Control Your Retirement Destiny
Chapter 5 – “Investing”

Chapter 5 – “Investing”

December 8, 2018

In this episode, podcast host and author of “Control Your Retirement Destiny” covers Chapter 5 of the 2nd edition of the book titled, “Investing.”

If you want to learn even more than what there is time to cover in the podcast series, you can find the book “Control Your Retirement Destiny” on Amazon.

Or, if you are looking for a customized plan for your retirement, visit us at sensiblemoney.com to see how we can help.

 

Chapter 5 – Podcast Script

Hi, this is Dana Anspach. I’m the founder and CEO of Sensible Money, a fee-only financial planning firm. I’m also the author of "Control Your Retirement Destiny," a book that covers all the decisions you need to make as you plan for a transition into retirement.

The book has outstanding 5-stars reviews on Amazon. If you like what you hear today, go to Amazon and search for "Control Your Retirement Destiny." Or, if you are looking for a customized plan, visit sensiblemoney.com to see how we can help.

In this podcast, I’ll be covering the material in Chapter 5 on investing. We’ll continue the case study of Wally and Sally, and look at how the plan we created for them in Chapters 2 through 4 becomes the blueprint for how they should invest.

Let’s get started.

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When I meet someone new, almost without fail, the conversation goes something like this.

They ask, “What do you do for a living?”

“I’m a financial advisor,” I say, or “I own and run a financial planning firm.”

From there the typical reply is along the lines of,

“Oh, what do you think of the markets right now? What should I be buying? What are your thoughts on Apple stock? What will happen if so and so wins the next election? What should I be investing in?”

“You should be investing in a good financial planner,” is what goes through my mind.

Investing is like a prescription. It’s what you do after you’ve gone through a thorough exam and diagnosis.

This where I think most of the financial services industry gets it wrong.

Take a thirty-year-old as an example. They are investing in their 401k. They are nervous about losing money. They either fill out an online risk questionnaire or meet with a financial advisor - and this is supposedly the exam part. They express their concern about losing money if the market goes down. Then the diagnosis part. The computer model or advisor recommends they invest in a balanced fund that maintains an allocation of about 60% stocks and 40% bonds.

This is not a terrible recommendation - but to me - it seems like a recommendation made for all the wrong reasons.

At age 30, under normal circumstances, the earliest you can withdraw from your 401k is age 59 1/2 - about thirty years in the future. You would think the primary goal would be the investment mix that maximizes the potential for return over a thirty-year time horizon. Yet, almost the entire financial services industry focuses instead on minimizing the downside risk, or volatility, that you might experience in any one year.

Why? It makes no sense to me.

Why would I structure my investments to reduce short term volatility for an account I’m not going to touch for thirty years?

Contrast this with someone who is age 65 and about to retire. One popular rule of thumb says take 100 minus your age and that is what you should have in bonds. I’ve also heard a version of this rule that says take 110 minus your age. Following this type of rule, you come out with a 65 - 75% allocation to stocks and a 25-35% allocation to bonds. In many cases, it is the same recommendation made to the thirty-year-old. Is this recommendation aligned to your goals? It might be. But in many cases it still doesn’t add up.

For example, suppose in your plan you are drawing out of a taxable brokerage account first - then your IRA when you reach age 70, then your spouse’s IRA, and he or she is five years younger than you. Suppose you also each have a Roth IRA, but you don’t plan on touching that account at all. Should all of these accounts be invested with the same risk profile, with about 60% in stocks and 40% in bonds? In my mind that makes no sense at all, yet that is the type of investment recommendation most often given.

What does make sense to me is to assign each account a job description and invest that account according to the job it needs to do. That means if your spouse is age 60 and won’t be touching their IRA until age 70, which is ten years away, that account can be invested differently than the account you’ll be drawing out of next year.

To make better investing choices that are more aligned to your goals, there are a few key things to know. Here are the ones we’ll be covering in this podcast.

How to measure risk - And the two most important questions you can ask before making any investment.

Something called “The Big Investment Lie” - and why we are so prone to believing it.

The importance of tracking results relative to your plan.

We’ll start with measuring risk.

There are two questions I’d love to hear everyone ask before making an investment. The first question is “Can I lose any money?”

If you are retiring next year, and will need to withdraw $50,000 to help cover your living expenses, when it comes to HOW that $50,000 is invested you want the answer to the question “Can I lose any money?” to be NO. In most cases, if it is money you need to use in the next five years, you want it invested safely.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I think of this as a Level 1 risk. A Level 1 Risk represents a safe investment. it may not earn much interest. But you also know it won’t go down in value.

The next question to ask is “Can I lose all my money?” This question is more difficult to answer. What if you bought 100 shares of a stock? Can you lose all your money? Yes. Many great publicly traded companies have gone bust over the years. I call this a LEVEL 5 RISK. I recommend most retirees avoid taking Level 5 risks.

Now, what about a Level 4 risk? This one is trickier. Let’s look at an example.

Suppose I told you of an investment that for over 90 years has an average return of 10% a year? Sounds good, doesn’t it. You invest $100,000. A year later it is worth $60,000. You sell it, fearful you’ll incur more losses. You call me a liar, and decide investing doesn’t work. From that day forward, you keep your money in the bank, where it safely earns a few percent a year.

Now, instead, suppose I describe an investment that gives you the potential to earn more than double what bank savings accounts are paying. I explain to you that this investment is not something you should use if you need your money in the next few years. I also tell you that in any single year, this investment could be down as much as 40%, or, up as much as 40%. I also explain that your results can vary widely depending on how the next 20 years turns out. I show you that in the past, during the worst 20 years this investment earned a return about the same as safe investments, and over the best 20 years, it earned returns much, much higher.

You are now taking a calculated risk with the expectation of volatility. You invest $100,000. A year later it is worth $60,000. You don’t like it, but you knew this could happen and you’re in it for the long term. You hang on, and by the end of ten years it is worth $191,000.

Both scenarios reflect the same investment - an investment in an S&P 500 Index Fund. The difference in the results are due to investor behavior - not due to the investment.

The S&P 500 measures the performance of the stocks of 500 of the largest companies in the U.S. When you own an S&P 500 Index fund, you own a little piece of each of the 500 stocks. Can you lose all your money in this investment?

Hypothetically, yes. All 500 companies would have to go bankrupt at once for this to happen. If that happens, I believe the world as we know it has ended, and we’ve got much worse problems on our hand than how much is in our 401k account.

With a risk level 4 investment, like an index fund, you know you’ll experience ups and downs. The primary factor in how well you do, will be your behavior - how you use this investment. When used with reasonable expectations, level 4 investments usually help you achieve your goals.

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In the earlier chapters of the book we began following a couple, Wally and Sally, who were planning their retirement. Let’s see how this concept of risk levels and aligning investments to a goal works for Wally and Sally.

After projecting several potential withdrawal plans, Wally and Sally could see that drawing funds out of their non-retirement account in their first four years of retirement would be the most tax-efficient choice. As they will need these funds soon, they invest this account, about $250,000, all in safe investments.

Next, their plan has them withdrawing from Wally’s retirement accounts starting in about year five of retirement. When they get to year five, they don’t want to be concerned about the market being down – instead they want to know the first five full years of planned withdrawals from this account are safe. Those withdrawal amounts add up to $105,000. The total account value is $365,000. They invest the $105,000, or 29% of the account, in safe choices. The remaining 71% of the account is invested to growth, or Risk Level 4 choices.

They don’t plan to touch Sally’s retirement account for at least six years. But when they get out to year seven, where they will need to use it, they want her first three years of withdrawals in safe choices, which amounts to $90,000. Her account size is $546,000, so her allocation is 16% to safe choices, and 84% to growth.

