Posts Tagged ‘Retirement Planning’

Why Work With An Advisor?

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

 

There is nothing worse than a home improvement project gone wrong. You waste a ton of time running back and forth to Menards because you know you can do-it-yourself and end up wasting way more money in the long run more often than not. (Been there, done that, more times than I want to admit.) That’s exactly what I thought of when I read this stat from a recent Franklin Templeton survey:

 

78 percent of 35-44 year olds are concerned about managing their retirement plans to cover expense, yet only 23 percent work with a financial advisor.

 

Findings like these are a red flag in my industry. When I read reports like this I get the same look on my face that our handyman gets when he sees something I tried to do on my own. On second thought, that’s not true because he usually laughs at what I try to do and I’m not smiling right now.

 

66 percent of those who map out retirement strategies with an advisor understand what they will need to withdraw each year in retirement.

 

Now, I’m smiling.

 

No Wealth Requirements

 

Ask 10 different people why they don’t work with a financial advisor directly and you’ll get 10 different answers. Reasons, beliefs and excuses come in all kinds of shapes and sizes:

 

41 percent of those who don’t use an advisor say it is because they think they don’t have enough money to do so.

 

Now, I’m mad. Having enough money is what this is all about. Planning is building, and we all start from different places. There is no level we have to reach before we can seek help.

 

So, why would the surveyed respondents feel this way?

 

There are three reasons I can think of: 1) It’s just one those many (erroneous) assumptions we make about things, 2) They met an advisor who only works with high value accounts – strictly a business prerogative, or 3) A carnival barker told them so. Enough said.

 

No Instruction Manuals

 

Unlike putting in a new sink, planning for retirement, or any other monetary based goal, does not come with an instruction manual. Variables affect money management:

 

65 percent of Americans aged 65 or older said they will have to work between one and 10 more years before being able to retire.

 

The top two retirement concerns cited in the survey, after “running out of money”, were healthcare expense and changes to Social Security that would reduce or delay benefits. Both variables; add to these: societal change, market fluctuation, the cost of living, interest rates, and job opportunities.

 

30% percent of people who don’t use an advisor say it is because they want to do it themselves.

 

If I were to give the number reason why you should work with a financial advisor, it would be because of variables. Professional advisors understand actuarial concerns as well as they do the concerns of their clients. Matching peoples’ personal needs and goals with the right mix of financial instruments is tricky. There is no one size fits all approach; nor should there be.

 

Navigate the variables with the help of a financial advisor and put a smile on your/my face!

 

Kurt Rusch  CLU, ChFC

 

Proactive Retirement Planning

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

 

I just read an article entitled, “5 Biggest Planning Retirement Mistakes”. The problem with titles like these in general is they are negative, and many times, as misleading as they are disheartening.

 

Proactive retirement planning on the other hand, is a different workhorse (pardon the pun) altogether. It should be ongoing and positive, starting over the course of your working years and cultivated throughout your retirement years. It also involves deliberate consideration beyond the lone act of making regular payments to employee contribution plans.

 

What type of proactive things should you be doing to plan for a life of leisure? Consider these 5 things now (even if you’re still working):

 

1.      VALUATION  

 

Project your current retirement programs forward to see how big of a lump sum you will have when you reach retirement and begin systematic liquidation.  While this may seem a monumental undertaking with market upheavals and historic lows in fixed income options, getting to that number will provide the baseline figure you need to work with.

 

If you tend to be risk averse, project your account balances into the future by using rates of return that could be obtained using less volatile investment choices. The worst case scenario here is that things change and you receive a higher rate of return netting a larger sum of distributable retirement funds.

 

On the other side of the coin, the market tends to be a lot more dependable over long periods of time than generally assumed. Utilizing these returns has not historically been as risky as you may think.  A volatile market is, in reality, a friend to those systematically investing via retirement plans at work and independently because: fixed amounts invested on a regular basis will always purchase more when the markets are at their lows and less when they are at their highs. This system allows you to buy low without ever having to consciously make investment decisions.

 

2.      DISRUPTION   

 

No one can possibly plan for every “what if?” in life, but addressing the types of disruptions to retirement income streams which may occur is essential.

