Tag Archives: 401(k)

The Retirement Dilemma Facing American Workers

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The way Americans fund their retirement has undergone a fundamental transformation in the last 30 years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of private-sector employees with a traditional defined benefit pension plan has dropped from about 45% in 1980 to a little over 20% in 2011. A defined benefit pension plan is one that provides the retiree with a guaranteed income for the rest of his or her life.

The guaranteed pension has been replaced by a defined contribution plan. Today, about 50% of the private workforce participates in one of these plans, which include 401(k) plans and 403(b) plans and allow the worker to set money from their paycheck aside to grow tax-deferred until they retire, at which point they can start pulling from it to fund their retirement. However, there is no guarantee that the amount saved will be adequate to meet their income needs once they retire.

Most government workers still have access to traditional defined benefit pension plans. However, most of these plans are severely underfunded and questions are being raised about cities and states being able to pay the benefits that were promised. A recent poll of people 25 years and older concluded that “Americans are united in their anxiety about their economic security in retirement.” Over 75% of those surveyed worry that economic conditions might hurt their chances for a secure retirement. (For related reading from this author, see: How Retirees Should Think About Retirement Income.)

Social Security and Medicare Concerns

The federal government provides a basic level of retirement income via Social Security, and provides a basic level of health insurance via Medicare and Medicaid. However, these programs are on shaky ground according to most actuaries. The Social Security Trust Fund will run out of money around 2034 unless it is reformed. That does not mean that checks will not go out to retirees, but it does mean that the amount going out will decrease.

Medicare is in even worse shape and, with the continued rapid rise in medical costs, may face a crisis even sooner. The costs of health care and increasing life spans are major issues for retirees, which explains the reason that so many Americans think they are facing a retirement crisis in the first place. Given the level of debt at the federal level and the rhetoric of the current administration, we do not see the government jumping in to fund the American worker’s retirement at levels above what it does now.

Even Denmark, an icon of the Welfare State, is proposing tax cuts, reducing welfare benefits and raising the retirement age.

“We want to promote a society in which it is easier to support yourself and your family before you hand over a large share of your income to fund the costs of society.”

Funding Your Own Retirement

If the government is not going to come to the rescue, and if corporations are going to continue to unload the financial risks and burdens associated with pension plans, what is the answer? Look to the old saying, “If you want something done, do it yourself.” Going forward, it’s increasingly going to be up to the individual American worker to fund his or her own retirement.

If people begin saving early, a large part of the retirement problem will be solved. The most valuable asset that people have when they are young is time. If workers begin putting money aside at an early age, it will grow and compound for 40 to 50 years until retirement, solving a large part of the problem. The compounding of returns is what makes so much of the difference.

Here is a little math exercise: assume you begin by saving $25 per month—much less than the cost of having one decent dinner at a restaurant—and invest it conservatively so that it grows at 5% per year. At the end of 45 years you will have $50,000. Now assume that you increase your savings by 10% each year—so that in year two you save $27.50 per month (still far less than the cost of just one dinner out)—at the end of 45 years you have $400,000 to use in retirement. These examples go to show that saving a modest sum for retirement does not require much cost or effort, just discipline, time and patience.

Financial Education is Key

The greatest asset that young workers have is time. Unfortunately, people rarely enter the workforce knowing much about saving or investing. That is one reason so many people live paycheck to paycheck. The solution to the retirement crisis is achievable by educating young people and raising awareness. Until schools and colleges begin having mandatory courses for our young people about managing money, parents should be doing this. If they are unsure, they can put their children in touch with a financial planner who will spend time to provide the education. Many financial planners are beginning to offer hourly rates to help people learn to plan and budget.

For most people, the retirement problem is the result of a lack of information. The solution is right in front of us, if we realize that times have changed and people must change with it.

(For more from this author, see: Are You Ready for the Retirement Challenge?)

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The Public Pension Crisis

Government workers at all levels are likely to have pension plans but there is a big question about the plans’ ability to pay.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 92% percent of full-time government employees like teachers and police officers are eligible for pensions, known as “defined benefit plans.”

