Post-Retirement Considerations

Nursing home costs in the United States can easily top $70,000 per year! Assisted living centers may cost as much as $4,000 per month for a one-bedroom private-pay facility. We discuss these lifestyle changes as part of our planning process for retirees. It is not always a popular subject to broach with newly-retiring people because they think of it as a negative. However, as specialists in retirement planning, we believe in educating our clients about all facets of the future that they might control.

Let’s think about the options and find a few methods of mitigating these possible future costs. For one, by maintaining an active lifestyle and sensible diet, one may escape these options or, at least, delay them. Many of our clients have seen the impact on their families’ and friends’ budgets from admissions to a nursing home. These facilities are of great assistance when transitioning our loved ones that experience a period of life in which continual support is warranted. 

Another option to utilizing these types of facilities is to accumulate sufficient funds that will allow you to remain in your own home with assistance provided by nurses’ aides and other medical providers. This option appeals to most of our clients that may simply have mobility issues and cannot provide for all aspects of their daily lives. We evaluate each client’s capabilities to accomplish their activities of daily living (ADL) and assist them in analyzing the impact of potential nursing care in their future financial planning budgets.

The six routine activities of daily living are: eating, bathing, getting dressed, toileting, transferring and continence. Each of us participate in these activities daily. To lose your capability to perform one of these activities may not be the deciding factor to start searching for an alternative to remaining in your home. However, when you lose the ability to conduct three or more of these activities, it is critical that the family consider nursing providers in the home of the individual or seek a nursing home.

To determine the appropriate level of support for a loved one, it is critical that the level of care replaces the daily activities that are not being performed by the individual. It may mean that you simply require an aide in your home for twelve hours per day. As the person’s abilities become more impaired, additional support and possible relocation may be needed.

One of the greatest ramifications of assigning a loved one to a nursing home is the emotional effect on the person. Too often this process is decided without input from the impaired person and the children simply need some relief from the care being required of them. Those of us deciding the fate of any person must consider the infirmed person’s wishes and desires. These decisions are some of the most difficult to make. By keeping the person informed of each step and soliciting their acceptance with the process, you may experience a better transition.

These types of decisions can have a significant impact on your retirement plans. Seek out a Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner who understands all aspects of retirement. It is too important of a decision to simply guess.

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How to Confidently Prepare for Retirement

If you are like most individuals, considering the scope of the changes from an active career to retirement brings anxiety and a sense of loss. As specialists in retirement planning, we guide our clients in the process to, and through, retirement to provide confidence in the outcomes for their lives. One method in which we bring confidence to the process is by addressing an individual’s four biggest financial concerns about retirement: 1) paying for healthcare; 2) saving enough money for retirement; 3) liquidating indebtedness; and 4) creating and maintaining consistent, predictable income streams in retirement.

Healthcare costs are one of the most expensive areas of living for retirees. As we age, our healthcare costs may rise. One of our clients is suffering ill health in retirement and her medical expenses average more than $6,000 per month! Proper planning for healthcare expenses is critical before you retire. Not only do you suffer physically but the potential for significant cash need for healthcare may jeopardize the quality of life and the longevity of your assets to sustain you. Analysis of the probabilities for genetic health issues as well as capabilities for current physical activity of the individual will need to be addressed.

Saving for retirement is an area of life that is often delayed until it is almost too late to help the individual substantially. Too often individuals treat their employer retirement plan as a savings account and funds “emergencies” in life with plan loans. I believe this is tremendously detrimental for the long-term viability of their retirement assets. Emergencies can be mitigated by establishing a responsible budget each year and transfer extraordinary expenses to insurance coverages. For example, if you have a home, which is often one of the largest assets of a family, you should maintain adequate replacement value insurance on the property. Failing to do so could result in the family experiencing an exorbitant damage requiring more funds that are maintained in the family reserve account.

Eliminating or reducing indebtedness prior to retirement will provide an individual a higher annual discretionary cash flow. We have assisted many of our clients in a plan to reduce or eliminate debt prior to transitioning to retirement. It is inconceivable to plan for all potential perils and hazards in life but you will experience a more confident retirement by maintaining little or no debt while retired. Again, budgeting is the key to success for debt management.

