Fiduciary Is Fun!
(a.k.a. I heart taxes)
(a.k.a. I heart taxes)
Now few people are against making more money, so I am not going to suggest that making more is a bad thing. At almost any wage level, people generally lift their gaze to the next level up and begin to think what life would be like if only they were there. Fortunately, many people do move up the salary scale over the course of their careers and often hit peak earning years in their 50s.
However, one common misconception about earning more money is that money alone will result in less stress and financial worry. Some new research out from the Salary Finance suggests that this is just not the case. Salary Finance interviewed over 10,000 employees recently on a variety of Financial Fitness measures. The report is voluminous, and it isn’t possible to cover all the topics mentioned, but the idea that earning more relieves stress is so ingrained in our DNA, that I thought I would use some of the research here to debunk it.
We should start by saying that there is a level of earning below which extreme stress is omnipresent. If a person is earning below subsistence level, stress will be experienced. So let’s for argument sake not consider that low of a level of income. For Salary Finance, they interviewed people at all levels and found that 58% of individuals earning between $25-40k have financial worries. That probably doesn’t surprise any of us.
What was interesting is that 40% of the people earning between $160-200k also have financial worries. Wouldn’t you think the percentage should be much less for this higher income earning group? I bet if you asked someone making $30k if they would have financial stress if they were making $180k, for example, they would say Heck No! But yet, the stress is present to a surprising extent.
So if money alone does not reduce financial stress and worry, what does? It appears that the number one difference is that people with less stress are Planners, using the language of Salary Finance. What is a Planner? Well, it’s someone who lives within their means, has emergency savings on hand, and focuses on long-term financial goals. In short…a Planner!
If you are an employer who would like to help your employees move from Coping to Planning, and thereby maybe not think that you paying them more alone is going to solve their problems, give me a call. I would love to have a discussion about how we can improve the financial lives of your employees.
Pete Welsh a/k/a 401kGuy
I saw some recent research from ValuePenguin that suggested 63% of Americans do not understand how a 401k plan works. This is as recent as May of 2019. Does this surprise you?
Last week I did a number of enrollment meetings for a client of mine. They are a Charter School here in Indianapolis and recently hired about 50 new teachers for the upcoming school year. They are technically a public school which allows them to sponsor a 403(b) plan. I started each meeting by asking for a show of hands of how many in the room understood what a 403(b) plan is. What do you think was the percentage of hands that went up? If only 37% of Americans understand a 401k plan, I can assure you that even less understand a 403(b) plan. In fact, most people in the room were surprised to learn that both types of plans get their name from the corresponding section of the Internal Revenue Code.
For my part, I do not find it surprising that the majority of employees do not fully understand how a corporate retirement plan works. After all, why should they? It’s not their job to understand how these work, it’s mine. And it’s my job to help them understand how to fully take advantage of these plans. A key challenge to doing this is a practical one – time. Most enrollment meetings are designed by the employer to last 20-30 minutes. It is enough time to cover the basics, but do you think that everyone walks out of the room with a full understanding?
What’s the best outcome that can come from an in-person enrollment meeting? For my part, the goal is not to provide a complete understanding of everything about the plan. My goal is to get the employees to take at least one step forward on their investing journey. Especially with younger folks, I encourage a modest percent of their income – 2 or 3 pennies on the dollar in the retirement plan. Once they get started, they can always increase. Certainly deferring to the match is optimal, but many employees starting out struggle with deferring 6% or so of pay. 2% or 3% is at least a start.
So after the meeting, what are the next steps? I encourage employees to contact me directly, and many do. I always find it interesting to visit with employees regarding their own situations. Exploring their own challenges allows for another learning opportunity to explain how the plan works and why they need to take advantage of it.
If you want an adviser for your employees that understands the financial future of your employees requires a long term journey and not just a 20-30 minute drive-by, give me a call!
Pete Welsh a/k/a 401kGuy
I was recently reading an article from the Pension Research Council of the Wharton School of Business and came across this little nugget from Olivia Mitchell from the School, “the baby who will live to be 200 has already been born.” Does anyone think this is a good thing?
Regardless of whether or not Ms. Mitchell is correct, the key point she is making is that people are living longer than they once did. On the whole, this is probably a good thing, right? However, it also raises some obvious issues. The first one, and one that has been noted many times in the financial press, is how are individuals going to plan for what could be a prolonged period of retirement? 100 years ago, retirement was a relatively short period of time. If Ms. Mitchell is correct, retirement in the future could last 100 years?!