Notice each account is invested differently, depending on the job it must do.

When you look at their entire household, they now enter retirement with the first 8 years of withdrawals 100% covered by safe investments. Their household allocation is 38% to safe choices and 62% to growth. They have the comfort of knowing the growth portion has eight years to work for them - and that during that 8 years when it has good years they will take the gains and move them to safe options. And when it has bad years, which they expect, they will leave it alone and give it time to recover. They are able to do this because their withdrawals are coming from the portion of their accounts invested in low risk choices.

This is how you create a job description for an account and align the investment choices to the particular plan for that account.

Now, Wally and Sally have a bit more learning to do when it comes to the growth portion of their account. They need to make sure they don’t fall for The Big Investment Lie.

The Big Investment Lie is the title of a book written by Michael Edesess. As he introduces the book, he shares a story about his first job at an investment firm. Here’s what he says,

“With my new Ph.D. in pure mathematics in hand from Northwestern University, I reported to work at Becker in July 1971. Immediately after starting, my bosses gave me books to read on stock market theories. I was the only mathematician with a Ph.D. in the firm, so I quickly became chief theoretician. I was assigned to work with a young assistant professor at the University of Chicago named Myron Scholes (later to become famous for the Black-Scholes option pricing model). I was sent to conferences on quantitative finance, where I rubbed elbows and sat on panels with future Nobel Prize winners. But within a few short months I realized something was askew. The academic findings were clear and undeniable, but the firm—and the whole industry—paid no real attention to them. The evidence showed that professional investors could not beat market averages. Professional investors couldn’t even predict stock prices better than the nearest taxicab driver.”

When I read this book of Michael’s, luckily, I already knew that it was not possible for anyone, professional investor or novice, to predict stock prices or consistently pick winning stocks.

My frustration, and what Michael Edesses calls The Big investment Lie, is the ongoing belief that so much of the public continues to hold – which is that some person, some firm, or some software program, can beat the stock market or spot stock winners.

“Well”, you might be thinking, “if I’m not hiring an investment professional to pick stocks or beat the market, what am I hiring them for?”

If you’re hiring the right kind of professional, you’re hiring them to make a realistic financial projection for you, help you take the steps needed to make that projection become a reality, and they’re going to use a disciplined time-tested Investment process - and stick with it even when times are tough.

A disciplined time-tested investment process that holds up under scrutiny usually uses a form of what is called “passive” investing for the growth part of the portfolio.

What does “passive” mean? It means you are not choosing mutual funds or investment advisors that are trying to pick stocks or trying to beat the market. An S&P 500 Index fund, for example, is a passive type of investing. This kind of fund owns the 500 stocks listed in the S&P 500 index. It isn’t trying to pick the best of those 500. It simply wants to capture the collective returns of all 500 stocks packaged together.

Contrast that with an actively managed large-cap fund, which might be trying to pick the best 200 stocks out of the 500 listed on the S&P. The actively managed fund has much higher expenses - as it must pay an entire team of people to do research in an attempt to identify the best 200 stocks.

The data shows that overwhelmingly, these active funds are not successful at earning an after-fee return higher than what you would get if you simply bought the index fund.

Another part of The Big Investment Lie has to do with a belief in market timing. A belief that there is an expert who can successfully move your money out of the market before the next downturn, and then invest it back in at the bottom.

A great book on this subject is Future Babble - Why Expert Predictions Are Next to Worthless by Dan Gardner. One of the points that Gardner makes is that predictions get attention - and if an expert succeeds at a prediction - they can make page one of the news. If they fail, no one pays attention... so why not throw a lot of predictions out there until one sticks?

When it comes to The Big Investment Lie, I have one final thing to say. I’ve been delivering personal financial advice since 1995. Every scam or bad investment I’ve ever seen someone make was because they fell for some version of The Big Investment Lie. Someone told them a tall tale - and they believed it. Don’t let this happen to you.

Develop a set of reasonable expectations and invest in a boring systematic way. You may not get rich quick, but you also won’t go broke overnight. And that’s pretty important as you near retirement.

The last thing I want to cover in this podcast is the importance of tracking your results. And knowing what to track against.

What do you think you should track against? Does it make sense to track your results against the S&P 500 Index which is so widely reported on by the media?

That is what a lot of people do. I’m not sure why. Is the Index customized to the financial goals of your household?

No.

Imagine if you were training for a sport. Would you set your performance standards against a nationally followed average? Or would it make more sense to measure your athletic performance against your fitness goals and take into account your age, personal experience, level of fitness and health considerations?

I’d venture most of us would prefer a customized approach.

A customized approach makes sense for your finances too.

The way to make a customized benchmark for your finances it to first make a financial projection of your income, expenses, taxes and account values. Wally and Sally did this and they now have a clear picture of how much should be remaining in each account at the end of every year from now throughout life expectancy.

Their financial projections use the assumption that investments earn 5% a year on average. How did they come to use a 5% return? They looked at a lot of historical data on how stocks and bonds have performed over the past. They wanted to be conservative - which meant they did not want to use a rate of return assumption that only reflects average to good times. Instead, they wanted to use something that was reflective of the worst 1/3 of historical times.

Their research led them to feel quite comfortable that if their household allocation remained at about 60% in growth investments, after all fees, a 5% rate of return was a realistic assumption to use.

Using this 5% return projection, they can see after taking their needed withdrawal, how much should be left in each account.

Each year, they compare what they have to what their projection says should be remaining. They are now measuring against their path - against their goals. We use this same way of measuring in our financial planning process at Sensible Money.

In addition, we create a secondary projection called a Critical Path. Critical Path is a trademarked term used by our investment partner, a firm called Asset Dedication. We do the planning and send Asset Dedication the financial projection for each client. In turn Asset Dedication sends us back the Critical Path - which is the minimum amount of financial assets that need to be remaining each year for the plan to work throughout the client’s projected lifetime.

The Critical Path is even more conservative than the standard projection using 5% returns. In Chapter 5, you can see an example of what Wally and Sally’s Critical Path looks like.

Once you have a customized projection, you use it to make decisions along the way. When our client are ahead of their Critical Path, that is our signal to sell some of the gains and buy more bonds.

When clients get significantly ahead of their path, we begin conversations around gifting, or spending a little extra on things that really matter to them.

Using a personal projection is far better than measuring against a benchmark like the S&P because it tells you how well you are doing compared to your goals. It also takes the focus away from month-by-month or even year-to-year performance - and instead, looks at where you are positioned relative to your lifetime goals.

It also allows you to make appropriate adjustments along the way. If you need to spend more during any one year, if you are following a plan that adheres you to a 4% withdrawal, you may be reluctant to take any additional funds out. Yet that might be fine and have little impact on your lifetime plan.

By using a personal projection, instead of an arbitrary benchmark, decisions can be customized to you.

To summarize, you’ve now learned the two most important questions to ask before investing. They are “Can I lose any money,” and “Can I lose all my money?”

You’ve also learned about the all-too-human tendency to believe in The Big Investment Lie - the belief that there is an expert out there that can accurately predict upcoming market moves. Steer clear of any such too-good-to-be-true claims.

And, you’ve learned why it makes sense to measure results against a personalized financial projection instead of a benchmark. With a personal projection you always know how well you are doing relative to your goals.

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Thank you for taking the time to listen today. Chapter 5 of "Control Your Retirement Destiny" has additional content which covers several other investment types and it includes great examples of Wally and Sally’s Critical Path projection. Visit amazon.com to get a copy in either electronic or hard copy format.

Or visit us at sensiblemoney.com to see how we can help you plan your transition into retirement.