Without consistent, predictable cash flow streams, your retirement will feel more like a burden than a reward. The secret to adequate cash flow streams in retirement is to start saving early in life and structure a retirement lifestyle that is within your means. Where we have witnessed this challenge is when someone retires without a thorough plan of execution and overspends during the first few years of retirement. The family is now in distress and substantial, critical work must be performed to remedy the situation. 

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Retiring On Your Own Terms

“I want to live by the beach,” said his wife. “I want to live in the mountains,” said the husband. Differences of retirement plans typically exist within the same family. One person may wish to retire in a different environment than the other. Many of our clients come to their complimentary initial consultation without a complete understanding of their spouse’s desires for retirement. Simply because someone is married to another person for many years does not translate to an understanding of that person’s long-term goals and dreams. Communication is critical in all relationships, in a couple pondering retirement plans it is vital.

To help our clients resolve differences of opinion, and desires about retirement, we developed an approach that addresses the three “E’s”: Environmental, Economic and Emotional. To fittingly address the needs of each of the partners, these three “E’s” provide a comprehensive background for each to gain a deeper understanding of the other. This article will provide you considerations for each of the three components of retirement planning.

Environmental considerations are critical due to the impact your surroundings play in the overall happiness and health of a person. For example, scientists have proven that environment affects a person’s overall satisfaction in life attributed to their surroundings. Some people are happier in sunny, warm climates while others enjoy the cold, harsh tundra. By understanding your partner’s thoughts on environment, each of you will gain knowledge about the type of surroundings desired by the other. We work with a client who enjoys mild weather and sandy beaches. To compromise, we divided the year into quarters and accommodated her wish for salty water in the winter and his mountainous terrain for game hunting in the fall of each year. They remain content at their primary residence for six months of the year during seasons that are not extreme. Compromise is the key and extending understanding with a mindset of flexibility helps with the creation of a joyful retirement.

Economic factors contribute to the retirement quality of all of us. Considering that you have accumulated more than a sufficient amount of assets to live anywhere you wish, economic factors play less of a role in the retirement decision process. However, lets assume you have saved but may have some cash flow difficulty in the future. It is necessary to consider all means of support and the term in which that support will be available. As presented in our last article, the location of your retirement home will be a considerable outcome based on your economic means.

After considering environmental and economic factors, the most influential of these three factors, emotional, must be broached. To illustrate the power of emotions in decision making, we will share this short story. Tom and Linda decided to retire. Tom had his mind made up that he would retire in the mountains with a cabin and enjoy the land around him for his ideal retirement. Linda, often submitting to Tom’s decisions, was in misery in the mountains. Her asthma, allergies and other minor health conditions only worsened in the humid, hot summers in the mountains. She tolerated the first couple of years in the mountains and simply decided to make her wishes known to Tom. After a deep discussion of all the desires for her retirement, it was decided that they would share their time in retirement between the mountains and her beachfront condo she had been dreaming about for many years.

Compromise and consideration of the environmental, economic and emotional factors of retirement will yield the most effective choice for couples. The transition time to retirement is difficult for many people. Seek out someone who understands the needs and desires of retirees as well as possesses the expertise to help design and execute a plan that is pleasing to both partners. Life is short. Focus on these three factors and live life on your own terms!

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Relocation Considerations for Retirement

One of the most difficult decisions in retirement planning is to relocate. If you reside in a state that has a high income tax rate, sales tax rate and/or ad valorem tax, it may be something to consider. During the retirement phase of life, your savings must last beyond your lifetime. To ignore the cost of living could be the difference between truly enjoying a lifetime of income and experiencing worry at a time in life that you shouldn’t.

A recent study of individual taxation by state yielded some not-so-surprising news. California, Hawaii, New York, Connecticut and Illinois are the highest taxing authorities on individuals. These states are currently seeing an exodus of its citizens to lower cost of living states. To eliminate 15% of your tax liability by simply relocating to Texas or Florida, states without individual income tax assessments, may provide the additional savings needed for your savings to last to lifetime.

Another area of consideration is property tax. If a state does not assess an income tax on individuals, it will, in most cases, utilize an ad valorem, or property tax, to generate revenue needed to fund the state’s functions. For example, some people consider moving to Texas due to its absence of individual income tax assessments. However, in most of the counties contiguous to the Dallas metroplex, the rate of assessment for property taxes creates more of a tax burden than one would pay by remaining in Oklahoma.

