While I try to be somewhat positive with what I write in this blog, sometimes I find that I have to be real and that being real sometimes requires being a little cynical. This is one of those “being real” blogposts. Retirement doesn’t always happen how you want it to and, with that in mind, sometimes you need to think about those worst case scenarios. For example, how much would an early retirement change your plans? What if you are forced to retire sooner than anticipated due to injury or downsizing–can you handle tapping into your nest egg sooner than expected? These are things you need to think about and, ideally, have a plan to handle such situations. In fact, you probably should think of at least a few “worst case scenario” situations regarding retirement and make plans for how you would tackle them if they occurred. For example, if you were forced to retire early are there assets you could sell or tap into to make ends meet before reaching into your nest egg? What if you find yourself in the opposite type of scenario and don’t have enough saved for when you plan on retiring? Will you work longer or change your retirement plans? Thinking about these worst case scenario situations won’t be pleasant, but it is an important part of planning. You need to be prepared for whatever may come your way and at least thinking about such bad situations is a part of that. If you need help with planning for retirement or want to discuss having a backup plan, of course I always encourage you to speak with a certified financial planner or wealth manager. What’s your worst case retirement scenario?
Retirement can seem like a long ways off as you make your way through your career–and, of course, life–during your 20s, 30s, and 40s. However, when you get into your 50s, suddenly it might not seem so far off in the distance. Your early 50s, in particular, are a really good time to get serious about retirement. What does it mean to “get serious” about retirement? It means sitting down and taking a long, hard look at where your finances stand and when exactly you want to retire. You will also want to reassess your retirement goals and get a good understanding of what life in retirement will be like. What will your retirement budget be? Do you plan on paying down your debt before retiring? Are you going to move for retirement? These are some important questions you will need to ask yourself as you near retirement age. The answers may surprise you and will give you a good sense of what is realistic regarding retirement. Now, I’m not saying you need to wait until your 50s to get serious about retirement (the earlier you start, the better), but I am encouraging you to not wait until your late 50s/early 60s to start thinking about your post-work life. Remember, retirement is serious business that requires a plan and hard work, both before and during. Taking the time to properly prepare for it so that you can enjoy it is very important. So, are you ready for retirement?
It can be tempting to look at your nest egg and see an untapped source of money, particularly if your nest egg is sizeable and you are nearing retirement. For example, maybe you found your dream retirement home and need money for a down payment. You may look to your IRA for a short-term loan to meet those money requirements. I’m here to tell you that that is a bad idea and to discourage you not to do so. The biggest reason being that you don’t want to tap into your IRA monies until you actually retire and, even then, you will want to have a plan for doing so. You’ve worked hard to save up for your post-work life and you want to make sure that money goes towards your retirement goals (of course, if purchasing a retirement home is part of your plan, then that’s a different discussion). The other risk of viewing your IRA as a loan source is the risk of making a mistake when taking out money. Keep in mind that there are two routes you can go when taking money out of your IRA before reaching retirement age. First off, you can take a distribution, pay the taxes and penalties, and then not have to worry about what you do with the money. The other option is to take out the money and do a 60 day rollover, which will involve paying back the money within that 60 day window. There’s a lot of risk involved with that. I repeat, there is a lot of risk involved with doing this. Mainly, if you take out the money, is there any guarantee that you will recoup it within that 60 day window? Chances are, you are going to be making a large purchase if you need a loan (probably talking thousands of dollars), so what are the chances that you will make that money back in two months? If you are certain that you can do that, then maybe you can consider it. However, if you aren’t so sure that you can complete such a transaction in that timeframe, stay away from this idea. That can lead to a lot of problems if you aren’t able to put the money back within those 60-days. Hint: Don’t open yourself up to the IRS taking more of your money through penalties! If you are in need of money, you should consider other types of loans or selling off other assets before even considering your IRA as a loan source. You may even want to really think about whether you even need to make the purchase at that time and whether you can put it off until you actually have the funds and leave your retirement money alone.
