The market has improved drastically since the depressing lows of March 2009, but we've all learned an important lesson. What goes up often comes back down, so it's important not to take anything for granted. Rather than assuming your retirement savings is invulnerable to market crashes, keep your feet firmly planted in reality and follow these steps to protect your financial future.
Diversify, diversify, diversify. This is the number one rule of financial planning: Never put all of your proverbial eggs in one basket. If one of your funds doesn't perform as expected, any losses will hopefully be balanced by gains in other funds.
Don't get emotional. Don't panic any time the market dips a little bit; this is not the time to make impulsive decisions. It's normal for the market to go through bumpy periods, and making drastic changes to your portfolio might just make your situation worse. Seek the guidance of a skilled financial professional, select the fund options that match your goals and risk tolerance, and try to have faith in your decisions for the long haul.
Keep some liquid assets in reserve. If you're retired, keep one to two years' worth of living expenses in liquid assets. This money won't earn big returns in interest, but it can serve as an insurance policy for your retirement fund. During times that your retirement account is earning low interest, you don't want to withdraw principal to cover living expenses. Protect your principal by keeping cash reserves in another account. Interest rates are likely to climb back to former levels before too long, and your fund may once again be able to produce the interest income that you need.
Better health care has led to a healthier nation and longer life spans overall. Today many ambitious workers expect to continue working until age 65, or even later. But since 47 percent of current retirees actually retired before they had planned, we know that our plans don't always work out as we had imagined. Events such as unexpected disability, company downsizing, or personal factors could cause you to retire earlier than you had planned. Since you aren't eligible for Medicare until age 65, you could wind up without health insurance just when you need it most.
Some people make the mistake of assuming that their employer-sponsored health care plan makes a provision for retired employees. This is true of some companies, and retiree health benefits have indeed helped some people to retire before age 65. But due to the rising costs of health insurance, many employers are revamping their employee benefits packages. Unfortunately, over recent years we have begun to notice that retiree health benefits are rapidly disappearing.
If you do retire before you're eligible Medicare, you have another option. The Affordable Care Act provides Americans with a way to shop for their own health insurance coverage through a federal or state-run exchange (depending upon your state of residence). In some cases, your former employer may actually offer you a stipend to help cover the cost of premiums. This has become a popular option in recent years, as companies seek to lower their health care expenditures while maintaining employee satisfaction.
There is only one problem with this scenario: Health care premiums tend to be run quite high for those with chronic health problems. You can't be denied health insurance coverage due to your condition, but the premiums may be beyond your financial capabilities. If you're forced to retire early due to a health problem, this could put you in quite a bind!
So here is what you need to know about early retirement and health insurance: Watch your mail, and read all communications from your company's human resources department. They should keep you updated on important changes to retiree health care benefits, so that you can adjust your retirement plans accordingly. In the event that you're forced to quit work earlier than you had planned, you'll know your options. In the meantime, remember that sound financial planning can help you to avoid unhappy surprises at retirement time.
Are you busily preparing for retirement? There's a lot of planning involved in this stage of your life, especially where your future sources of income are concerned. Once you retire, Social Security will comprise a portion of your retirement income, along with any pension or other investment income you've established. Now that you're starting to think about the end of your working days, it could be helpful to find out how much money you can expect from Social Security each month.
To estimate your future Social Security benefits, go to: www.ssa.gov/estimator. Before the calculator can estimate your future benefits, you will need to input the following information:
The Social Security Administration provides this handy online tool so that you can estimate your future monthly benefits. Keep in mind that this estimate is based on your 30 highest-earning years of employment, to date. If you happen to earn significantly more or less than expected in your final working years before retirement, your monthly benefit check may increase or decrease accordingly.
You will receive estimates for projected Social Security benefits depending upon when you retire. The calculator will give you an estimate for each of these situations:
This information can help you make decisions about when to stop working. But remember that Social Security was never meant to fund your entire cost of living in retirement. If you’re disappointed in your estimated benefits, you may need to reevaluate either your lifestyle expectations or your retirement date. You may choose to make extra catch-up contributions to your retirement plan, pay down your debts, or make other provisions to ensure an adequate retirement income. Talk to your financial professional about your estimated Social Security benefits, so that you can formulate a solid plan for your financial future.
This information has been provided by a Licensed Insurance Professional and is not sponsored or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any government agency.
13954 – 2015/1/2
Is Your 401(k) Leaking Money?
A 401(k) fund provides you with a great, tax-deferred way to save for retirement. But if you don't manage it correctly, there are plenty of mistakes you can make with the account. Some mistakes are obvious, such as early withdrawals which incur significant fees. But one of the worst 401(k) mistakes isn't so obvious, and you may not even know your fund is losing money unless you specifically check for it.
This mistake is called “fund fee loss” and a recent study demonstrated how serious and widespread the problem really is. Professors from Yale and the University of Virginia studied the menu options for a variety of 401(k) funds. They found that the options are indeed diverse, and offer investors a variety of opportunities for growth. But they also discovered that the fees associated with many of these options are so high that investors are losing a significant amount of their retirement income savings.
In fact, this fund fee loss is causing a 10.2 percent loss in optimal returns. Therefore a saver who is shooting for a one million dollar retirement goal will instead accumulate only 898,000, due to paying high fees and administrative costs.
The authors of the study advise savers to be on guard for the following fees:
Carstens Financial Group focuses on providing comprehensive asset management, estate planning and life insurance solutions. Allow us to help you secure your financial future.