Chapter 4 – “Taxes”

Chapter 4 – “Taxes”

November 23, 2018

In this episode, podcast host and author of “Control Your Retirement Destiny” covers Chapter 4 of the 2nd edition of the book titled, “Taxes.”

If you want to learn even more than what there is time to cover in the podcast series, you can find the book “Control Your Retirement Destiny” on Amazon.

Or, if you are looking for a customized plan for your retirement, visit us at sensiblemoney.com to see how we can help.

 

Chapter 4 – Podcast Script

Hi, this is Dana Anspach. I’m the founder and CEO of Sensible Money, a fee-only financial planning firm. I’m also the author of Control Your Retirement Destiny which was initially published in 2013. A 2nd edition was published in 2016, and now, I am working on the 3rd edition. Why a 3rd edition? Well, the tax laws changed - and we want to update Chapter 4, which covers taxes.

This podcast covers the material in Chapter 4, and I’ll be discussing both the old tax rules and the new tax rules. We’ll continue to follow the case study of Wally and Sally based on the 2nd edition of the book.

The book has incredible 5-stars reviews on Amazon. If you like what you hear today, go to Amazon and search for Control Your Retirement Destiny. You won’t be disappointed. And if you are looking for a customized plan, visit sensiblemoney.com to see how we can help.

Ok, let’s get started. In this podcast, I’ll be covering the highlights from Chapter 4 on the topic of “Taxes.”

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There are very few people I know who enjoy doing their taxes. That includes me. I have actually never done my own tax return. To me, it is worth it to pay someone else to handle this task.

Yet, I know a tremendous amount about personal tax rules. So why wouldn’t I do my own tax return? Well, a tax return is a historical account of what happened. Once it is time to file your return, there is nothing you can do to change the outcome.

I prefer to use my tax knowledge to figure out how to pay less in taxes. And, to help other people pay less. To me, that is one of the most rewarding parts of my work.

To pay less in taxes, you have to plan ahead. How far ahead? The more you want to save, the farther ahead you’ll plan.

Think of tax planning in three levels.

Level 1 is pretty basic. For example, assume you turn your tax documents in to your tax preparer, and he or she let’s you know you could fund an IRA for the previous year, and thus reduce your tax bill.  That wasn’t really planning ahead, but you did learn a step you could take to reduce current year taxes.

But is this really the right step to take to lower your taxes in the long run? Not for everyone. Some people are better off funding a Roth IRA instead of a Traditional Deductible IRA. With a Roth, you make after-tax contributions and from that point on, the money grows tax-free. The Roth IRA has several unique advantages for retirees when they enter the phase where they are regularly withdrawing money. For example, Roth withdrawals do not count in the formula that determines how much of your Social Security is taxable. And Roth IRAs do not have what are called Required Minimum Distributions, which begin at age 70 ½ and require you to take out specified amount each year. These unique advantages of Roth IRAs are often missed by traditional tax preparers.

The reality of Level 1 planning is that many tax preparers are so focused on what you can do to reduce this year’s tax bill, that the advice they are giving, with the best of intentions, may not be advice that is ideal for you.

Next, we have Level 2 tax planning. You must tackle Level 2 planning in the fall, and run a tax projection. The bummer part of doing this is that you have to gather estimates for every item that will be on your upcoming tax return. We do this for most of our clients each year – and I’ll admit, it’s a lot of work. What do we learn from all this work?

We can determine what actions need to be taken before the year is over so that people can save money. There are three items we routinely look for.

1) The opportunity to convert a portion of an IRA to a Roth IRA,

2) the ability to realize capital gains if they will fall into the zero percent tax rate, and

3) the ability to realize capital losses that can be used to offset ordinary income.

If you aren’t sure what these things mean, keep listening. I promise, I’ll explain most of them in more detail.

With Level 2 tax planning you mock up your tax return, and then see what it would look like if you were to take action before the year is over. One of the most memorable results I have from a tax projection was when we told a client that could sell a significant amount of Apple stock and realize $60,000 of capital gains and pay no tax. They were shocked.

How were they able to do this?

They had just retired, and their taxable income was going to be quite low for the year. When your taxable income is low, any capital gains you realize are likely to fall into what is called the “zero percent tax rate” – which means you can realize those gains and pay no tax.

If they had waited even one more year – their taxable income would not have been as low – and they would have paid taxes on the gain at a 15% tax rate, or $9,000 in tax.

Planning ahead saved them $9,000. Pretty cool.

Then, we have Level 3 tax planning.

With level 3 planning, you plan many years ahead. This type of planning can have a big impact on people who are near retirement. Why?

Between the age of 55 and 70 there are a lot of moving parts.

Retirement usually happens in this age range, which results in a change in taxable income. And various other types of income start– such as Social Security, pensions, deferred compensation payouts and IRA withdrawals – and they often all start at different times. If married, spouses may have different retirement dates and different years where each of their Social Security begins.

With all these moving parts, your tax return can look entirely different from year to year – and lots of opportunities exist – if you’re on the lookout for them.

In Chapter 4, we follow the case of Wally and Sally. I show you what Level 3 Tax Planning looks like by going through three potential retirement income plans for Wally and Sally.

All three plans are designed so that their lifestyle spending is identical. The difference in the three plans is when they begin Social Security, and how they withdraw from various accounts. These changes impact how much in taxes they pay in each scenario.

Let’s see how their three scenarios look using the old tax rates. Then we’ll summarize how it might change under the new 2018 rules.

In the 2nd Edition of the book, I describe Wally and Sally’s three retirement income plans as Option A, B, and C.

With Option A, Wally and Sally take their Social Security early, and at the same time withdraw from their non-retirement accounts. They know at age 70 ½ that by law they are required to begin taking distributions from retirement accounts and they plan to wait and tap IRAs only when these mandatory distributions begin. Their cumulative taxes over a 29-year projected lifetime add up to $452,000.

With Option B, they use their suggested Social Security claiming plan, which has them filing a few years later, and they use the same withdrawal order as Option A. Which means they spend non-retirement savings first, while waiting until required distributions begin. Their cumulative taxes total to $487,000.

With Option C, they use their suggested Social Security claiming plan while converting IRA assets to a Roth IRA during low tax years, and they withdraw from IRAs before their required distributions begin. Their cumulative taxes add up to only  $424,000.

That’s a $63,000 difference in taxes paid – depending on how they structure their income plan.

There is also a big difference in how much money they have left after 29 years. When looking at the estimated after-tax value of accounts, with Option A they have  $816,000 left. With Option B, in 29 years, they have $930,000. And with Option C - $1,153,000.

That’s $337,000 more.  

Now, if I have any economists listening, they will realize that $337,000 sounds like a lot – but that is $337,000 twenty-nine years in the future. You must discount that back to today’s dollars to do a fair comparison. Assuming a 3% inflation rate, in today’s dollars that is worth $143,000. That’s still a decent chunk of money you get to keep by planning ahead.

How does this type of planning work?

In the early years in retirement, Wally and Sally will be in a lower tax rate. Later in retirement, a higher tax rate will kick in because of their IRA withdrawals. With Option C, they use this to work to their benefit. They withdraw money from their IRA on purpose when their tax rates are low. They are able to put some of it in a Roth IRA where it grows tax-free. This is called a Roth conversion. The result is that later in retirement their Required IRA distributions are lower, and they have less income taxed at the higher rates.

What does a similar case study look like under the new 2018 tax laws?

I’m working on that right now for the third edition of the book.

Starting in 2018, tax rates are lower than they were in 2017 – but they are set to go back to higher rates in the year 2026. This makes planning a bit of a challenge.