I recently spoke with some family members in the Northeast who lost power during a big storm that rolled through. It took them four days to get power back. While they were able to get by just fine, it got me thinking about the importance of being prepared for emergencies. I know I’ve talked about such preparation in the past, but I feel like it’s something that should be brought up from time to time as it’s very important. As you plan for the future and set goals, make sure you are also preparing for the unexpected. That means having an emergency fund saved up or having a plan for divesting particular assets as a way to pay for unexpected expenses (i.e. medical bills, emergency home repairs, etc.). Having an emergency fund or emergency plan can go a long way towards protecting your nest egg and keeping you on track to meet your goals. Many people don’t think to build up an emergency fund and thus put all their hard work and savings at risk and don’t truly realize it. If you don’t have one, don’t worry, it’s never to late to start saving for an emergency. If you need help getting started, you should speak with a certified financial planner or wealth manager. So, are you prepared for an emergency?
Just because you have lots of money doesn’t mean you’re necessarily a financial wizard. Society is littered with famous celebrities who have squandered massive amounts of money through various means, such as bad investments or poor spending habits. I’m not saying we need to be sympathetic to celebrities who make millions, but their stories, when looked at together, can provide an important lesson for all of us. That is, that having money and being able to properly manage it and care for it are two different things. In other words, just because you have money doesn’t mean you will know what to do with it. This can also be case for average, middle class workers that make up the backbone of American society. There’s also plenty of stories out there of retirees decimating their nest eggs once they reach retirement by spending more than they saved or making poor investment decisions. Here is where knowing what you don’t know is important. If you know you aren’t good with money, make sure you hire a wealth manager or certified financial planner who can help. They can help you set a plan and understand your appetite for risk and avoid investments that may not provide the right return for you as well as help you decide to dump certain investments that take a turn for the worst. A good wealth manager or certified financial planner can also help you to grow your nest egg by also suggesting investments that fit into your plans and meet your risk tolerance. It’s important that you find someone you are comfortable with and who you trust with your money. Now, I’m not saying here that all retirees don’t know what to do with large retirement savings accounts. Of course, there are also many stories of people out there taking a small sum of money and turning it into millions through smart financial decisions. Or of retirees being practical in retirement and making their savings last. However, it can be easy to get caught up in thinking that just because you have money means you know what to do with it.
This Coronavirus pandemic is changing everything. Sure, you can tell yourself it’s only temporary and convince yourself that things will soon return to normal, but it’s highly unlikely that will happen (however, there’s nothing wrong with a little optimism!). For those of you Boomers out there getting ready for retirement, it will be different. First off, of course, is the fact that the economy and markets seem to have taken a turn. Yes, we are in a recession. That’s usually not a good thing, especially if you are planning on your portfolio or investments to keep making you money in retirement. On the flip side, if you are savvy with investing, this may be a chance to set your portfolio for when the markets rebound (not sure of when, though). This down market may lead to slower nest egg growth for Boomers who are still working and starting to think about retirement. This may lead Boomers to work longer, which may be more difficult than intended. It’s not uncommon for Boomers to be the ones forced out in favor of younger workers at companies when times get tough. On top of finances, you goals and desires for retirement may change as well during these times. Luxurious vacations may not be a thing to a while (particularly cruises) and many retirees may place more emphasis on spending time with family. You may even already find yourself re-assessing your retirement needs and desires as you read this. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just remember, that the vision and expectations of retirement change from generation to generation and it’s currently changing for the Boomer generation. Are you ready for the new retirement?
If you’ve been staying on top of retirement news over the past 12 months, then you’ve probably read about the passage of the SECURE Act and it’s termination of the stretch IRA as an estate planning tool. Just a quick refresher, but a stretch IRA was an IRA inherited by a beneficiary in which the beneficiary then took required minimum distributions (RMDs) according to his/her life expectancy and not that of the original IRA owner. If the IRA was inherited by a young beneficiary, that meant the funds could grow, possibly over decades, before the inheriting beneficiary reaches 72 and has to start taking RMDs. The SECURE Act got rid of that and replaced the Stretch IRA with a 10 year rule, which means that the money in the inherited IRA must be emptied by the 10th year after inheriting. Of course, if there is money left over, it will be penalized by the IRS (what else is new, right?). This might seem like a hassle, but it can actually allow a lot of freedom, particularly in regards to when you take the money. Over that 10 year period, you are not required to take money every year. Now, you could do that if you wanted, but you could also take distributions 8 out of the 10 years or 5 out of 10 years. This can open up a lot of opportunities to adjust your financial and retirement plans and use the money at your discretion. All that matters is the account is empty by year 10. Of course, if it’s a Roth IRA, the money is already taxed, which is an added bonus. If you have questions about the 10 year rule or it appears that you may inherit one on the future and want to start planning what to do with the money, you should speak with a certified financial planner or wealth manager.
