Should I Change My Investment Approach In Retirement?

While accumulating assets for retirement, many people utilize an employer retirement plan that allows consistent contributions while investing in a growth model. Their approach is to maximize the matching contribution from their employer and, perhaps, assume more risk than they would otherwise assume because of continued contributions. Let’s review the process of investing during retirement and the differences one will encounter throughout the distribution phase of the portfolio.

The most prevalent concern of any retiree is running out of money. To confront this fear, most retirees make the most critical mistakes with their investments. First, to seek safety in the portfolio, the retiree will change from a balanced portfolio of equities and bonds to a bond-dominant portfolio. Thinking the cash balance approach secures their cash during the contraction of the markets, the larger peril to the portfolio is the lack of participation in the expansion phase of the market cycle. In layman’s terms, the rate of return on most bonds will not be sufficient to maintain the retiree’s purchasing power during retirement. Rising costs of living expenses such as medical care, housing, food and other basic needs will preclude the portfolio from providing excess cash flow to the retiree unless the total portfolio is significant.

To resolve the concern of running out of money, we work with our clients to develop a sound investment approach that addresses inflationary pressure, periodic cash distribution requirements and market risk. One of the most effective tools to combat risk is to diversify. At the time of retirement, many of our clients will participate in an economics lesson. Albeit a short lesson, we simply ask, “how would you feel to be out of money and healthy?” This question is one that causes their face to wrinkle and the eyebrows to furrow. Typically, the answer given us is “I would not feel comfortable at all!” 

Obviously, we knew their answer but the exercise is one that makes them confront what risk truly is in their lives. So many people believe risk to be simply the loss of principal in their account. However, the greatest risk is outliving your means of support to where your longevity is not rewarded with peace and tranquility but rather anxiety. Our independent research has proven that most retirees sleep better at night knowing they will not be subjected to the need for family or state support. Independence is the reward for investing properly.

Seek out the advice of an independent financial advisor that specializes in retirement planning. You deserve a specialist for this phase of life just like your cardiovascular surgeon if you have health issues with your heart. If you have questions regarding your financial future, why not gain assurance that you are making the right decisions for your family? A visit with a Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner may give you the confidence you need to live your life in a manner you desire instead of simply existing. 

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Last-Minute Retirement Planning Ideas

When you look at the calendar and realize another year has passed, it is time for a few more strategies to enhance your retirement account. Some of these actions may seem simplistic in nature but investing is not as difficult as many people would like you to believe. Investing in a diversified portfolio and rebalancing periodically is about as simple as any process can be for protecting your future.

Before you leave the office for the holiday season, consider reviewing your current portfolio within your employer-provided plan. 2019 has been a year of significant market growth in the United States. Record highs have been reached this year and this is a good result for most equity investors. With such growth in a diversified portfolio it is likely that your risk level within the portfolio has increased, too. 

To maintain the acceptable level of risk you originally desired at the onset of your portfolio development, it is critical to sustain the original allocation. This is accomplished by rebalancing your portfolio based on one of two methods: 1) time; or 2) asset class. This example is purely for educational purposes. When the portfolio was originally established, you may have chosen a 50/50 equity to fixed income allocation. Considering the markets have been very positive on your portfolio and your allocation has expanded to 60% equities. Based on the current allocation, you are now experiencing a greater level of risk than you desire.

By performing the task of rebalancing (i.e., selling your equities and buying more fixed income) you are keeping your level of risk in line with your original target. This strategy is the basis for most theories of portfolio design and risk acceptance. However, you must possess a degree of discipline that does not become greedy when times are good and fearful when the economy is contracting. As an anecdote, we often inform our clients that they must “be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” The stock markets are auction-based markets. Someone must be selling something for someone to buy it. This belief applies to new issues when a company desires to “go public”. The issuer of the stock is asking for a certain price (i.e., Initial Public Offering Price our IPO) and the public may desire to buy at that price.

Another yearend strategy we recommend is a review of the individual assets classes within an allocation. For example, small cap stocks performed excellently in 2017 and declined in performance in 2018. However, in 2019, the asset class is, once again, performing well. I am not saying that you should own small cap mutual funds. As an illustration, you should review each of the different assets classes and determine the inherent risk within your portfolio.

To help our clients control the amount of risk within their portfolios, we developed a system that “stress tests” their holdings and overall allocation. By analyzing the risk of the portfolio, the investor can be more comfortable knowing their portfolio is not invested at levels of risk that cause them worry. Also, we believe diversification must be achieved in market sectors and geographically to control the risk component.

If you are confused by some of the language in this article, don’t let it keep you from moving forward to protect your future security. You may wish for someone to “stress test” your holdings, asset allocation and project potential for your future. Seek out a Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner and CPA that can help guide you through the confusion and help you reach your goals in a non-emotional and logical manner. 

For additional, free information about managing your portfolio in a manner that allows you to sleep at night, go visit the Compass Capital Management website. You will find a wealth of information to help you navigate life!

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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 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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Starting Late and Finishing Strong

Too many people give up on their dream retirement simply because they started too late (or so they think). One of the greatest opportunities to change your future to what you wish it to be is … to start today! Often, we experience a client that wishes to retire at age 65 and have saved little. Instead of simply acknowledging their lack of discipline, we provide solutions that will help them realize a better future but requires their participation on a plan that will be effective for them.

Let’s look at the most obvious savings point – employer retirement plans. If you work for an employer that provides a deferred savings plan such as a §401(k) Plan, you are in luck. Meet with your employer or human resource officer and determine when you can begin participating in the plan. If you are already enrolled in the plan but want to make changes to your savings rate (called your “deferral amount”) there are certain windows of time that must be observed.

If you are age 50 or older, you can take advantage of “catch-up” provisions within the law that can significantly reduce your current taxes and increase your savings exponentially. For 2019, the “catch-up” contribution amount is $6,000. Think about it. You can save an additional $500 per month on a tax-deferred basis. This will add up to a considerable increase in retirement savings over a ten-year period! If invested prudently, you will experience even greater potential growth until retirement.

The next step is to review your investments within the plan. Are you sufficiently allocated and diversified in your selection of investments? Don’t simply invest in the same manner as other employees. Invest in yourself by spending some quality time to understand the particular options and how you feel if the performance was not as projected. How would your retirement plans be affected if the performance was lacking?

By electing to save your maximum amount to your employer plan, you have essentially placed your goals on auto-pilot. You will automatically be saving money each pay period and it is a little more difficult to obtain the funds if an impulse to buy is experienced. 

Now, the really good news. Your employer-provided plan matches a certain limit of your contributions each year. This is money you will receive in your account that helps you grow your retirement savings. Let’s assume that your employer matches up to 5% of your salary (assuming you defer or invest at least 5% of your salary to the plan) and your total compensation is $60,000 per year. This means your employer will contribute $3,000 (or $250 per month) to your retirement account each year. If you work at least ten years you will have gained another $30,000 plus potential growth for retirement support!

If you are self-employed, you have a number of options that will benefit you if you started late saving for retirement. We will discuss these options in the next article.

Now, take the initiative today to set your course for retirement to be your best years ever! If you have questions about your employer’s plan account, retirement strategies or the tax impact on your cash flow to and through retirement, contact a Certified Financial PlannerTM practitioner to construct a retirement plan that works for you. Until next time…

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