I ran similar Wally and Sally scenarios using 2018 tax laws, and assuming those rules stay in place and do not revert back to old rates. Under this scenario, Wally and Sally can still save up to $48,000 in federal taxes by building a tax smart withdrawal plan that delays Social Security while withdrawing from IRAs and using Roth conversions.

There is up to a $350,000 difference in after-tax assets at the end of their plan. Which is equivalent to $148,000 in today’s dollars.

And, if in fact tax laws do revert, the tax planning will save Wally and Sally even more. Under old tax rules, or new ones, there is plenty of money to be found with good planning.

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you that tax planning can save you money. Although I can’t cover all the rules in this podcast, with our remaining  time I will discuss tax planning triggers that you want to be on the look out for. Then, we’ll talk about a few specific parts of the tax code and how to use these parts to make better planning decisions.

First, tax planning triggers.

If you have the same salary, the same mortgage, and the same number of dependents this year as you did last year, most likely your tax return this year will look much like it did last year.

Where big opportunities show up is when things start to change. I call these items “Triggers.” When a Trigger occurs, it might be a great year to focus extra effort on your tax planning.

For example, you change jobs, or you have a year where you are only employed half the year, or you retire. During those years, you are likely to be in a lower tax bracket than you were the year before.

Changing jobs, a period of unemployment, and retirement are three major Trigger events. A few others are a change in your number of dependents, a move to a different state, paying off a mortgage, or taking on a new mortgage.

Selling a property or investments should also trigger a fresh look at your taxes, as you may have larger capital gains to report in years where these sales occur.

Changes in income are likely to have a bigger impact than changes in deductions. To understand why, let’s quickly review how tax rates work.

Income is reported on the first page of a 1040 tax return. Although income is reported here, not all of it is taxable. Many line items on your tax form have a column for the full amount of the income, and then a separate entry where you put the taxable portion.

You use this income to determine what is called your Total Income on line 22 of the first page of a 1040. Then you get to adjust this income down by what are called “above the line” deductions. Some common ones are contributions to a Health Savings Account or to an IRA.

The result is called your AGI, or Adjusted Gross Income, and it is shown on line 37 of a standard 1040 tax form.

Next, in 2017 you get to reduce your AGI by taking either the Standard Deduction, or Itemized Deductions. This is one area where things changed between 2017 and 2018.

Let’ start with 2017 rules.

In 2017, each person got to reduce their AGI by a personal exemption amount of $4,050 and a standard deduction of $6,350. If you were age 65 or older you also got a slightly larger standard deduction.

Let’s say you’re married and not yet 65. In 2017, your total standard deduction was $12,700. You would compare this to your itemized deductions, which included things like mortgage interest, state taxes paid, health care expenses up to a limit, and charitable contributions. If your total itemized deductions were more than the standard deduction then you got to use the larger number. In this example I’m using, as long as your itemized deductions were more than $12,700, you would use the itemized.

Then you also got to reduce your income by your personal exemptions.

In 2017, for a single person, age 65, when you added up your standard deductions and exemptions, without any itemizing, your AGI would be reduced by about almost $12,000 to get to what is called your Taxable Income.

For a married couple both age 65, your AGI would be reduced by just over $23,000 to determine your taxable income.

In 2018 – it’s different. Now, there is not a personal exemption. Instead, the standard deduction is much larger – at $12,000 each, or a total of $24,000 if married. And, you still get a little more if you’re age 65 or older.

In 2018, as a single not yet age 65, you must have more than $12,000 of deductions before you cross the threshold to be able to itemize. For married couples is must be more than $24,000 (If over 65, those numbers change to $13,600 for singles and $26,600 for marrieds.)

What all of this means is that many more people will use the standard deduction now instead of itemizing.

In addition, what is eligible to be itemized has changed!

In 2017, you could deduct state and local taxes, like property taxes and state income taxes paid, with no cap on how much could be deducted. In 2018, you can use a maximum of $10,000 of these types of deductions. This has the biggest impact on folks who live in areas with high property taxes and high state income taxes.

There are a few other changes to itemized deductions too, but I can’t go into all of them.

The bottom line is that you start with Total Income, then take Above the Line deductions to get to your AGI, then you reduce that by your Standard or Itemized Deductions to get to Taxable Income.

Great, you have taxable income. Now what?

Now, that income flows into the tax tables. And naturally, that isn’t simple either.

Tax rates are tiered. This is something that I find many people do not understand – because under a Tiered system, not all income is taxed at the same rate.

In 2018, the rates are 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32% and 35% - these are all slightly less than they were in 2017.

To understand how it works, let’s talk through an example of a single person who has Taxable Income of $80,000 (remember, that’s what is left after all their deductions). In 2018, the first $9,525 of that income is taxed at the 10% rate, the next $29,174 is taxed at 12%, and the next $31,775 is taxed at 22%.

What if this person were trying to decide if they should contribute more to their 401(k) - and they could either make a deductible contribution to the plan, or an after-tax Roth contribution? Which is better?

If they contribute $10,000 it will reduce the taxes they are paying at the 22% rate – which means a $10,000 deduction equals $2,200 saved in taxes. That sounds great!

But tax laws are set to revert to the old rates in 2026. What if their retirement projection shows that their income later in retirement will be taxed at the 28% rate. Does it make sense to take a deduction now at 22% - then pay taxes on that same money later when you withdraw it at a 28% rate?  Probably not.

This is just one example of how Level 3 Tax Planning can help you make better decisions.

In addition to looking at the cut off levels between tax rates, you must also consider that all income is not treated the same under the tax code. I think of retirement income in three buckets.

There is your:

  1. Ordinary income bucket
  2. Your Qualified Dividends and LT Cap Gains bucket
  3. And then you have Social Security.

Ordinary income includes income you earn, interest income, IRA or 401(k) withdrawals, most types of pension income and many other things. This type of income is subject to the ordinary income tax rates that we just went over.

Next you have Qualified Dividends and LT Cap gains. Long term capital gains means a gain from the sale of an investment which you owned for at least one year. These two types of income have their own special tax rates which are lower than ordinary income tax rates. The three tiers are 0%, 15% and 20%.

Did I say “zero percent”? Yes, I did. There is actually a tax bracket where if your taxable income is less than $38,600 for singles, or $77,200 for married, then your qualified dividends and capital gains are not taxed.

There are ways to strategize and intentionally create a tax year where your income will be low so that you can realize capital gains at a lower tax rate.

How does all this work together? Well, we have a client that has a $4.5 million taxable portfolio. By taxable, I mean the investments are not inside IRAs or other retirement accounts.

In 2017, their Taxable Income was $210,000. How much do you think they paid in taxes? At least 12% right? After all, in 2017 that was the lowest tax rate. At 12% they would pay just over $25,000 in federal taxes. And that would be a pretty good deal.

They only paid about $14,000 in federal taxes in 2017. How can this be? A large portion of their income fell into the 0% and 15% capital gain and qualified dividend tax rates.

When you structure a portfolio correctly, with taxes in mind, you can create a really great tax efficient outcome.

The third type of income we’ll talk about is Social Security. The good news is 15% of the Social Security income you receive is always tax-free. Whoohoo!

The bad news, is some people will pay taxes, at the ordinary income tax rate, on up to 85% of their benefits. It is all determined by a formula.

If you have no income other than Social Security, you’ll pay no taxes on your benefits.

As other types of income begin to flow into the formula, it changes the portion of your benefits subject to taxation.

With the right type of planning, many retirees can receive more in benefits, and pay less taxes on what they get. You must engage in Level 3 Tax Planning to spot these opportunities.

We’ve now discussed the old and new tax rates, and how the standard deduction has changed. We talked about the special tax rates that apply to qualified dividends and long-term capital gains. We also briefly reviewed how your Social Security benefits are taxed. And, looked at Wally and Sally, and saw a first-hand example of how planning resulted in a better outcome.