According to the BLS about 22% of workers in the private sector have pensions, down from 42% in 1990.  In the private sector, retirement plans are much more likely to be 401(k) plans, known as “defined contribution plans.”  Part of the reason for this is that some large companies, like General Motors, accrued huge pension liabilities over the years that they were unable to pay.

Since the Federal Government can print money, federal employees are not worried.  However, states and municipalities depend on their tax base and can’t print money.  That’s where the problem comes in.  Some estimates claim the unfunded liability of public pension plans exceeded $3 trillion dollars.

According to Governing, the city of Chicago’s has an unfunded pension liability of almost $20,000 per capita.  Other cities are somewhat better off, but no big city has a fully funded pension account.  Dallas and Denver, for example are on the hook for between $8,000 and $9,000 per resident.  It’s difficult to even measure the amount of indebtedness because political leaders really don’t want to discuss it.

The problem has been exacerbated by rate-of-return assumptions that are unrealistic.  Most pension funds assume that their assets will grow at rates of seven to eight percent per year indefinitely, a virtual impossibility in this age of low interest rates and sluggish growth.

What does that mean for public employees?   They may want to cast a wary eye on Puerto Rico and some cities in California who have gone into default.  As a wise man once said, “something that can’t go on forever, won’t.”  A little planning ahead won’t hurt.

Whether you are a public employee or work in the private sector we welcome your inquiries.

 

 

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Do you have questions about retirement? You’re not alone.

Charles Schwab recently conducted a survey of people saving for retirement and found that saving enough for retirement was the single most force of financial stress in their lives; … greater than job security, credit card debt or meeting monthly expenses.

A new survey from Schwab Retirement Plan Services, Inc. finds that saving enough money for a comfortable retirement is the most common financial stress inducer for people of all ages. The survey also reveals that most people view the 401(k) as a “must-have” workplace benefit and believe they would benefit from professional saving, investment and financial guidance.

Most people who come to see us have concluded that they need professional help.  They have some basic questions and want answers without a sales pitch.

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They know that they need to save for retirement but don’t know exactly how.

  • The want to know how much they need to save.
  • They want to know how they should be investing their 401(k) plans.
  • They wonder if they should put money into a Regular IRA or a Roth IRA.
  • They know they need to invest in the market but are concerned about making mistakes.

Only 43 percent know how much money they may need for a comfortable retirement, which is significantly lower than awareness of other important targets in their lives, including ideal credit score (91%), weight (90%) or blood pressure (77%).

“With so many competing obligations and priorities, it’s natural for people to worry about whether they’re saving enough for retirement;” said Steve Anderson, president, Schwab Retirement Plan Services, Inc. “Roughly nine out of ten respondents told us they are relying mostly on themselves to finance retirement. It’s encouraging to see people of all ages taking responsibility for their own future and making this a top priority.”

But you don’t have to go it alone.  At Korving & Company we are investment experts.  And we’re fiduciaries which mean that we put your interests ahead of our own.

Contact us for an appointment.

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How much annual retirement income will you have?

Most people believe that their home is their most expensive thing they’ll ever pay for.  They’re wrong.  The most expensive thing people ever pay for is retirement. And they’ll pay for it after they quit working.

That’s why it’s important to have a clear idea of what you’re getting into before you decide to tell your employer that you’re leaving.

The typical retiree’s sources of income include Social Security.  They may have a pension, although fewer companies are offering them.  If there is a gap between those sources of income and their spending plans, the difference is made up by using their retirement savings.

Running out of money is the single biggest concern of retirees.  The big question is how long we will live and the amount we can draw from our savings before they are depleted.

For simplicity, let’s assume: You’re ready to retire today and plan to have your retirement savings last 25 years. You’ve moved your savings into investments that you believe are appropriate for your retirement portfolio. The investments will provide a constant 6% annual return. You’ll withdraw the same amount at the end of each year.

If you saved this amount Here’s how much you could withdraw annually for 25 years
$100,000  $7,823
$200,000 $14,645
$300,000 $23,468
$400,000 $31,291
$500,000 $39,113
$600,000 $46,936
$700,000 $54,759
$800,000 $62,581
$900,000 $70,404
$1,000,000 $78,227

Keep in mind that these examples don’t include factors such as inflation and volatility that can have a big impact on your purchasing power and account value.

