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Crash

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  • johnN
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    RETIREMENT
    FEATURE
    Here Are the 3 Biggest Mistakes Retirees Make, and How to Avoid Them
    By Debbie Carlson
    Jan. 4, 2020 8:00 am ET

    Photograph by Marcostetter
    Retirees are making three mistakes that could jeopardize their financial future, experts say, with the missteps coming amid a growing awareness that many workers who’ve saved diligently for decades are now struggling to spend their savings.

    What’s driving the mistakes? Christine Benz, director of personal finance at Morningstar, points to the uncertainty around the retirement time horizon. Juggling finances is complicated, she says, because forecasting life expectancy—let alone market behavior—is impossible.


    The good news is that these mistakes can be remedied. Here’s how:

    1) No written plan
    Only 12% of retirees currently have a written plan, according to a 2018 survey from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. An additional 42% have a plan, but it’s not written down, and the rest have no plan.

    Catherine Collinson, CEO of the Transamerica Center, says this is probably the biggest mistake retirees make. A written retirement plan can provide a roadmap to balancing income, investments and expenses—both needs and wants—and can help retirees navigate the finer financial points of this life stage. (The Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies is a division of Transamerica Institute, a nonprofit, private foundation funded by contributions from Transamerica Life Insurance Co.)

    As for drafting a comprehensive plan, both Benz and Collinson say working with a financial advisor or wealth manager is worth the cost, even for people who want to manage their own investments in retirement.


    “It can be so involved to try to take it on one’s own, when professional advisors work with hundreds if not thousands of clients. They have had the experience to see how things play out in reality and they can be a very valuable source of knowledge,” Collinson says.

    Benz says do-it-yourself investors can hire an hourly financial planner for a consultation. Investment firms that are popular with retirees such as Fidelity Investments, Charles Schwab, or Vanguard Group often offer services of certified financial planners for various costs. And in some cases, if the retiree’s assets are substantial enough, the advice may be bundled in free.

    In addition to ongoing living expenses, Social Security and Medicare benefits, a comprehensive plan should map out:

    • Needed investment portfolio returns to make up any shortfalls from other income sources to maintain expenses

    • Overall tax planning and how tap assets tax efficiently

    • Inflation assumptions


    • Health-care costs, including any long-term care risks

    2) Not managing sequence-of-return risk
    In a good stock-market environment, retirees trim appreciated positions to bring in cash flow and reduce portfolio risk, Benz says. But tapping equity positions in a down market locks in losses.

    This is sequence-of-return risk, and when retirees mismanage the order in which their returns occur, they often have to reduce their withdrawals or lower their standard of living to avoid running out of money.


    Benz says the bucket approach of spreading out assets into short-, medium-, and long-term holdings can help mitigate sequencing risk. She gave an example of a sample portfolio of a retiree spending $60,000 annually from a portfolio.

    • Bucket one: holds $120,000 in highly liquid assets to fund near-term living expenses for years one and two, such as certificate of deposits or money market accounts/funds.

    • Bucket two: holds $480,000 in an intermediate portfolio for years three to 10. Put $100,000 in a short-term bond exchange-traded fund, $150,000 in a short-term U.S. Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities ETF and $230,000 in a core U.S. bond fund.


    • Bucket three: holds $900,000 in a growth portfolio for years 11 and beyond. Put $350,000 in a dividend growth ETF, $225,000 in a total U.S. stock market index ETF, $250,000 in international ex-U.S. all-world ETF, and $75,000 in a high-yield corporate ETF.

    Not everyone has $1.5 million in retirement savings, but the idea is that a sample portfolio holds 8% is in liquid assets, 32% in bond funds and 60% in stocks. Benz says this sample portfolio builds a bulwark against a bear market in stocks. “If it materializes, then you have those funds to draw upon first before you need to touch your equities,” she says.

    3) Not taking the right risk
    Retirees may be setting themselves up to fail with inappropriate risk—either having too much low-yielding fixed income or having too much in stocks 10 years into the bull market. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer for the appropriate balance as much depends on income needs, but there are some rules of thumb.

    Nancy Anderson, head of wealth strategy and trust services for Calamos Wealth Management, says when she formulates an investment plan, she asks retirees how much income they need for the lifestyle they want, the assets they have, and whether they want to leave a financial legacy or spend down their assets. She starts with these goals and backs into the appropriate asset allocation to produce the needed investment return from the portfolio to cover any gaps in income.

    For example, she and a client may base the risk allocation on such goals as “I don’t want to sacrifice my principal,” or “I just want $3,000 a month in income.” “Based on that risk goal assessment,” she says, “we would develop an asset allocation that would probably be adjusted at a minimum annually to make sure we have the right type of asset.”

    Depending on the retiree’s income needs, if total income needs can’t be covered by Social Security and investments without taking on aggressive risk, a retiree may have to look for an alternative income stream which may include part-time work.

    Benz says using desired cash flow as a starting point for positioning usually ends up with a retiree having an asset allocation of 60/40 or 50/50 stocks/bonds, rather than the previous mix of strictly fixed-income.