There are many more items I cover in the tax chapter. There is simply not enough time to cover them all in a single podcast.

You can find additional tax-related content on the SensibleMoney.com website in the Learn section. Or to develop a customized tax plan visit us at Sensible Money.com to see how we can help.

Chapter 3 - “Social Security”

Chapter 3 - “Social Security”

November 10, 2018

In this episode, podcast host and author of “Control Your Retirement Destiny” covers Chapter 3 of the 2nd edition of the book titled, “Social Security.”

If you want to learn even more than what there is time to cover in the podcast series, you can find the book “Control Your Retirement Destiny” on Amazon.

Or, if you are looking for a customized plan for your retirement, visit us at sensiblemoney.com to see how we can help.

 

Chapter 3 – Podcast Script

Hi, this is Dana Anspach, the founder and CEO of Sensible Money, a fee-only financial planning firm. I’m also the author of the books Control Your Retirement Destiny and Social Security Sense. CYRD was initially published in 2013, and the 2nd edition came out in 2016.

Why a 2nd edition? Well in Nov. 2015, some of the Social Security laws changed. The 2nd edition incorporates all these changes. The good news is that in this podcast, where we cover Chapter 3 on Social Security, everything we’ll talk about uses current rules.

And, even better news, the book has incredible 5-stars reviews on Amazon. If you like what you hear today, go to Amazon and search for Control Your Retirement Destiny. And if you are looking for a customized plan, visit sensiblemoney.com to see how we can help.

Ok, let’s get started. In this podcast, I’ll be covering the highlights from Chapter 3 on the topic of “Social Security.”

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I never set out to be an expert on Social Security. So how did it happen? From 2008 to 2017, I wrote an online advice column called MoneyOver55. My most popular topic was Social Security. I had so much content online on this topic that email questions came pouring in, not only from consumers but also from other financial professionals.

To this day, many of my colleagues call or email me with Social Security questions. While I was working on revising this chapter for the 2nd Edition of this book, I received one of those calls. It was from a friend of mine, a financial planner in Colorado.

She had a client, whom we’ll call Diane. Diane is a widow. Her husband, Paul, had passed away at 57.

Diane is now age 62. She is no longer working - but she had worked for most of her life. Here’s how SS works for Diane.

She is eligible for either her own Social Security retirement benefit, or a survivor benefit, which will be based on her deceased husband Paul’s work record.

Diane wasn’t exactly sure how it all worked, but she heard that she could collect a survivor benefit as early as age 60. Naturally, at 60 she went to the Social Security office to learn more. They told her she could collect this survivor benefit now, but that she would get more if she waited until age 62. Technically this was true.

Just before her 62nd birthday she went back to her local Social Security office. They told her now that she was 62 she could collect her own retirement benefit amount, which would be $1,791 a month. But they also said if she waited until 66 she could collect a widow benefit based on Paul’s Social Security, which would be $2,706 per month.  (This higher widow benefit is based on the amount Paul would have received if he had lived and filed at his age 66). Technically this information they provided to her was also true.

So, what was the problem with this information given to Diane?

If Diane decides not to do anything and to wait and claim a widow benefit at her age 66, she will forfeit up to $200,0000 that she can get over her lifetime.  This $200,000 is measured in today’s dollars.

$200,000!

How can she get so much more?

There are claiming strategies that the workers at the local Social Security office were not aware of. It’s not their fault. It takes years to understand all the claiming choices available - and this is not what your Social Security office worker is trained to do.

So what can Diane do to get $200,000 more?

Well, normally when you file for Social Security benefits you are deemed to be filing for all benefits you are eligible for. Diane is eligible for her own retirement benefit or a survivor benefit. It makes sense that the Social Security office will check and see which one will pay her more if she files right now. But, widows and widowers have a very special option – they can file something that I call a restricted application. This means they can CHOOSE to apply for only one benefit type – either their own or the survivor benefit – and that preserves their option to later switch to the other benefit type.

“Whoa,” you might be thinking. This sounds complicated. It is.

Let’s put some numbers to it. At age 60, if Diane would have filed for her survivor benefit she would have gotten $1,767 per month. She didn’t because they told her she could get more by waiting until age 62.

At 62, she can get $2,025 per month as a survivor benefit. When she files, if she restricts her application to only that benefit type, her own retirement benefit remains untouched. Now, she collects $2,025 per month, her survivor benefit amount, plus inflation adjustments, all the way to age 70. At age 70, she files for her own benefit which by then, will be $3,674 per month.

Now let me clarify. She doesn’t get both her survivor benefit and her retirement benefit at the same time. At age 70, when she begins to receive her $3,674 monthly retirement benefit, her survivor benefit stops.

And why is her own benefit so much at age 70? Because you get a lot more per month if you wait until age 70 to start benefits. In her case, it works well, because while she is waiting until she is able to collect on the survivor benefit.

Following a claiming plan puts a lot more money in Diane’s pocket over her retirement years.

This is just one example of how knowing the rules can increase your retirement income.

The rules we just talked through, that apply to Diane’s situation apply to all widows and widowers. In this podcast we’re going to cover more rules for survivors. In addition, we’ll cover the following: something called your Full Retirement Age, a special rule that applies to government workers, rules for ex-spouses, what happens if you continue working while receiving benefits, and last, we’ll look at how Social Security benefits are taxed. And believe it or not, we’re going to cover it all in about 15 – 20 minutes.

We’ll start by looking at survivor benefits.

In the last podcast on Chapter 2, we introduced a couple, Wally and Sally, whom we follow throughout the book. Wally and Sally have a few Social Security choices that they were not aware of.

In version one of their retirement plan, they planned to retire at ages 65 and 63, and each planned to start their own Social Security retirement benefits right away. Can they do better?

Yes.

Wally and Sally are making a classic mistake in how they look at Social Security. They are each looking at their own benefits independently of each other. They do not understand how survivor benefits work.

Because so many married couples don’t understand how survivor benefits work, many older widowed Americans have a monthly income much lower than it could have been. We don’t want that to happen to Wally and Sally. And I don’t want that to happen to you either.

Here’s what Wally and Sally need to know. When one of them passes, the survivor continues to receive the larger of either benefit amount. So if Wally passes, and his monthly check was bigger than Sally’s, then Sally can continue to get Wally’s check and her check stops. You don’t receive a survivor benefit in addition to your own benefit.

For married couples, this can be very powerful. If you file for benefits early, at age 62, you get a reduced monthly amount for life. This means a reduced survivor benefit also. If you wait and file for benefits at age 70, you get a much larger monthly amount. This larger amount is now  the survivor benefit for either spouse.

Wait, you might say, “I can’t afford to wait until age 70.” That’s what Wally and Sally thought.

Wally and Sally didn’t know that they could save money in taxes and get more Social Security if they took money out of their IRA starting at age 65 while having Wally wait until age 70 to begin his Social Security retirement benefit.

By doing this, the survivor benefit at Wally’s age 85 is projected to be $48,000 a year. If Wally starts his benefits at age 65, as he originally planned, the survivor benefit at age 85 is only $34,000 a year.  That’s a big difference.

And, in the meantime, they don’t have to scrape by! They can withdraw a little extra from their IRA – because later they’ll have a larger Social Security benefit later, and need a little less from the IRA later.

How much of a difference does this make for Wally and Sally? In the case study in the 2nd Edition of the book, if Wally and Sally each claim benefits the year they retire, over 20 years they estimate they’ll receive about one million four hundred and seventy-five thousand in total Social Security benefits.