Personal property tax is another consideration when relocating in your retirement years. States have begun to assess sales tax on automobile purchases versus the excise tax previously charged for such transactions. It may take some of the joy out of your new purchase when you realize the bill from the state could be as much as $5,000! 

Lastly, two of the necessities of life are utilities and food. When considering relocating, the cost of meals and household utilities should be considered. In extreme temperature climates such as experienced in Alaska, the cost of food and utilities, compared to Oklahoma, are very expensive. Due to the lack of fruit, vegetable and dairy production facilities and farms, these important staples of life must be flown into the location. The costs of delivery cause extremely high retail costs for consumers. 

Although Hawaii may be the land of paradise many of us enjoy on vacation, the cost of living on the islands is very high compared to other states. Recently, we enjoyed a stay on Oahu and the cost of a gallon of milk was $7.99! If you are raising kids in your family, it may be cheaper to buy a cow. 

It is important to consider many aspects when thinking of relocating during retirement. Cash flow is the ultimate factor coupled with your ecological requirements. One of the lowest costs of living states is Tennessee but you may wish to see the beautiful ocean shore each day. Trade-offs are a part of our lives. Rate the most important factors for you before undertaking a move to another state.

If you have questions as to how you can create a lifetime income plan, contact a Certified Financial PlannerTM practitioner to assist in the analysis so that you can make the best decision for your family’s needs. 

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3 Mistakes Most People Make With Their Retirement

During my thirty year career of guiding individuals to realizing their retirement goals, I have reduced the most critical of mistakes people commit when accumulating retirement assets in their employer’s plan. These mistakes can be overcome and people have a higher probability of reaching their intended goals.

Mistake #1: Making Decisions through Fear

Investing should be performed with a clear mind and thoughtful research being the driver for change. Too often people accumulating for retirement commit the mistake of making changes to their retirement plan account after the negative impact has occurred. This is the equivalent of turning on the hydrant and spraying water on your house after the structure has completely burned to the ground.

We believe everyone should self-assess their goals for retirement. These goals should be attainable. For example, everyone uses the same phrase when thinking about investments: “High return on my investments with no risk.” This, of course, is a fantasy. Risk is present in every facet of life including your employer-provided retirement plan.

To correct for this mistake, learn to keep calm during temporary market disruptions. With the volatility of our current markets, you would be buying and selling all the time and miss the opportunities to meet your goals for long-term growth.

Mistake #2 – Timing the Market

One of our clients informed us that a former colleague of his was constantly buying and selling in his Thrift Savings Plan. His friend thought this approach would prevail for better growth in his account. However, just the opposite has been proven true by economists and researchers of behavioral finance. To believe a long-term perspective can be maintained with such a short-term approach to finances is not a valid one.

To overcome this mistake, each investor should realize he doesn’t possess all of the knowledge of the market and may turn his retirement plan assets into a speculative investment. This does not have to be the case. We firmly believe proper allocation and diversification of your portfolio will keep risk at acceptable levels while obtaining long-term potential for your assets.

Mistake #3 – Borrowing from Your Retirement Savings

As individuals it becomes difficult for us to look at this bucket of money and experience struggle in our lives. Instead of adjusting our lifestyle and budgeting within our means, we use loans from our retirement plans with the understanding that we are “borrowing from ourselves so it isn’t hurting my account”. The fallacy of this statement is that you’re, in fact, providing for a shortfall in your retirement account during possible peak earnings or growth seasons. 

Your plan will require interest to be paid on your “loan”. The rate of interest is usually lower than your market returns and the smaller payments returned to your account may grow but your overall compounding effect will be diminished.

The overall solution to these critical mistakes is to ask for advice from someone that can hold you accountable to a plan that you design for your future. We serve as an advisor as well as life coach for our clients. To be that calming voice of assurance when you are making progress or the soft correction needed when you attempt to deviate from your plan allows us to help you achieve success on your terms.

If you are concerned about your current ability to reach your retirement goals in your TSP, IRA, 401(k) or other employer plan, contact a CPA/PFS or Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner for a complimentary consultation. You may find the answers you need.

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How to Retire Worry-Free

If you are like many of our clients, prior to retiring, you are concerned about the process and ability to continue your current lifestyle after discontinuing your career. This is a valid concern and one that we address with every client considering retirement. To provide confidence and courage to initiate this important step, and truly enjoy retirement, we developed a unique process that alleviates these concerns and empowers our clients with predictability in their lives. Do you have a process to create the retirement lifestyle you desire?