 

Case in point; what would you do if Social Security changed drastically by the time you were counting on receiving it? Currently, with no modifications or adjustments, the Social Security Administration projects that by 2036 the Social Security Trust Fund will only be able to pay 75% of their obligations.  Would you be able to handle this decrease? Or any other type of unplanned reductions? If not, have you considered what you can do to make up possible shortfalls?

 

If you begin making up the gap sooner rather than later, the amount that would need to be set aside on a regular basis would be comparatively small. Conversely, if this gap is left unaddressed, the magnitude of future contributions could be daunting. Remember: Compound interest (really) is the Eighth Wonder of the World.

 

3.      VISUALIZATION 

 

Envision (literally) your retirement and what you (actually) want it to look like. While there are numerous statistics and figures utilized in planning, the best way to assure that you are planning for YOUR retirement is to personalize it.

 

Some people may think this silly but if you’ve never really taken a moment to think about how you’d like to see yourself in this future, you may be surprised what comes to mind. Are you planning on traveling a lot? Are you planning on working? If so, what is the magnitude of your commitment to work? What do you envision your living situation as being?

 

These kinds of questions and many more will affect the dynamics of your retirement plan. For example, if extensive travel is part of your plan, you must put more money aside than someone without these ambitions. On the other hand, if you plan on working, that may decrease the amount that must be set aside to meet expenses in retirement.

 

Housing will also greatly affect your financial situation. Many people “downsize” in retirement. Downsizing can often free up funds that can be invested to subsidize other plans already in place. These are just a few examples to consider.

 

4.      SAFEGUARDING

 

Have you safeguarded your plan for longevity?

 

If a husband and wife have plans in place as a couple in retirement, will they still be okay if one of them was no longer around? Upon passing, a surviving spouse will receive the higher of the two spouses’ Social Security payment. Would you be able to live the retirement lifestyle you envisioned without the aid of dual Social Security payments? Beyond Social Security, pension options must also be reviewed closely.

 

Pensions generally have irrevocable options that must be elected at the time of retirement. A sample of the array of these types of elections would include a single life option for the pensioner. This option would yield the highest monthly payment because it would continue only for the life of the pensioner. There would be no continuation of payment to a surviving spouse if the pensioner predeceased him/her.

 

At the other end of the spectrum, is a spousal option paying the surviving spouse 100% of the pensioner’s payment at the time of the pensioner’s death. This option would yield the lowest monthly payment to the recipient because essentially this pension plan is buying life insurance on the pensioner to be used to continue payments in the event of predeceasing their spouse. Examination of these costs should be made to see if the pensioner would be better off financially to receive the higher single life pension payment in combination with a taking out a private life policy to provide for the surviving spouse. This would also provide the flexibility to drop the policy or change beneficiaries to children in the event of the spouse predeceasing the pensioner.

 

5.      INCAPACITY   

 

Have you addressed the possibility of incapacity? While this is a very distasteful subject to broach, statistics indicate that up to 75% of couples will have at least one spouse needing some sort of long term care within their lifetimes. Given the state of rising healthcare costs, this situation can devastate a retirement plan very, very quickly.

 

Those who elect not to address the subject make a default decision to self-insure. This works out well only if you remain healthy without the need for support services. It is also a risky choice to make for the time period in your life when your options for financially rectifying an error in planning will be drastically limited.

 

Chicago nursing home costs currently run about $200 per day. For those who assume that this will be handled by Medicare, you are mostly incorrect. Medicare only covers follow up treatment after release from a hospital. There is no provision for convalescent care (long term daily living) from Medicare.

 

Coverage for long term care is available through Medicaid but to qualify, your assets must be liquidated and spent down. This radically limits your future choices. Home health care is also not covered by Medicaid. Many of the better nursing facilities may also refuse admittance to people   already on Medicaid. The last thing your loved ones need to face at a time like that is the challenge  of finding a geographically desirable and decent facility to take you in.

 

Valuation, Disruption, Visualization, Safeguarding and Incapacity are all key factors in planning for life after work. Safe, secure and solid navigation of this terrain should be done with the assistance of a licensed professional.