What happens if they follow a special claiming plan? They get one million seven hundred and thirty-six thousand over that same 29 years.

That’s $260,000 more total dollars from Social Security over their projected lifetimes.

Granted, that’s $260,000 stretched out over almost thirty years. To be mathematically correct, we must translate that number into today’s dollars. This is a concept called “Present Value”. A dollar twenty years from now is not worth as much as a dollar today – so present value is a math formula that translates dollars in the future back to what they would be worth today. In today’s dollars, following a delayed Social Security plan is worth over $100,000 to Wally and Sally.

Wally and Sally’s case, and Diane’s that we went over earlier, are just two examples of how a smart plan can help you get more out of Social Security.

There are many rules to consider. And, in November 2015, some of the rules changed. For example, if either you or your spouse, were born on or before January 1, 1954, you need to take a close look at your ability to use something called a restricted application for spousal benefits.  The Wally example in the 2nd edition of the book was born March 15, 1952, so this special rule applies to him – and while he delays his own retirement benefits he is actually able to collect a spousal benefit! Pretty cool.

For the 3rd edition of CYRD, which I am currently working on, Wally will be born two years later, and the new case study will reflect an updated plan for people that are not eligible for this type of restricted application.

Now let’s move on and talk about Full Retirement Age. Many Social Security rules hinge around this magic age. And it varies based on your date of birth. For those born January 2, 1943, to January 1, 1954, your Full Retirement Age is 66. If you’re born outside that range, you can look up a Full Retirement Age chart on the Social Security.gov website, or find it in either my Control Your Retirement Destiny or Social Security Sense books.

There are many reasons why Full Retirement Age is so important. If you start benefits before Full Retirement Age, your benefit amount is reduced. If you start benefits after Full Retirement Age you get an increase that is called a delayed retirement credit.

If you were born on or before 1/1/1954 Full Retirement Age also impacts your ability to file a restricted application.

If you are born before 1954 and divorced and want to file for a spousal benefit on your ex-spouse’s earnings record, while preserving your ability to later file for your own retirement benefit, then you should not file until you reach your Full Retirement Age.

Full Retirement Age also impacts your ability to work and receive you Social Security benefits.

For example, if you start your benefits before Full Retirement Age, you will be subject to something called the earnings limit. That means if you earn too much money, some of your Social Security benefits must be paid back. What is too much? In 2018, the earnings limit is $17,040 per year or $1,420 per month. This limit is indexed to inflation so it usually increases each year. There is also a special rule, and a much larger earnings limit that applies during the calendar year that you attain Full Retirement Age.

The good news - Once you reach Full Retirement Age, you can earn any amount and collect your Social Security. Yippee!

Another rule I must cover is a rule that impacts many teachers, law enforcement officers, firefighters, postal workers, and other folks who may work for a government agency. If you work for an agency that has its own pension system AND you do not contribute to Social Security, you are unlikely to get the amount of benefits that show up on your statement.

For those of you in this situation, the technical terms for the rules that apply to you are the Windfall Elimination Provision, and the Government Pension Offset. Since you don’t pay into the Social Security system there are special rules in place to prevent what is called double-dipping.

However, many people have worked at jobs where they did pay into Social Security, and then worked for an agency where they don’t pay in. This is fine. The problem is when this situation occurs, the numbers you see on your Social Security statement are probably not accurate. Too many people in this situation see the numbers on their statement and naturally assume they’ll receive that plus their pension. If you have years of work under a system where you didn’t pay in to Social Security, don’t count on what you see on your Social Security statement.

Now, on to ex-spouse’s. A few minutes ago, I mentioned the ability to file for a spousal benefit based on an ex-spouse’s work record. Here’s how it works.

If you have a marriage that was at least 10 years in length, both spousal and survivor benefits are available based on your ex’s work record. This does not reduce the benefit they receive. And, if your ex has remarried, it does not impact their new spouse’s ability to get spousal or survivor benefits. Crazy huh? You know what this means? If someone was married 5 times for 10 years each, they could have 5 ex’s all collecting a spousal benefit. These spousal benefits are usually most applicable to you if you didn’t work much, or if you were born 1/1/1954 or earlier.

The last topic to cover in this podcast episode is how Social Security benefits are taxed.  

Here’s how it works - If Social Security is your only source of income, you pay NO taxes on it. That sounds great. Except, if you’re like most people, you’d prefer to have other income in addition to Social Security.

If you have other sources of income, up to 85% of your benefits may become subject to federal income taxes.

I say up to 85% because, well, we’re talking about the IRS here, and it’s not simple. Your income flows into a formula – and the formula spits out the portion of your benefits that will be taxed. Because of how it all works, with smart planning, many middle income retirees with savings of less than $1M, may be able to pay a lot less in taxes by drawing out of their IRA first, and waiting until age 70 to begin Social Security.

We’ve now covered widow and survivor benefits, your Full Retirement Age, the earnings limit, what to watch out for if your work for an entity where you don’t pay into SS, rules for ex-spouses and we’ve briefly looked at how benefits are taxed.

Please, don’t take anything I’ve said as personal advice. The rules are complex and the right choice for you depends on a lot of factors. Hopefully, you’ve learned there may be more to look into before making an off the cuff decision.

In the Chapter 4 podcast, we dive deeper into taxes, and look at how Wally and Sally can reduce their tax bill in retirement.

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Thanks for joining me for this podcast summarizing Chapter 3 of Control Your Retirement Destiny. To learn more, get a copy of the book on Amazon, or to work with a professional retirement planner to put together your own customized plan, visit us at SensibleMoney.com.

Chapter 2 - “Starting with the Planning Basics”

Chapter 2 - “Starting with the Planning Basics”

October 26, 2018

In this episode, podcast host and author of “Control Your Retirement Destiny” covers Chapter 2 of the 2nd edition of the book titled, “Starting with the Planning Basics.”

If you want to learn even more than what there is time to cover in the podcast series, you can find the book “Control Your Retirement Destiny” on Amazon.

Or, if you are looking for a customized plan for your retirement, visit us at sensiblemoney.com to see how we can help.

 

Chapter 2 – Podcast Script

Hi, this is Dana Anspach, founder and CEO of Sensible Money, a fee-only financial planning firm that specializes in helping people plan for retirement, and author of Control Your Retirement Destiny.

In our previous episode, we discussed highlights from Chapter 1 on the topic of “Why It’s Different Over 50.” In this podcast, I’ll be covering the highlights from Chapter 2 of Control Your Retirement Destiny, titled, “Starting With the Planning Basics.”

Before we get into Chapter 2 content, a brief history on the publishing and reception we’ve gotten with the book. Control Your Retirement Destiny was initially published in 2013, out of my passion for helping people navigate their way through retirement and to combat the popular retirement rules of thumb in the media that are hurting people more than helping them. Naturally, I was nervous when it was released. Will people like it? Will it help them?

I’m honored at response I’ve received and the feedback on the book – it has incredible 5-stars reviews on Amazon. And it is often the reason clients initially seek us out for assistance.

Before we get going, just a reminder that if you like what you hear today, go to Amazon and search for Control Your Retirement Destiny. You won’t be disappointed. And if you are looking for a customized plan that fits your specific retirement needs, visit sensiblemoney.com to see how we can help.

Let’s get started.
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In this Chapter you learn how to use a set of basic schedules to build a financial plan. I’ll be explaining these schedules, but first, a story to illustrate why the basics are so important.

I was lucky enough to grow up with a dad who taught me the value of not only smart financial decisions, but also of health and fitness. In my mind, there’s a lot of correlation between the two.

As a family, we went to the gym together. To this day, when I visit my parents in Des Moines, Iowa, we still all go to the gym together.