For example, if inflation were 4% a year, a withdrawal of $31,291 25 years from now would only be worth $11,738 in today’s dollars.

Investment losses would decrease your account’s growth potential in subsequent years. To account for these factors, you might need to save even more.

Many experts estimate that you’ll need 80% or more of your final annual salary each year in retirement. Social Security may only provide around 40% of what you need. And don’t forget that retirees typically have different types of expenses compared to people still in the workforce, such as increased health care and travel costs.

This is why planning is so important.  A financial plan will provide you with answers to many of these questions.  Retirees also need to reduce the chances that their portfolio will experience major losses due to market volatility or taking too much risk.  This is where a Registered Investment Advisor who is also a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) can help.  At Korving & Company we prepare retirement plans and, once you approve of your plan, we will manage your retirement assets to give you peace of mind.

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What happens if you are 70 ½ and you have an IRA and a 403(b)?

RMDs, or Required Minimum Distributions have to be taken after you become 70 ½ if you have a retirement account such as an IRA or 401(k).   To determine the amount you are required to take, the value of all of your retirement accounts have to be added together.  If you have multiple retirement accounts you can take the RMD from only one account and leave the others alone … unless you have a 403(b) plan.

403(b) plan accounts must be added to the total of the retirement accounts to determine the RMD.  But  you can’t use distributions from IRAs to satisfy the RMDs from 403(b)s, nor can you use 403(b) distributions to satisfy IRA RMDs.

However, if you have several different 403(b) accounts, you can take the RMD from just one of the accounts, as long as it’s at least as much as the RMD based on the sum of all of the 403(b) accounts.

If you are retired, you may be able to simplify your life by rolling all of your retirement accounts into an IRA.  That way you can eliminate a lot of confusion, and the potential penalties that go along with making a mistake.

If you have questions about retirement accounts, call us.

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The Retirement Challenge

For most people, retiring means the end of a paycheck, but not the end of an active life.  The typical retiree spends 20 to 30 years in retirement and running out of money is their biggest fear.  When you retire, how will your lifestyle be affected?  Here are some of the things to take into consideration.

Retirement age – Modern retirees face lots of choices that their parents did not have.  There is no longer a mandatory retirement age, so the question “when should I retire” gets more complicated.

Social Security – The age at which you apply for Social Security benefits has a big effect on your retirement income.  Apply early and you reduce your monthly benefits by 25% – 30%, depending on your age.  Wait until you’re 70 and you increase your monthly benefit by up to 32% (8% per year), depending on your age.  If you are married, the decisions get even more complicated.

Pension – If you are entitled to a pension, the amounts you receive usually depend on your length of service.  The formula used to calculate the pension benefit can get quite complicated.  Those who work for employers whose finances are questionable may want to consider whether they will get the benefits they are promised.  If you are married, you will need to decide how much of your pension will go to your spouse if you die first.

Second career – More and more people go back to work after retirement.  Many don’t want to stop working, but do something different.  Others use their skills to become consultants, or turn a hobby into a business.  A second career makes a big difference in your retirement lifestyle and how much income you will have in retirement.

Investment accounts – These are the funds you have saved for retirement: in IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, 457s, and individual accounts.  These funds are under your control.  Most retirees use them to supplement Social Security and pension income.  They are the key to determining how well people live in retirement.

Combine these issue with the effects of inflation, market volatility, investment returns and health care costs and it becomes apparent that retirees need to plan.  If your retirement is years away, a plan allows you to make mid-course corrections.  If you’re already retired a plan will allow you to sleep soundly, knowing that a lot of the uncertainty has been removed.

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What’s the Difference Between an IRA and a Roth IRA

A questioner on Investopedia.com asks:

I contribute about 10% to my 401k. I want to know more about Roth IRAs. I have one with my company, but haven’t contributed any percentage yet as I am not sure how much I should contribute. What exactly is a Roth IRA? Additionally, what is the ideal contribution to a 401k for someone making $48K a year?