    “There was always this idea that you didn’t want to necessarily be in equities when you’re retired, but it seems to be more like a 60/40 portfolio is still probably a good idea, even in retirement,” she says.

    Questions? Comments? Write to us at [email protected]

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    Barron's
    January 5
    • Crash
      Crash
      Hey, thank you! Old news, dressed up to sound new. :)
  • johnN
    Hi sir article was free few days ago now cannot get it
    Happy new year
    January 4
  • johnN
  • I read your positive comments awhile back about two bond funds: PRSNX and PTIAX. My question is if you believe their prospects for delivering outstanding returns are good enough to justify switching from a Vanguard Total Bond Institutional class in my 401k? (Around 0.06 I believe). I can invest in either of these through my Fidelity brokerage link.
    April 2019
    • Crash
      Crash
      Hello. I think you're referencing VBTIX, yes? I use Morningstar's numbers for convenience, NOT because they're always accurate. But if I use that particular metric across the board, then it feels like an "apples to apples" comparison, whenever I go looking. ... First of all: you're NEVER going to beat the ultra-low Expense Ratio at VBTIX and Vanguard in general. That alone should be a major consideration for you. When I worked, I had a self-directed 403b and chose T Rowe Price because they are reputable and everything went smoothly. But you could say that about almost any of those Fund Houses, eh? I'm still not unhappy with them. (I literally did not have a pre-selected menu of options. I could have invested 100% in pork bellies.) My wife is still working, and we've chosen Vanguard from among her available options from off the company's pre-selected 403b menu items. ... Morningstar's information is often stale or just WRONG, and many times, funds get compared to the wrong kind of peers. Funds get bundled-in with funds that are not really alike. So I paint myself a generalized picture with the statistics and information available, and not just at Morningstar. But Morningstar is my "go-to." One big reason is that I know where to look to find X or Y or Z displayed.
      I would not be very happy with the AVERAGE risk, but BELOW-AVERAGE returns of VBTIX. But that alone should not sway you. I see quite respectable performance numbers there. ... I chose PRSNX because I am already married to TRP, and PRSNX has been delivering quite nicely. My account in PTIAX is my only holding which is NOT tax-sheltered. (Performance Trust, out of Chicago--- but "shareholder services" are elsewhere. THEY are the ones you'll always be talking to.) I'm in retirement now, though I'm not taking anything out of my IRA with TRP yet. (Not until we move out of the snow, to the Southwest.) Everything is still being re-invested, thus growing the dividends. I chose PTIAX because of pretty exceptional monthly dividends: not on a yield basis, but the raw number. These days, PTIAX is paying .07 cents per share, monthly. Once it gets big enough, the monthly dividend will surely help out a lot with expenses. I might offer to say this: that you might start a holding in PTIAX on your own if you want, outside of your 401k, whether tax-sheltered or not. ... Depending on your age, you might do well to stay "light" on bonds and "heavy" on stocks, anyhow. I suppose that you do not see the VBTIX monthly dividends directly, since you hold it in a 401k, but those dividends seem paltry. I like the Risk & Returns profile for both PTIAX (Low Risk, High returns) and PRSNX: Below-average risk, above-average returns. You ask about "outstanding" returns. I think you'll make more money with PTIAX and PRSNX. But your VBTIX is strictly DOMESTIC, and INVESTMENT-GRADE. It is ultra-safe. It's meant to be an anchor, or serve as ballast. Reliable, boring. It looks like a "core" bond fund. My PRSNX is GLOBAL, so it's about half in the USA, and there is other government debt in developed, industrialized countries as well as other stuff. Kind of a hodge-podge. But it makes me happy. It is prudently run. PTIAX is a different kind of animal, though. It's a small piece of my overall picture, but I am still growing it. If dividends stay consistently high, the way they are, then I can afford to limit its size in the portfolio. But that's not even a concern, yet. The one big drawback with Performance Trust is that they STILL do not have a website which lets you sign-into your account, to check on things yourself. They're automatically taking $100.00 out of my checking account, and every month, I have to CALL in order to know what my new share-balance is.
  • Hi, Crash.

    I edited your PRWCX discussion, which was flagged as offensive by a half dozen readers. I also tried emailing an explanation (including a short discussion of my bigger picture concerns) to the email address of record, but it was rejected. I am willing to resend if you share another address.

    The shortest version is that I know we all have short-fuse days and short-fuse relationships. That said, I need to keep the board as civil and welcoming as I can. I've had to write a discouraging number of notes to posters on that theme and need the senior members of the board to do the best they can to set a healthy tone.

    David
    November 2018
    • Crash
      Crash
      OK, I'm a fly on the wall from now on. Honestly, some of these guys are as sensitive as a ball peen hammer.
  • No.no. not me. I am an old guy. I just am aware of student review of faculty. Was the editor of my school's review long before the web.
    July 2018
  • davidrmoran
    you go!
    January 2017