This habit of working out has served me well. I don’t have to think about it, it’s just what I do. For me, it’s the same with managing my finances. I’ve made it a habit to track what I spend and to save regularly. I don’t have to think about it, it’s just what I do.

Currently I work out at a gym called LA Fitness. They have a slogan that pops up on their TV screens throughout the gym, and a women’s voice exclaims it aloud. This slogan reminds me of how important this chapter is. She says, “What gets measured, gets improved.”

I hear this woman’s voice echo in my head all the time… “What gets measured, gets improved.”

Whether it be the calories you’re consuming, the number of days a week you work out, or the amount of money you spend, when you measure, things improve.

The first time I really experienced how measuring could impact my finances was about a year out of college. I downloaded Quicken, a program that tracks your spending by vendor and category.

“Holy cow,” was what I thought, as I realized I was spending $400 a month on what I called the “Walmart and Target” category.

Now, that may not seem like much if you are running a household with many family members. But for me, just married, a year out of school, living in a 700 square foot apartment, it was a lot.

I started to pay attention to my behavior. Let’s say I needed something basic, like a bottle of Windex. I’d go to WalMart, and come out with $100 worth of items. Most of the time they were decorative knick-knacks that we certainly didn’t need.

How was I going to fix this spending leak I wondered? I decided to experiment and only visit these stores once a month. Amazingly enough, I still only spent $100 each time I went. By only going once a month, there was instantly about $300 more a month in the budget – and we still always had what we needed.

By measuring, I became aware of what was happening. Then I was able step back and experiment with ways to improve the outcome.

Somehow, like so many things that work well in life, what did I do? … I stopped measuring.

Several years later, after going through a period of low income and no measuring, I found myself $25,000 in credit card debt and with no savings.

I hated opening my credit card statements. It was painful. I would mentally beat myself up.

I was working at a CPA firm at the time, and one day one of the managing partners announced he was retiring – at a very young age. “How did he do that?” I wondered.

He stopped by my office a few days later, and I was able to find out the answer.

He said, “Dana five years ago, I had a negative net worth. I earned an attractive salary, but I realized I wasn’t doing anything with this money but spending it.”

“How did you change things?” I asked.

He said he had this realization that he was in a hole - and he was determined to dig his way out. He started by regularly measuring his net worth. There was that word again “measuring!”

Each month he’d record his debt balances. He quickly paid off his debt. Then, he started looking for investment opportunities. He was lucky enough to catch the real estate market on an upswing and in five years his net worth went from negative to over $10 million.

I get that it’s not realistic to think we can all go from negative to $10 million in five years. But we can all make progress.

His story inspired me to get my butt in gear. I went home that day and tallied up all my debt balances. Each month, as painful as it was, I tracked the balances and payments. At times it seemed the balances only inched down. I didn’t get out of debt quickly, but I never gave up. Today, there is no credit card debt, and in place of tracking debt, I track my net worth.

Tracking your net worth is a simple process of recording total account balances and asset values as of the same date each year, such as at year-end, or at the end of each calendar quarter.

Measuring both your spending and your net worth are the starting points for getting a handle on your entire household financial situation.

When it comes to planning a transition into retirement, measuring is more important than ever. In Chapter 2, of the 2nd Edition of Control Your Retirement Destiny I cover the 5 basic schedules you can use to measure, and you can see examples of each schedule.

These five schedules are a spending plan, a personal balance sheet, an income timeline, an expense timeline, and a deposit/withdrawal timeline.

In Chapter 2, we begin to follow a couple, Wally and Sally. Wally and Sally are in their early 60’s and starting to plan their transition into retirement. Let’s take a look at how Wally and Sally use these 5 basic schedules to see if they can afford to retire.

Note – for the sake of this podcast, I am rounding all numbers so they won’t match exactly what you see in the schedules in the book.

First, they start with a spending plan.

A spending plan is an assessment of where your money goes.

I prefer the term “spending plan” instead of budget, because a budget sounds so restrictive! A spending plan sounds flexible – and actually it is. By laying out a plan you can make sure you are spending money on things that are most important to you.

To build their spending plan, Wally and Sally print an entire year’s worth of checking account statements and credit card statements. They use these to come up with a total of what they spent last year. They categorize everything into both fixed and variable expenses. When all is said and done, their total comes to $62,000, or just over $5,000 a month.

This $62,000 does not include taxes or any items that come directly out of their paychecks. But it does include everything else, from property taxes and insurance to groceries and cell phone bills.

Wally and Sally recently paid off their home, so last year with $5,000 a month, and no house payment, they felt comfortable. They figure if they can spend about that same amount each year in retirement, then they’ll be comfortable.

But they aren’t sure how to figure out if they have enough saved.

Wally and Sally’s next step is to make a personal balance sheet.

A personal balance sheet helps you assess what you have to work with. Once you list all your assets and accounts, you can organize them into categories. This helps you see which accounts are available for the purpose of retirement, and which are not. For example, if you have a savings account where you put money for upcoming travel, that asset is not available for retirement income.

Wally and Sally list all their major assets, and subtract out any debt. When they add everything up they have a net worth of $1.5 Million. Their home, worth $300,000 is included in that total.

They realize they don’t want to sell the house, so they take that asset back off their balance sheet so they can see only the amount of savings and investments that are available to fund their retirement. That ends up being about $1.2 million.

With $1.2 million of savings and investments, do Wally and Sally have enough to spend $62,000 a year in retirement?

In order to answer that, Wally and Sally have three more schedules to complete. This last set of schedules are formatted as a series of timelines. I call them an income timeline, an expense timeline, and a deposit/withdrawal timeline.

Let’s briefly go over each of these three timelines and how Wally and Sally use them to lay out version one of their retirement income plan.

We’ll start with the Income Timeline.

Really, I should call this a fixed income timeline. In planning, the purpose of the income timeline is to layout all the guaranteed sources of income. This does not include dividends or interest – as those numbers vary and are not guaranteed.

It does include pensions, Social Security, deferred compensation payouts, and guaranteed annuity income.

The only source of fixed income that Wally and Sally have is Social Security.

Wally and Sally both worked most of their life and plan to work one more year. Once retired, they each plan to start Social Security early, at ages 65 and 63.

Note - This isn’t necessarily the best thing for them to do – but this is version one of their plan. So first, we’ll look at what they originally planned to do. Then, in subsequent chapters, we’ll look at how they can do things differently to improve their retirement.

Wally’s birthday is in March and Sally’s in February. This means if they file for benefits to begin on their birthday during the first year they are retired they won’t get 12 Social Security checks each. Wally will get 10 months’ worth and Sally 11 months’ worth.

When they add all this up, they estimate the first year they are retired they’ll receive about $38,000 of Social Security. The second year, when they both get checks all year long, they’ll get about $45,000.

They open up a spreadsheet and put a calendar year in the top of each column. In year one of retirement they input $38,000 of Social Security, and in year 2, $45,000.

They also know Social Security goes up each year with inflation, so starting in year 3 of retirement, in their spreadsheet timeline they increase their estimated Social Security by 2% a year. They figure inflation might be a little more than that, but they want to be conservative and so they assume that their benefits only go up by 2%.

Wally and Sally project their Income Timeline for 29 years, which stretches it to Sally’s age 90.

Out of curiosity, they add up all the Social Security they estimate they’ll get over that 29 years. They are surprised to see it adds up to just over one million four hundred and seventy-five thousand.

That number is important, because in Chapter 3, we’re going to show them how they can get even more.

Right now, we’ll assume that is all they have to work with.

What they need next is an Expense Timeline.

When you build an Expense Timeline, you start with what you spend now. Then you project how it will change over time.

Why can’t you just take your current spending, and use that?

