9/6/2012 2:43 PM ET|
How to avoid a retirement crisis
Perhaps you have saved little or neglected your 401k. A comfortable retirement might still be within reach. Here’s what to do.
Some Americans may be better prepared for retirement than they realize.
About 56% of baby boomers and Generation X (people now between about ages 38 and 65) are saving enough to cover their basic retirement costs, including uninsured medical expenses, according to a recent projection by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a Washington-based nonprofit think tank.
The bad news is that 44% aren't saving enough, and some of those people are on the lowest rungs of the income ladder, so they may have little opportunity to ramp up their savings as they age.
Still, while some people face a troubling retirement outlook, others in that 44% group can take steps to get their savings on track.
"Some Americans face a retirement crisis, but it isn't the majority," said Stephen Utkus, the director of Vanguard Group's Center for Retirement Research.
"For the longest time, studies have always pointed out that about 50% of Americans seem clearly ready for retirement," he says. But it's a mistake to assume the other half is in deep trouble.
Instead, Utkus says, people fall along a spectrum of retirement readiness, with 20% to 30% of Americans "partially ready" for retirement.
"A significant number of people can take some steps between now and retirement to move the dial and get to 'prepared,'" he says.
Here are four ideas that can help you get ready for retirement:
1. Increase your savings rate 1% or 2% each year
You're tired of being admonished to save more, but why not do it relatively painlessly with a small annual increase?
Ramping up your current 5% 401k contribution rate to 10% over a four-year period means an extra $550 in monthly income in retirement, according to an analysis by Fidelity Investments. The analysis assumes a 37-year-old worker with a $74,000 annual salary, a $20,000 401k account balance, a 3% employer match, an 8.35% annual return and an age-67 retirement date.
Then consider going beyond 10%. "If somebody is going to be saving their entire career, 15% is typically what most financial professionals suggest you put in," says Jack VanDerhei, a research director at the EBRI.
- Calculator: Do you have enough in your 401k?
2. Work 2 extra years
Maybe you're not keen on the new normal for retirement, which for some means not retiring at all. But there is a middle road: Work just two more years than planned.
Consider two hypothetical people, each with $1 million in savings. One retires at age 64, the other at 62. They both seek $75,000 a year in retirement.
For the early retiree, the combination of a lower Social Security payout (about $1,500 monthly, versus $1,750 monthly), two fewer years of earnings on his savings, and the portfolio hit from pulling out $150,000 for living expenses in those two years will mean running out of money by age 88.
Solely by virtue of waiting two years, the other retiree will have $242,358 in savings at age 90, according to an analysis by Richard Jackson, a chartered retirement planning counselor and a principal at Dallas-based Schlindwein Associates. The analysis assumes a 6% rate of return and doesn't take into account taxes, variability of returns or additional savings from delaying retirement for two years. The Social Security payout estimates are based on his clients' experiences.
3. Buy an annuity
A major challenge of retirement planning is estimating how long you will live. Longevity insurance helps savers mitigate the risk of getting that answer wrong -- that is, living longer than expected and running out of money.
The idea is that when you retire at, say, 65, you take 10% or 15% of your savings to buy an annuity that doesn't start paying out until age 85.
The retiree gets to retain control over the bulk of her portfolio, yet she also gets insurance to back up her savings in the event of a long life.
"You only have to put down a relatively small percentage of your 401k or IRA balance to get relatively decent monthly income at that point," VanDerhei says.
That means you can focus on saving for the years up until age 85.
That said, annuities have drawbacks. You've locked up that money. You'll pay extra for inflation protection and the ability to leave any of that money to heirs. You have to trust that the annuity company will survive for decades to come.
4. Work part time for 5 years
Getting a part-time job -- if you can find one and your health allows it -- is another way to prime the retirement-savings pump.
Take someone who retires at 65 with a final salary of $75,000. He'll need a total of about $780,600 in retirement savings if he doesn't work part time -- but that drops to $661,000 if he works part time for five years earning 30% of his former salary, according to an analysis by VanDerhei.
The analysis assumes the retiree wants to replace 85% of pre-retirement income, a 3% inflation rate and a 5% rate of return. Also, the retiree doesn't have a traditional pension and he dies at 88.
Someone who retires at 65 with a final salary of $50,000 will need a total of $490,000 in retirement savings if he doesn't work part time, but $411,000 if he works part time for five years and earns 30% of his former salary, according to VanDerhei's analysis, using the same assumptions.
If the part-time job pays 50% of his former salary, that retiree needs total savings of about $358,000, or about $132,000 less.
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How do we know that we are going to live to be 90. I know I will not make it that far. I'll have health problems galore by the time I am 75 and I do not want to liveto 90 by being pumped up with drugs to keep me alive that is not living. What I have saved is not that much according to city life. Off grid people never retire they just grow better gardens. But then I am a homebody type person. I have had a good life and feel comfortable where I am.
What none of these articles tell you is that all your 401K withdrawals will be subject to taxes as INCOME!
If you're getting a company match, contribute enough to get the match.
Then start saving in a taxable investment account, and the withdrawals will be taxed as long term cap gains (at least for now) if held over one year.
Everyone needs to keep 20% of their "retirement" assets in cash in a taxable account. Then you can weather downturns in the market.
This isn't brain surgery. If you spend as much time learning about finance/money/investments as you do watching Baby Hoo Boo, the K-Dash fools, or other brain bubble gum, you can figure it out.
No. I am not going to buy an annuity. Are you nuts? No I am not going to work 2 extra years. Forty-Seven years is long enough. No. I am not going to work part time for 5 years. Refer to previous objection. No. No. No. Oh wait. Not no. H*LL NO!!!!!!!!!!
Yes. Yes. Yes. I am going to retire with no debt and with a reasonable amount of savings. YES!!! I have my life back!!!! YAY!!!!!!!!!!
Excuse me. SYTYCD is on. Life is good.
Apparently visiting a crappy dating site will help avoid crisis as well. HOLY HELL - put some sort of barrier up to stop the spam!
I do have to say, this article beats the "6 reasons you'll never retire" by a mile.
I'm not necessarily a fan of annuities, although I agree that longevity is one of the most difficult variables, why not save a separate "85 and older" fund yourself ( a ROTH, perhaps) - this would not be needed for 20-25 years, therefore, this sum can be invested in a more aggressive manner than retirement amounts that scale back to a more conservative approach at retirement. This way, if not used, it still goes to a surviving spouse or to heirs.
BTW - if you haven't done so, visit the EBRI site mentioned early in the article - informative for those interested in all topics retirement.
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