Here was my reply:

A Roth IRA is a retirement account.  It differs from a regular IRA in two important aspects.  First the negative: you do not get a tax deduction for contributing to a Roth IRA.  But there is a big positive: you do not have to pay taxes on money you take out during retirement.  And, like a regular IRA, your money grows sheltered from taxes.  There’s also another bonus to Roth IRAs: unlike regular IRAs, there are no rules requiring you to take annual required minimum distributions (RMDs) from your Roth IRA, even after you reach age 70 1/2.

In general, the tax benefits of being able to get money out of a Roth IRA outweigh the advantages of the immediate tax deduction you get from making a contribution to a regular IRA.  The younger you are and the lower your tax bracket, the bigger the benefit of a Roth IRA.

There is no “ideal” contribution to a 401k plan unless there is a company match.  You should always take full advantage of a company match because it is  essentially “free money” that the company gives you.

Have a question for us?  Ask away:

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Will Retiring Force Cutbacks in Your Lifestyle?

For most people, retiring means the end of a paycheck.  When you retire, how will your lifestyle be affected?  If you don’t know the answer to that, shouldn’t you find out before it’s too late?  There are so many things to take into consideration.

Retirement age – Modern retirees face lots of choices that their parents did not have.  There is no longer a mandatory retirement age, so the question “when should I retire” gets more complicated.

Social Security – The age at which you apply for Social Security benefits has a big effect on your retirement income.  Apply early and you reduce your monthly benefits by 25% – 30%, depending on your age.  Wait until you’re 70 and you increase your monthly benefit by up to 32% (8% per year), depending on your age.  If you are married, the decisions get even more complicated.

Pension – If you are entitled to a pension, the amounts you receive usually depend on your length of service.  The formula used to calculate the pension benefit can get quite complicated.  Those who work for employers whose finances are questionable may want to consider whether they will get the benefits they are promised.  If you are married, you will need to decide how much of your pension will go to your spouse if you die first.

Second career – More and more people go back to work after retirement.  Quite a few people don’t want to stop working, but do something different.  Others use their skills to become consultants, or turn a hobby into a business.  A second career makes a big difference in your retirement lifestyle and how much income you will have in retirement.

Investment accounts – These are the funds you have saved for retirement: in IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, 457s, and individual accounts.  These funds are under your control.  Most retirees use them to supplement Social Security and pension income.  They are the key to determining how well people live in retirement.

To find out whether you will be forced to cut back after you retire, you need a plan that allows you to take all these factors into consideration.  A plan allows you to make mid-course corrections before it’s too late.

If you have questions, contact us.

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The Trouble with 401(k) Plans

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The 401(k) plan is now the primary retirement plan for employees in the private sector and Ted Benna isn’t happy.  Benna is regarded as the “father” of the 401(k) plan but now he calls his child a “monster.”

There are several problems modern with 401(k) type plans.

  1. They are too complicated. The typical 401(k) plan has dozens of investment options. These are often included to satisfy government regulatory demands for broad diversification.  For the plan sponsor, who has a fiduciary responsibility, more is better.  However, for the typical worker, this just creates confusion.  He or she is not an expert in portfolio construction.  Investment choices are often made when an employee gets a new job and there are other things that are more pressing than creating the perfect portfolio.  Which leads to the second problem.
  1. Employees are given too little information. Along with a list of funds available to the employee, the primary information provided is the past performance of the funds in the plan.  However, we are constantly reminded that past performance is no guarantee of future results.  But if past performance is the main thing that the employee goes by, he or she will often invest in high-flying funds that are likely to expose them to the highest risk, setting them up for losses when the market turns.
  1. There are no in-house financial experts available to employees. Employee benefits departments are not equipped to provide guidance to their employees; that’s not their function.  In fact, they are discouraged from providing any information beyond the list of investment options and on-line links to mutual fund prospectuses.  Doing more exposes the company to liability if the employee becomes unhappy.

What’s the answer?  Until there are major revisions to 401(k) plans, it’s up to the employee to get help.  One answer is to meet with a financial advisor – an RIA – who is able and willing to accept the responsibility of providing advice and creating an appropriate portfolio using the options available in the plan.  There will probably be a fee associated with this advice, but the result should be a portfolio that reflects the employee’s financial goals and risk tolerance.

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