First, you must develop a mental approach to retirement that is healthy. Worry will do nothing to resolve a challenge but make it feel more overwhelming that it truly is. To create confidence in your life, we assist our clients with the identification and implementation of activities that generate positive thoughts and enhance self-esteem. You are probably wondering what this step has to do with a successful retirement plan? It is the key ingredient! Thinking about others, showing gratitude and fulfilling the needs of others are the truly valuable “assets” in a person’s life. Qualitative characteristics of retirement are as critical to the process material resources. This stage of the process has nothing to do with money, budgets or investments. However, if we can help you become more confident by helping others, the process of retiring is simply a transition from focusing on your career to focusing on others in your community.

Helping others is one method of creating a worry-free retirement. Seek out those in need and create a legacy for yourself through service.

Next, we assist our clients in creating expectations for the next phase of life. To expect more income from your resources, than you properly prepared for during your accumulation years, is to set a tone of frustration for yourself. By prudently projecting reasonable returns and estimating living expenses that are realistic, you will reap the predictable, recurring and adequate lifestyle that you need to live worry-free. Many people believe it is too late to correct course on their retirement plan after the initial decisions have been made. This is not true. You can always create a better tomorrow through proper planning and executing on adjustments to create the life you desire. Your goal in retirement should be to maximize your quality of life. Life is too short to live in worry. A wise, old football coach, Leo Thurman, often offered advice to those around him. One such profound statement is:

“Son it don’t take long to live a lifetime.”

—Leo Thurman

Lastly, to mitigate worry, you must utilize a continuous monitoring system to help you manage your lifestyle and “stay on track”. Unlike the infomercial that promises you can “set it and forget it”, life is somewhat more challenging. You must adopt a mindset that anything worthwhile is going to require some input of your time, talents and resources. Don’t tackle a job without the proper tools and experience. You only get one chance to retire the first time. Seek out a Certified Financial PlannerTM practitioner that specializes in the needs and desires of retirees to help you build a plan that is sound and creates a worry-free retirement for you.

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How to Increase Your Retirement Assets in Three Steps

As we presented in the last article, we will focus, in this article, on the simple steps anyone can take to improve their retirement planning strategy. Time is of the essence. If you feel you have not saved well for retirement, by making these three simple steps a habit now, you will reap exponential benefits later.

Step One: Budget

First, review your family budget and immediately reduce the unnecessary cash outflows. These may be subscriptions to magazines never read, automatic renewals for insurance on your vehicles that are costing more than your 10-year old car is worth and those movie channels that are never watched since the kids moved out. Now, I know what you are thinking. “This isn’t that much money each month.” You are correct in the short-term sense; however, if you have more than 5 years until your desired retirement date the sum of funds can amount to a significant support for your future.

Step Two: Maximization

Second, immediately maximize your employer-provided return plan contributions. Remember, if you are age 50 or older, you may contribute an additional $6,000 per year as a “catch-up” for failing to fully fund a 401(k) plan in your younger years. The total for 2019 that you may defer from your salary is $25,000 if you at least age 50. This amount of funding for the next 5 years will add at least $125,000 (not including growth or employer matching) to your retirement funds.

If you are self-employed, review your company’s cash flow and find ways to fully fund a Simplified Employee Pension Plan (SEP). You may contribute up to 25% of your salary or $56,000 whichever is lower for 2019. If you were to establish your budget for accumulating the maximum amount for the next five years, you would contribute an additional $280,000 (not including market returns) for your retirement support.

Step Three: Asset Allocation

Third, review your investment asset allocation. Recent economic data reports the Dow Jones Industrial Average and Standard & Poors 500 Indices are at record highs. Do not anticipate these returns for your retirement planning. We use a phrase in planning, “Plan for the worst and hope for the best.” Your investment allocation during retirement will most likely be different than your investment strategy for the accumulation phase of your life.

Forget about the past and your lost opportunities. You can only control the present. Start today in making positive decisions and change your future. I purposely used the word “immediately” several times in this column to impart to you the importance of taking action now. By preparing a plan and following the strategy, no matter what anyone else does, you may improve your chances for a happier and better retirement.

Concerned about the adequacy of your assets for retirement? It is time to take action. Seek out the guidance of a Certified Financial PlannerTM practitioner to gain the strategies needed to live life on your own terms. You will be glad you did.

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