I’ve focused a lot on Coronavirus and how it has or may affect retirement plans for many. I see no reason to change that theme now. While parts of the country are starting to re-open, many areas are still largely shut down. There is also a lot of uncertainty surrounding opening up parts of the country. What happens in infections spike in areas that are reopening and they have to shut down again? Many predict, such a situation is a real possibility for places opening without a proper plan. It can be easy to become cautious regarding saving for retirement during such situations. You may cut back on your retirement account contributions so you can save up to build up an emergency fund. Or maybe your worried about not having a job that will make it through, so you focus on paying down some of the debts you have at the moment so that you won’t have to worry about them later. Or maybe you had your hours cut back, so you adjusted your nest egg contributions to make it through these times. There are a lot of reasons why you may have cut back or stopped making retirement account contributions. However, if your going through difficult times work and income-wise, that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to stay focused on retirement. You can work on your budgeting skills and areas you may feel weak in. You can also lower your contribution rates to free up money for the here and now. Once we get through this difficult time, you can then up the contributions when you have the resources to do so. The key is to stay focused on retirement and make the moves that will allow you to get there. If that means surviving through now to get to retirement later, then do so!
Have you found yourself out of a job thanks to retirement? Are you living off of unemployment and savings at the moment? While this may not be an ideal scenario, it can be a good time to practice a bit what life will be like in retirement. In retirement, you probably will have to make your savings last, especially if you don’t plan on working or don’t have passive income as part of your plans. You will need to work on skills such as budgeting and planning. If you are living on unemployment benefits you are already doing the same thing as you need the money to last you until the next check. You will need to budget and plan for where and how you spend that money. Obviously, the necessities–such as rent and food–come first and then the luxuries–such as entertainment or ordering out–can come last. In retirement, you will be working to make your savings last. Now, of course, your nest egg should be enough for you to live comfortably in retirement and you should have a plan for how you will spend it. However, there’s nothing wrong with practicing before you get the retirement. This will give you a chance to get an idea regarding what your weaknesses are. Are there certain expenditures you always seem to make but don’t really need? Do you have trouble budgeting? Now is good time to work on those. Times are tough, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use them to your advantage.
People are losing jobs. It’s what happens when the economy takes a turn for the worst. For those over 50, right now can be a downright scary atmosphere. Not only are people losing jobs, but it’s getting harder for those over 50 to get either their old jobs back or a similar job. This was true back after 2009–after the most recent recession–and it’s true now. For many people over 50, especially those over 60, they may just choose to stay jobless after all this is over; they’ll essentially retire. They will effectively be forced into retirement. Now, that doesn’t sound like the worst scenario, but it can be a nightmare. Imagine saving up for a particular retirement and setting plans and goals and then being forced to start tapping into your savings years before you intended to. Suddenly, that nest egg might not seem so large and you weren’t mentally prepared to exit the workforce. This probably is not ideal for many and will likely cause many older Americans to start tapping into their retirement funds sooner than anticipated. It will also force many Americans to reassess their retirement plans and to make changes to how they planned to live out retirement. It can be somewhat traumatic to have to change plans that you had been working towards for years, or even decades. If you do find yourself facing an early retirement, don’t freak out. Take a deep breath and think about the options available to you and whether they fit into your life plans. Can you get by on unemployment for a while? Is now a good time to switch industries or find work in another area? Would it really hurt to start taking money out of your nest egg now? Thinking about these questions can help you either fight the urge to retire or allow you to slide into retirement in a calmer mood.