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15 Mistakes People Make In Retirement

Mistakes in retirement can be costly and unfortunately very common. Money magazine’s recent article captures 15 examples.

While I have seen every one of these 15 mistakes actually happen, the most common issue I’ve seen this year is Number 7 on the list: Not knowing how much to withdraw.

This has become more pronounced as a result of the flat market. Investors who saw an 8-10% rate of return on their account could take out about 8-10% each year and end up with an account balance close to what it was at the start of the year. But with the markets flat to down slightly, investors who continue to take out 8-10% each year are seeing their account down by that amount.

The general rule of thumb is to take 4% per year. Take out more on a regular basis and you run the risk of depleting the account.

The Experts And Their Conflicting Predictions

It’s become comical to see and watch the supposed experts lay out such convincing rationales explaining what the future holds. In the reading of the tea leaves, some are seeing some pretty dark days ahead, while others think all of the market volatility is a normal correction. This became especially clear when I recently attended the InsideETF conference in Florida. None of the economists and experts were wishy-washy – They were either very bullish or very bearish. Their charts and arguments were very strong and they would even take shots at each other to try to poke holes in their arguments. It was like watching a presidential debate!

The final speaker, Liz Ann Sonders of Schwab, put up a chart that really stood out to me:
Investor Sentiment

Liz asked “Have investors ever felt thrilled or Euphoric about the performance of the market at any point since the depths of the 2008 and 2009 recession? The answer is “No”. Despite some pretty impressive rates of return, investors have remained in the Hope and Optimism stage (maybe excitement). Every time the market corrects, investors are quick to move to safety. That’s a good thing! When the market becomes so hot that investors expect it to go up, then a problem is about to occur.

If you want to read the rest of her points, here is a good summary

Should I Pay Down Debt or Invest in the Market?

As individuals approach retirement they often ask themselves what they should do to maximize their income. Specifically, they may wonder if they should pay down their debts (credit cards, auto loans, or a mortgage) or should they invest more in the markets. The answer is often times more complicated than they expect.

Exploring Investments

It’s important for investors to understand what the after-tax cost of borrowing is, especially when a mortgage with interest rate is involved. It’s possible that after-tax returns can be higher than after-tax cost of debt. Borrowers who pay a low interest rate are in a better position to invest. Other factors that determine whether or not someone should invest instead of pay down debt favor the entrepreneur and people who are willing to take risks. An investor with a loan costing them 2% per year may want to keep that debt and instead invest in the market if they think they can get 5%-6%.

Managing Risk

Risk is determined by several factors such as age, income, time frame, market activity and taxes. Most experienced investors are aware that equities can be high risk assets. A leading factor that favors investing is high disposable income, which allows for higher risk tolerance. If we revisit the above example, the investor does run the risk of investing in the market in a bad year. In that case the investor still has to service the debt, but also watch their portfolio decline in value. The higher the interest rate on the loan, the more risk the investor takes that the return on the investments will not beat the interest rate.

Paying Debt & Cash Flow

Even though debt seems like a bad word, it is helpful to a credit score to have a certain amount of debt or credit history. The first priority should be saving up six months worth of monthly expenses as part of an emergency or safety net fund. Once this fund is in place, excess money can be used to pay down debt or invest. The main barometer for deciding between debt and investing is debt-to-income ratio. If the ratio is high, paying debt is usually the wiser choice. Tight cash flow is a red flag that budget cuts will be needed.

 
With low interest rates like we’ve seen, now is a good time to review your situation.

How to Avoid the Biggest Mistake When Starting Social Security

The media is causing millions of Americans to make a serious mistake when it comes to social security collection strategies.  We see articles that discuss  ways to “maximize” the social security benefit using clever, new methods such as the “file and suspend” approach.  But they completely miss the ball on the most critical issue.  They do not stop and ask what your GOALS are for Social Security, which should be the discussed first.  Only then should specific strategies be evaluated. Here are a few goals to consider:

  • We want to retire at a specific age and start collecting social security
  • We want to start claiming benefits as soon as possible
  • We want to maximize the income over the years we have together
  • We want to minimize any decline in income for the surviving spouse
  • We want the surviving spouse to receive the maximum annual benefit
  • We want to maximize the survivor benefit (and receive income early)

Once you know your goal, then you can move to the next step and decide how should you collect the benefit.  Maximizing the cumulative benefit is just one goal and may be a poor choice once you take the time to compare them to other options.