
When I review retirement planning discussions on Facebook and elsewhere, I often find the participants show little understanding of how to proceed or even what some basic terms mean. Here’s a sampling of the confusion and uncertainty I come across:
Should people aim to replace 70%, 80% or some other percentage of their preretirement income?
IN MY LATE 30s, with my architectural apprenticeship complete, I opened my own firm. Even with a low income, I saved.
Nine years later, in 1988, Philadelphia’s Drexel University invited me to develop its brand-new architectural engineering program. A retirement plan with a generous match was an unexpected benefit, and I always contributed the maximum. As I aged, family inheritances helped somewhat. By 1999, both Quicken and a financial advisor confirmed that, if I chose to,
AS MY OLD NEWSPAPER company slid toward bankruptcy, it signed over the deeds to its newspaper buildings to the pension plan in an effort to meet its obligations. It was like burning the furniture to keep the house warm—and it worked about as well as you might expect.
When the company finally filed for bankruptcy in 2020, it laid the blame on its unfunded pension obligations. The pension fund was short by $1 billion,
HAVE YOU HEARD that you shouldn’t check your 401(k) at times like this? Market volatility can wreak havoc not only with our account balances, but also with our decision-making. Ignoring our 401(k) statements might help us stick with our long-term investment plan.
True as that may be, there’s a good reason to peek at your second-quarter statement: to see if you can find a new feature—the lifetime income illustration. It was mandated by Congress as part of the 2019 SECURE Act,
I WAS A CAREFREE girl who grew up on a farm in Washington state. There never seemed to be any money worries. I had the freedom to roam 2,000 acres on my motorbike. The woods were my sanctuary. My father had a plane and landing strip in the field next to our house. I was the baby of the family and he was very generous with me. My mother was hard working and believed everything should be earned.
SOCIAL SECURITY’S complexity never fails to surprise. While many retirees have some sense for what factors determine the size of their Social Security check, few appreciate just how involved the benefits calculation can be.
For example, have you ever wondered what the Social Security Administration does if you continue working after starting benefits? It’s not a simple answer. There are two distinct treatments depending on whether you start benefits before or after you reach your full Social Security retirement age,