 

Kurt Rusch  CLU, ChFC

The Top 2 Things You Can Do To Battle Market Fatigue

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

 

You need only turn on the TV, radio, or skim a newspaper to realize we are right in the middle of some challenging economic times. The BIG question is what can we do when our individual abilities to change the quagmire we’re stuck in is minimal? Here is the shortlist.

 

#1 Look at your personal situation and choose the best plan of action

 

If you are trying to accumulate funds for retirement, do you really want to retreat to the safety of CD’s or money market funds when returns are struggling to yield 1% on your money? Yes, you would at least have a guaranteed return of your money but at these rates, even the slow but sure tortoise would give up the race.

 

Historically, the market is a very predictable and much higher yielding place to be. That being said, the number one prerequisite of market investing will be your ability to weather the volatility that is inherent in equity investments. Simply put: don’t be a jack rabbit about it.

 

Investors who cycle through euphoria and misery only to jump in and out of the market typically do so at precisely the wrong times. The scenario plays out something like this:

When the market is doing well, investors feel renewed confidence it is the place to be. They plunge wholeheartedly in, at a point that reflects a price that is much higher after two years of outstanding returns. The market may or may not continue on its upturn for a while. However, at some point, the market will sour and begin a hasty retreat. These same people who got in at or near the top begin to panic. They decide they can no longer stomach the volatility and opt out after the market has been in a free fall for some time.

 

This is a recipe for disaster and one reason why we see such a roller coaster of reports in the news each day. If you lack the fortitude to invest in the market and weather the vacillations, don’t jump in and out – stay out. Buying high and selling low is not the way to go.

 

#2 Consider alternative strategies for investing in the market

 

An example of a strategy that may take some of the trepidation out of investing in the market is using the strategy of dollar cost averaging. This is already inherent in payroll deduction retirement plans. Since the funds are invested on an ongoing and regular basis, investors will automatically get the benefit of purchasing more of the investment when prices are low and less when they are high.

 

This same strategy would work in investing non-qualified money. Instead of investing it all at once, take the sum to be invested and invest a certain portion each month over a period of time instead of plunging it all in at once. This way, if the market does go down, you will be able to capture a lot more shares or units at the lower price.

 

Kurt Rusch CLU, ChFC

The Most Costly Mistake

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

 

According to a new report, “The cost of long-term care services continues to rise”. I don’t think any of us would consider that to be a newsflash by any means; quite the contrary really. Rising healthcare costs are and have been a nationwide topic du jour for quite some time. Why would long term healthcare costs be any different?

 

This latest study, published by John Hancock, incorporated “11,000 U.S. providers, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities and home health care agencies” into the mix. It was the fourth such study done by Hancock in the years, 2002, 2005, 2008 and 2011. Using a 9 year average to produce this year’s reported cost figures, results provided the following:

 

Average cost for a home health aide ($20 hourly/$37,440 annually) has risen an average 1.3%  per year.

Average cost for a month in an assisted living facility ($3,270 a month/$39,240 annually) has risen an average 3.4% per year.

Average cost of a semi-private nursing home room ($207 a day/$75,555 annually) has risen an average 3.2% per year

Average cost of a private nursing home room ($235 a day/$85,775 annually) has risen an average 3.5% per year.

 

Just for kicks I searched for the 2008 study to see how the numbers flowed – I would have preferred looking at the ‘02 or ‘05 report, but Hancock’s website did not provide archives that far back. In the same categories, and true to form, here are the 2008 figures:

 

Average cost for a home health aide ($19/hourly) has risen an average of 1.4% per year since 2002

Average cost for a month in an assisted living facility ($2,962 a month/$35,544 annually) has risen an average of 4% per year since 2002

Average cost of a semi-private nursing home room ($183/day/$66,795 annually) has risen 2.7% per year since 2002

Average cost of a private nursing home room ($204/day /$74,460 annually) has risen an average of 3.2% per year since 2002.

 

What neither of these studies provide is the average cost of long term care premiums per annum or month. This is due to the fact that long term care policies are extremely customizable offering a robust benefit menu of options to pick and choose from. Most people are surprised to learn they can personalize cost effective plans to fit their needs. Think: Cadillac vs. Chevy vs. Used Car; that’s how diverse it is. When you factor in inflationary, actuarial and other industry factors, creating an average cost across any year cannot provide realistic comparatives.