The truth is probably somewhere in between, of course, but what will be the consequence for those who have not saved enough for a prolonged retirement, whether that be 20, 30, or even 40 years? Many people say they want to continue or will continue to work into the years that would otherwise be defined as their “golden years.” This is great, if they are able and allowed to do so. Let’s explore that last point
According to a study by ProPublica and the Urban Institute, between 1992 and 2016, 56% of older workers reported either being laid off or pushed out of a job at least once in their older years. Once reemployed, only 1 in 10 reported earning at or above the rate they were making. Rehiring older workers has always been a challenge, and remains so today, even though there are more and more older workers desiring to work!
What’s it going to take for employers to get more comfortable hiring older workers? Obviously there will be a large pool of such older workers available who need and want to work in the future. If we continue to harbor a bias against older workers, how are these individuals going to support themselves in their older age? This situation is going to get uncomfortable for all parties in the not too distant future
We can’t change society in a blog post, but we can at least take accountability for ourselves. If the thought of a prolonged retirement has you concerned and working into retirement is not your first option for several reasons, it is probably time to put together a plan. After all, no one wants to be 150 and standing in line for a job
Give me a call.
Pete Welsh a/k/a 401kGuy
Milliman, an actuarial and consulting firm (and a very good one by the way), recently released a report suggesting that the “average” healthy 45-year-old couple that retires at age 65 can expect to pay $1.4mm out of pocket in their retirement years for retiree healthcare. Before anyone gets excited, let’s think about this.
Milliman is full of excellent actuaries who are skilled at “running the numbers.” The problem with running numbers out over many years is you can get some crazy results. I would like to suggest that the results of this report are indeed crazy. I am not going to argue with the way the numbers were calculated; Milliman’s actuaries are much better at math than I. Rather, I am going to suggest the numbers simply don’t make sense from a practical standpoint.
Milliman suggests that the average couple will have $1.4mm in just retiree healthcare costs. However, I can tell you that the average retiring couple will not have $1.4mm in TOTAL, let alone for just healthcare costs. I can appreciate the point being made which is healthcare in retirement is going to cost A LOT of money. Got it. But it’s not going to cost $1.4mm per couple on average because on average couples don’t have $1.4mm.
So, we have come to an impasse. Milliman calculates $1.4mm in cost per couple, but most couples don’t have this amount of money. What do we do? Something has to give, right? And don’t forget, these costs are after Medicare has paid because we are talking about a retired couple. Nothing like pointing out a problem without offering a solution.
I’m not going to suggest that I have the answer to this one, but I can tell you that couples are not going to pay what they don’t have. What is the best that you can do today to plan for this less than rosy future? You can certainly start maxing out your Health Savings Account (“HSA”) assuming you have one. This might be one of the best long-term vehicles to fund retiree healthcare costs. You can also start planning for Long Term Care needs, as a significant portion of retiree healthcare costs are expected to fall into this category.
Want to learn more about how to prepare? Give me a call and let’s have a conversation.
The technology arms race for the financial attention of individuals and employees has never been greater. Not a day goes by that I do not see another press release or receive an email about how some financial services company is introducing a new website, or new tool, or new behavioral finance gobblegook that will revolutionize the way Americans “save and prepare for their retirement.”
To believe the hype is to believe that the average American is more engaged and prepared than ever before to save confidently on his journey to financial nirvana. Is that how it is?
According to some new research by the National Association of Retirement Plan Participants, an organization that makes “financial information transparent and universally accessible for the 145 million working Americans” we are still a wee bit away from nirvana.
Despite the plethora of new tools offered by financial institutions, it appears that only 11% of people have any generalized level of trust in them. Additionally, despite all these new tools, only 43% of employees are satisfied with the education services provided by their 401k provider and engagement is decreasing across all channels of website usage. Only 18% of employees feel comfortable planning for retirement, and only 33% of them have even tried to reduce debt or make a budget.
What the heck is going on here?! We are living in a golden age of new tools for people and across all mediums the tools are being used less and less resulting in greater financial stress and less confidence. The problem? Technology alone is not the solution.
Technology is part of the answer, but it can never be expected to be the total solution. When I see all these new tools, I concede they are great. But by themselves, they are only a starting point. Financial planning, indeed life, is too complicated to expect people to turn en mass to only electronic tools for answers.
A better solution? Pair these marvelous tools with a competent and skilled financial advisor if you really want to move the needle. The combination of advisor and technology can really deliver some powerful results. Want to learn how? Give me a call to discuss!
