Tag: pensions

The Importance of 401(k)s.

Pensions are fading fast.  If you work for a private company the chances are good that your retirement plan is a 401(k), not a pension plan.   Even if you work for the government, the chances are that the entity you work for will resemble Illinois eventually.

That leaves you with the responsibility for your retirement.  There are two problems with the 401(k).

The first is that too many people do not participate.  Even when employers match their employee’s contribution, not everyone takes advantage of this “free money.”

The second problem is that most people don’t have enough information on the investment choices they are given in their 401(k).    Investing is complicated.  Most plans offer dozens of choices and few people know enough about investing to use them to create an appropriate portfolio.

Employers are not equipped to provide the information.  Most do not want to assume the liability that giving investment advice exposes them to.  An RIA (Registered Investment Advisor) who is also a CFP™ can provide the guidance people need to make sense of the investment option in a 401(k).   Find a CFP™ in your area.

What is the difference between a 401(k) and a pension plan?

Both plans are designed to provide income for retirement.  There are some very important differences.

A 401(k) is a type of retirement plan known as a “defined contribution plans.”  That means that you know how much you are saving but not how much it is worth when you are ready to retire.  That depends on your ability to invest your savings wisely.  The benefit is that your savings grow tax deferred.  Many employers match your contribution with a contribution of their own, encouraging you to participate.

A pension plan is known as a “defined benefit plan.”  That means that you are guaranteed a certain amount of income by the plan when you retire.  The responsibility of funding the plan and investing the plan assets are your employer’s.

Because your employer is liable for anything that goes wrong with the pension they have promised their employees, many employers have discontinued pension plans and replace them with 401(k) type plans.  This shift the responsibility for your retirement income from the company to you.

If you have a 401(k) for your retirement and are unsure about the best investment options available to you, get the advice of a financial planner who is experienced in this field.

For more information, contact us.

Is your retirement plan a ticking time bomb?

In your mind’s eye, how do you see yourself living retirement?  Does it include the activities that you enjoy now … without the time you spend at work?  When you have the time, do you see yourself seeing the world?  Retirement presents an opportunity for some life-changing experiences.

But there are a few things that can cause those retirement dreams to become nightmares.

If your retirement plan includes a pension, you may want to consider the risk.  It is a fact that many private and public pension plans are sadly underfunded.  Some public pension plans are the worst offenders.  As an extreme example, the Illinois General Assembly Retirement System is only 13.5% funded.

A long period of very low interest rates means that pension plans with large bond investments have generated low returns.  It has caused others to take greater risk.  At some point that can affect the pensions of those who believed their Golden Years were paid for.

Living longer than you expected is another risk.  In 1950 the average life expectancy was 68.  That meant that the average worker retired at age 65 and died three years later.

Sixty years later, in 2010, the average life expectancy was 79 and many people are living longer.  In 2010 there were 1.9 million people over age 90 and three quarters of those were women.  One of the biggest concerns that retired people have is running out of money as savings are eroded by inflation.    How would living past age 90 affect your retirement plans?

The third thing that is causing the average worker concern about retiring is insufficient savings.  Fewer people are covered by pension plans.  Many employers have replaced guaranteed pensions called “Define Benefit Plans” with 401(k)s and 403(b)s known as “Defined Contribution Plans.”  This transfers the responsibility for retirement from the employer to the employee.  Too few people are taking advantage of these programs, not saving enough, and making unwise investment choices.  This can result in insufficient savings when the time comes to actually retire.  One result is that more and more people continue to work well past the traditional retirement age of 65.

What is to be done?

We have to accept a greater responsibility for our own retirement.  We have to be honest about how safe those pension promises are, whether we work of a large corporation or for a government entity.  We have to start saving early and make wise investment choices.  One of the wisest things people do as they prepare for retirement is get the services of a competent retirement professional who will guide them to a safe haven at the end of the road.

 

Will Retiring Force Cutbacks in Your Lifestyle?

For most people, retiring means the end of a paycheck.  When you retire, how will your lifestyle be affected?  If you don’t know the answer to that, don’t you want to find out before it’s too late?  There are so many things to take into consideration, including:

Retirement age – Modern retirees face lots of choices that their parents did not have.  There is no longer a mandatory retirement age, so the question of “when should I retire?” gets more complicated.

Social Security – The age at which you apply for Social Security benefits has a big effect on your retirement income.  Apply early and you reduce your monthly benefits by 25% – 30% depending on your age.  Wait until you’re 70 and you increase your monthly benefit by up to 32% (8% per year) depending on your age.  If you are married the decisions get even more complicated.

Pension – If you are entitled to a pension, the amount you receive usually depends on your length of service.  The formula used to calculate pension benefits can get quite complicated.  Those who work for employers with questionable or shaky financials may want to consider whether they will get the benefits they are promised.  If you are married, you will need to decide how much of your pension will go to your spouse if you die first.

Second career – An increasing number of people are going back to work after initially retiring.  Quite a few people don’t really want to stop working, but instead want to do something different or less stressful in their retirement.  Others use their skills to become consultants, or turn a hobby into a business.  A “second career” makes a big difference in your retirement lifestyle and how much income you will have in retirement.

Investment accounts – These are the funds you have saved for retirement in: IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, 457s, and individual accounts.  These funds are under your control.  Most retirees use them to supplement their Social Security and pension income.  They play a very large role in determining how well people live in retirement.

To find out whether you will be forced to cut back after you retire, you need a plan that allows you to take all these factors into consideration.  A plan allows you to gauge your progress and make corrections before it’s too late.

If you have questions, or if you would like to create a retirement plan, contact us.

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