 

To provide a better grasp for value, understanding how and when long term care comes into play is essential. The following scenarios will give you a feel for how long term care works using simple round numbers:

 

Jean buys a long term care policy at the age of 55. The annual premium is $3,500; she can pay the premium semi-annually, quarterly or monthly. At age 65, Jean suffers a physically disabling stroke and needs to bring daily help into her home to assist her with ADL’s (Activities of Daily Living). She exercises her policy benefits and meets her elected 90 day “elimination period”, (deductible requirements), to avoid using her monthly pension income to cover home care costs.


Up until this point, Jean has paid in a total of $38,500 in annual premiums; now is when she will begin to reap the benefits of her long term care investment by putting her premium dollars to work for her. She hires 4 hours of help 7 days a week at $20/hour for a cost of: $2,427 per mo / $29,120 annually. She will recoup 56% of what she paid in over 10 years within the first 12 months of care: $38,500 Total Premiums Paid for 10 years – $29,120 Total First Year of Home Help Cost – the 90 Day Deductible total of $7,281. By the end of the second year, the benefits paid out for home care will be higher than the total premiums she paid in.


NOTE: When long term care benefits are activated, premiums are no longer due. The amount of total benefit payout is chosen by the policyholder at the time of purchase between maximum and unlimited amounts.

 

The next scenario illustrates what Jean’s self care cost would be without long term care insurance:

 

Jean receives a monthly pension of $2,000 plus another $1,000 in social security income providing her a tidy sum of $3,000 per month / $36,000 per year. Her annual fixed costs are as follows: $6,000 Property Taxes (her home is paid for), $ 1,800 Supplemental Health Insurance, $600 Prescription Drug Coverage, $700 Auto/Home Insurance, $ 3,000 Estimated Tax Payments, for an annual total of $12,100 / $1,008 per month. Her monthly daily living expenses for food, gas, electric, entertainment, dental, clothing, gifts and miscellaneous is budgeted at $500. Her monthly retirement income minus her total monthly expense of $1,508 leaves her with $1,492 a month for home care expense. Given her monthly home care expense is $2,427, she will have to tap into her retirement savings to cover the $935 deficit each month, $11,220 annually, to keep up with her expenses.


Realizing she will have to begin to drain her assets to pay for home care, Jean looks for ways to tweak her budget. She can’t drive herself anymore, but she needs to keep her car for care-giving services. Selling her home and moving into a single bedroom condo could pay off but she hesitates to do so in the event she’ll need a second bedroom for live in care down the road; at 65, she knows she can easily live another 15-20 years. She decides to live frugally and hope for the best.


Does Jean have enough retirement savings to draw upon for the next 15-20 years? In just 10 years she will liquidate $112,200 of assets, paying out $73,700 more than if she had a long term care plan – just to cover part time help.

 

How will Jean cover her costs if she needs to up the amount of home care to 8 hours a day or more? She may not, and outlive her retirement savings. If that happens, she will then need to go on Medicaid, which means she will have to live in a nursing home because neither Medicaid, nor Medicare, as many people mistakenly think, do not pay for home care expenses in the long term.

 

Conversely, the most costly mistake people make about long term care insurance is the assumption that the money spent on long term care premiums won’t pay off unless they need long term care whether in a facility or at home. Why would you pay in $3,500 a year for 10 years or more for something if you never need the benefit?

 

The correct answer to this question is: leveraged amounts are an available contract option. Simply stated, people can tailor their policies to execute the following actions if they do not use their benefits: 1) The balance can be transferred as a tax free death benefit to their heirs. 2) The contract can be cancelled and most or all of the paid premium dollars are refunded. This is known as a “liquidity” feature.

 

Jean’s scenario succinctly demonstrates why long term care plans should be a part of planning for retirement. When care is needed, policy holders will not have to worry about tapping into, nor bleeding dry, their investment/retirement accounts to cover expensive care out of pocket. If care isn’t needed, optioned policy values can be transferred tax free to their heirs or recouped upon contract cancellation. For people with little or no retirement savings; long term care becomes a crucial planning tool.

 

Kurt Rusch, CLU,ChFC