According to a recent survey by Bankrate, 10 percent of Americans aren't saving anything at all for retirement. And according to the National Institute on Retirement Security, the median balance for all American households near retirement is $14,500. That's for households near retirement! When you add in the younger demographic, the numbers are even more alarming: The median balance for all American retirement account balances is $2,500.
In other words, people aren't taking retirement planning seriously – even those who are approaching that major milestone in their lives. And with only 53 percent of American workers offered a retirement account through their employers, financial planning is largely falling on individuals to decipher.
Unfortunately, individuals are not taking matters into their own hands, as they should be.
Many workers report feelings of pessimism regarding retirement. Many companies are phasing out pension plans, placing more of the burden for retirement planning squarely on their employees' shoulders. The Great Recession knocked a dent into many Americans' financial portfolios, and we're seeing plenty of people well into their sixties who have yet to retire. Once you consider inflation and the rising cost of health care, it's no wonder many workers have decided they're unlikely to ever retire.
But of course, economic conditions change over the years. We shouldn't assume that the dire conditions we see today necessarily need to last forever. Experts advise that millennials begin saving now, so that they can take advantage of compounding interest over the decades.
If you're behind on your retirement plans, or if your company doesn't offer a pension or retirement fund, you need to take matters into your own hands. Talk to a financial advisor about establishing an Individual Retirement Account or other savings vehicle. Start making regular and catch-up contributions if you're eligible. If you're worried about your ability to retire, your financial professional can analyze your situation and make suggestions to help you get back on the right track.
Your IRA provides you with terrific tax advantages as you save for retirement, but the rules regarding matters of estate planning can be complicated. High courts recently made some changes to IRAs, and you will want to take note of these changes as you move forward with retirement or estate planning.
If you regularly engage in IRA rollovers, take notice: US tax court recently decided that you can only perform one 60-day rollover in any 12-month period. This rule applies across all of your IRA accounts, so plan your rollovers carefully now that you are only allowed one per year. Also note that the court decided this rule is not based upon the calendar year, but the fiscal year. In other words, if you perform a rollover over September 17, then you can't perform another rollover until September 18 of next year – not January 1, as you could theoretically do under a calendar system.
There is one exception to this rule, however: you can perform as many trustee-to-trustee transfers as you want. As long as the checks are made payable to a brokerage or bank, for the benefit of a client's account, and the client does not actually access the funds, you can perform unlimited transfers if you so wish.
A recent Supreme Court decision also clarified the status of inherited IRAs. Previously, the law was unclear on how an inherited IRA is counted for tax purposes: Was it a retirement account, or treated like cash? Now, the Court has decided that an IRA you pass to your heirs will be treated as a cash asset, meaning it does not qualify for special protection from creditors.
But of course, there is an exception to that ruling as well: If you pass your IRA account to your spouse after your death, they can access it as their own retirement account. Other rules of IRA accounts will still apply, but your spouse won't have to worry about creditors getting their hands on part of this inherited IRA.
If you do want to protect your heirs from credit collections, you can choose to pass the IRA to them as part of a trust. Talk to your financial advisor or estate planning attorney for more details on establishing a trust to bequeath your assets.
It's normal to feel eager to retire toward the end of your career. But if financial worries or some other concerns about retirement are keeping you awake at night, you might be questioning your expected retirement date. After all, you chose that date years ago, and possibly under very different circumstances. There is nothing wrong with changing your mind about retirement, and it might even be the smartest decision you could make. If any of these six signs apply to you, delaying your retirement might be a good idea.
You plan to work part time after you retire. This is a common plan, and no one is saying it's a bad idea. But if you're counting on part time work to fill a gap in your retirement income, think twice before quitting your longtime career. It isn't always easy to find a job in our current economic climate, and you might not be able to count on your health to hold up forever.
Your spouse doesn't think it's a good idea. If your spouse is reluctant about retirement, ask them whether they have financial or emotional concerns, or both. It's always better to be on the same page about major life decisions.
You don't know what you're going to do every day. After decades of hard work, lying on the couch watching C-Span might sound perfectly enjoyable. But in reality, you won't be happy with a do-nothing lifestyle for long.
You're relying on the stock market to perform well. As we have seen in recent weeks, the stock market can be unpredictable. You shouldn't count on a certain performance from your stocks – in fact, you should assume that there will be occasional dips in the market. Make sure your investment portfolio is well-rounded and that your risk is minimized before you retire.
You can't afford health care. If you're counting on Medicare to pay for everything you need, think again. The program does not cover many expenses such as prescription medications and long-term care. Have you factored these out-of-pocket expenses into your retirement budget?
You're over-burdened by financial obligations. Are your kids still living at home, or are they in college? Have you co-signed with anyone on a loan? Are you saddled with credit card debt? Have you set aside money for emergencies such as home maintenance or car repairs? You don't want to stretch your retirement budget too thin, so think carefully about whether you can cover your current obligations when you're living on a fixed income.
Are you feeling alarmed by the massive drop in the stock market last month? That event shocked and surprised many investors who didn't see it coming, and instilled feelings of wariness in those who were thinking about investing in their own financial futures. Whether you lost some money or just feel hesitant about investing in the future, you might be happy to learn that there are ways to participate in the upside of the stock market while limiting your losses.
Traditionally, investors have been advised to take a “buy and hold” approach to long-term financial planning. Under this plan of action, investors purchase stocks, rely upon the efficiency of the market, and hold these assets for the long term. Sure, there might be dips and rises that inspire both dismay and excitement, but over the years a gradual profit is earned
However, for many investors, the promise of an eventual profit isn't much comfort after a big drop like we saw last month. Trusting in market efficiency might not make much sense when the market isn't efficient! If you're wondering how to potentially prevent such losses in the future, engaging in tactical portfolio management might be the answers to your problems.
Unlike the typical “buy and hold” scenario, tactical portfolio management allows you to actively analyze and respond to current market conditions. It's a more dynamic way to manage your assets, helping you anticipate changes in the market and potentially prevent losses.
Rather than buying and holding for the long term, you can respond to current market conditions and allocate across classes depending upon your own risk tolerance and desire for growth. You may already have a diversified portfolio, which is a good thing, but tactical portfolio management takes that concept one step farther by continuing to analyze and diversify your assets.
During times of intense change, the old “buy and hold” philosophy might not be the best strategy for you. If you're interested in a more dynamic, active approach to managing your assets, talk to your financial advisor about tactical portfolio management to potentially guard against losses.
Carstens Financial Group focuses on providing comprehensive asset management, estate planning and life insurance solutions. Allow us to help you secure your financial future.