The word “Retirement” congers many different thoughts and images. I can tell you that after having spent 25 years working with companies and employees that “retirement” seldom means the same thing to two different people.
And the definition of retirement just keeps getting more jagged as the Baby Boomers reach their senior years. Research from AP-NORC Center shows that the idea of retiring on your own terms and putting your feet up for your remaining days is something that fewer and fewer people do. In fact, if that was ever the reality, it certainly is not prominent today.
A couple of stats from the research to get us started: over 1/3rd of Americans who consider themselves retired did not retire by choice. Most common reason people take early retirement? Health problems or disability. One out of every 3 people stop working not by choice. Find that surprising? I do. 43% of Americans over 50 say that the thought of retirement causes them to be more “anxious” than “excited.” That’s probably not good. And 56% of Americans say they expect to work past 65 with 27% of those saying they never expect to retire.
Now this last statistic may not be all that bad. Many people find purpose and enjoyment to work and working past age 65 is a choice that they welcome, not a need they bear. It’s an option, not a requirement. And that is worth keeping in mind. Rather than being forced to work beyond what your health can bear or what you need to do to provide for living expenses, isn’t it nice to think that your golden years might afford you the chance to continue to stay involved, find purpose and enjoyment without the financial requirement to do so?
What's the lesson here? It is critically important to promote savings, budgeting, and planning as early in one’s career as possible so that when those later years approach, they are not met with anxiety, but rather with hope and excitement of what can be.
If you want to work with an advisor who shares such a vision, please give me a call!
As of 2018, student loan debt is now the second highest consumer debt category – behind only mortgage debt – and higher than both credit cards and auto loans. According to Make Lemonade, a consumer finance company, more than 44 million borrowers have student loans and the collective debt is greater than $1.5 Trillion. The average borrower owes $37,172. And, of course, the largest group of borrowers is under age 30.
If you find these stats a little disconcerting, you should. How this debt is impacting our society is being felt in many ways. For those who are shouldering this debt, it means that many of the things they would otherwise be spending money toward must instead be used to pay off their student loans. When you consider that most of the individuals who have this debt are also just starting out in life and need to begin building a life separate from their parents or college, the financial hill they need to climb can be more than intimidating; it can be debilitating.
What’s this have to do with your retirement plan? For one thing, we are seeing more and more young people unable to contribute to their company’s 401k plan as they need to use those dollars for debt payment. At first glance, this might not seem like much of a worry for employers, but when you consider that the delay in participation could last for 5-10 years, the real impact to employees who are now falling behind in retirement savings can be huge. Moreover, think about the increased stresses these borrowers are feeling as a result of just trying to dig themselves out of this financial hole.
Is there something an employer can do? There are several things actually. A financial advisor can work with employees to help them with budgeting and cash flow management. A good advisor can also work with the employer to help craft a way via the retirement plan whereby the employer can still make some “matching contributions” to the plan for those employees who are paying down debt instead of making 401k deferrals. In fact, this idea is gaining so much momentum that legislation is even being proposed in Washington to codify how to do this.
Want to learn more about how to help your employees manage the student loan burden? Give me a call! I work a lot in this space.
We all pay into it. We are all expecting to receive it. But do we all understand it? Apparently not. New research from Nationwide Retirement Institute suggests that many Americans have either false expectations as to what they can expect from Social Security or a false reality of their own retirement.
The research has so much data that I can’t possibly cover it all in this blog, but here are just a couple of the more glaring misconceptions: 70% of pre-retirees (those within 10 years of retirement) believe they will be eligible for full benefits at age 63. Wrong. And 26% believe that even if they do claim benefits early, that the benefits will rise once they reach full retirement age. Wrong.
In fact, there are so many things about Social Security that pre-retirees get wrong, it almost makes you wonder what they get right. They certainly don’t get the amount right. The vast majority believe they will receive $1,805 per month in Social Security benefits, when the actual number is closer to $1,408 per month. That a difference of 28%. That’s a BIG difference. Many people, for some reason, forget that Medicare is not actually free and that premiums are withheld, on a monthly basis, from the Social Security benefit. And it can be a meaningful amount.
Is there some hope? Of course. It appears from the research that only 22% of pre-retirees have a formal written retirement plan, but that if you work with an advisor the likelihood of increasing your Social Security benefits goes up. In fact, 76% of those surveyed say that if their advisor did not, or does not, speak to them about maximizing Social Security benefits, they will switch advisors.
So what should you do? Make sure you have a good advisor who works with you to put a solid plan together for your retirement. Are you looking for such an advisor? Give me a call!