Well, some expenses go away. A mortgage is a good example. If it will be paid off in ten years, then in the expense timeline, the expense shows up for the first ten years, then drops off in year eleven.

Other expenses may need to be added in. If your current vehicle is paid off, at some point, you’ll need another one. This expense needs to go in your timeline, as either a lump sum purchase, or a car payment that starts in approximately the year you when you think you’ll next be buying a car.

Health care spending is another item that may change as you near retirement. If you are currently covered by employer provided health care, but will have to pay your own premiums once retired, then be sure to add a line item for this expense in the year where it will begin.

The spending timeline is important because it becomes the basis for the lifestyle you want to have in retirement.

This is about creating a plan that lets you live comfortably for the rest of your life. To do that, “comfortable” has to have a number.

Your spending timeline helps you figure out what that number will be.

Wally and Sally start with what they spend now, which is about $62,000 a year. They also know they need to consider inflation. So they assume these expenses will go up by 3% a year. Remember, they want to be conservative – so they are intentionally assuming their living expense go up by 3% a year while their Social Security only goes up by 2% a year.

For living expenses, that means with inflation the first year they are retired they estimate they’ll need $64,000, and then in the second year $66,000, and so on.

Next, they realize they will be paying their own health insurance once retired. They add an estimated $12,000 a year for that.

Now, as things stand today, $12,000 a year may not be enough to cover health care premiums for both of them. Wally and Sally realize that later when they start doing more research. But again, this is version one of their plan.

They also realize they need to estimate taxes in retirement. Not knowing where to start, they ask their CPA to come up with an estimate. Their CPA tells them if they have $40,000 a year in Social Security, $5,000 a year in investment income, and $30,000 a year in IRA withdrawals, they will pay $8,000 in federal taxes and $1,500 in state taxes.

After adding in health care premiums and taxes, Wally and Sally calculate they’ll need a total of $85,000 their first year in retirement. With inflation, this goes to $88,000 in year two, $91,000 in year 3, and so on.

Wally and Sally project their Expense Timeline for 29 years, which as I mentioned, takes it out to Sally’s age 90.

Again, out of curiosity, they tally up all their expenses, including taxes, health care, and inflation, over 29 years. It adds up to just over $3.9 million. Yikes, they think… “We’ll have to work forever.”

Luckily for them, that turns out NOT to be true. Their planning is not yet done.

Next, they need a Deposit and Withdrawal Timeline.

A deposit and withdrawal timeline shows you the difference between what is coming in on your Income Timeline, and what is going out on your Expense Timeline.

Wally and Sally compare their income timeline to their expense timeline on a year-by-year basis.

Here’s how it works.

Once retired, the first year they have $38,000 of Social Security and $85,000 of expenses, that means they’ll need to withdraw $47,000 from savings and investments.

In year two, they’ll have $45,000 of Social Security and $88,000 of expenses, leaving $43,000 to come from investments.

Over 29 years, to cover all their expenses and keep up with inflation, their timeline shows they need to withdraw $2.4 million.

Once again, they feel discouraged, as Wally and Sally only have $1.2 million saved right now.

What are Wally and Sally forgetting?

They are forgetting that their savings and investments will earn something.

Sure, if they hide their savings and investments under the mattress, and it earns nothing, it is true, they would need $2.4 million in the bank right now for it to last 29 years.

But if their investments earn 4% a year, they only need $1.2 million saved now to support all the withdrawals they need for 29 years. If their investments earn 5% a year, they need just over $1 million saved.

Is a 4$ or 5% rate of return realistic? The short answer is yes, it can be realistic if you follow a specific investment plan. I provide all the details on this in Chapter 5 on investing.

Is there anything else Wally and Sally are forgetting? Yes, there is.

As I mentioned, health care expenses are likely to be higher than what they have projected in the first year or two of retirement when they are not yet age 65. At age 65, Medicare begins. Once both are on Medicare, they will still pay for a supplemental health plan, but it will not cost as much as it did before they were on Medicare. Basically, health care is likely to cost more than they had planned on for the first two years, then less in the following 27 years.

When they factor in these changes to their timelines, their projected lifetime spending goes down from $3.9 million to $3.7 million.

As Wally and Sally begin to talk more about retirement they realize what they’d really love to do is travel in their first five years of retirement while they feel they will be in their healthy and active years. They start to wonder if they could afford an extra $10,000 a year on travel, just for their first five years of retirement.

What do you think? Is funding their travel realistic? The answer becomes clear in Chapters 3 & 4.

In conclusion, using a set of basic schedules, Wally and Sally now have a 30,000 foot view of their potential retirement plan. It looks realistic to them, but they know they are not experts.

Now that they have a basic set of schedules in place, they also know they can begin to look at alternate solutions.

They decide to start reading every article about retirement they can find. Wally finds one about Social Security that makes him realize there might be a better way than their original plan.

Social Security and how Wally and Sally can use it to improve their plan, is the topic of Chapter 3.

Thanks for joining me for Chapter 2 of Control Your Retirement Destiny. To learn more, get a copy of the book on Amazon, or to work with a professional retirement planner to put together your own customized plan, visit us at SensibleMoney.com

Chapter 1 - “Why It’s Different Over 50″

Chapter 1 - “Why It’s Different Over 50″

October 9, 2018

In this episode, podcast host and author of “Control Your Retirement Destiny” covers Chapter 1 of the 2nd edition of the book titled, “Why It’s Different Over 50.”

If you want to learn even more than what there is time to cover in the podcast series, you can find the book “Control Your Retirement Destiny” on Amazon.

Or, if you are looking for a customized plan for your retirement, visit us at sensiblemoney.com to see how we can help.

 

Chapter 1 – Podcast Script

Hi, I’m Dana Anspach, the founder and CEO of Sensible Money, a fee-only financial planning firm that specializes in helping people transition into retirement. I’m also the author of the books Control Your Retirement Destiny, and Social Security Sense.

My passion for helping people make the best retirement decisions possible is what led me to write Control Your Retirement Destiny and I’m honored by the incredible 5-star reviews it has received. I wrote it because I wanted people to see what a real retirement plan looks like – and the book spells it all out, step by step.

Today, I’m thrilled to bring to you this podcast where we will discuss highlights from the book. In this episode, I’ll be covering Chapter 1 of the 2nd edition of the book titled, “Why It’s Different Over 50.”

If you want to learn even more than what we have time to cover in this podcast series, I encourage you go to Amazon.com and search for Control Your Retirement Destiny. Or, if you are looking for a customized plan for your retirement, visit us at sensiblemoney.com to see how we can help.

Let’s get started.

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So, why is it different over 50? Sure, your joints ache more, and you can no longer read menus, but, do the financial aspects of life change too?

In many ways, yes, they do.

Think of it like this…

Imagine you’re planning for a road trip. This road trip has two phases.

The first phase is the accumulation phase. This occurs during your working years where your focus is on saving for retirement. You have a set point in time you are saving for – a destination you want to reach by a specific age.

The second phase is the decumulation phase of the road trip. This will be the point in time where you will “live off your acorns”. You have a lot more flexibility in this phase, but also, a lot more unknowns.

Let’s look at each phase more closely.

First, the accumulation road trip.

Assume for this portion of the road trip, you’re not going too far, only about 300 miles.

Your gas tank holds 18 gallons and you didn’t have an electric car, so you only get about 20 miles per gallon.

Taking 18 gallons x 20 miles per gallon, you can estimate you’ll get about 360 miles per tank. Since your destination is 300 miles away, it’s pretty easy to figure out you can get to there on one tank.

This type of calculation is simple and easy to do. When you’re young and actively saving for retirement, this type of calculating helps you figure out how much to save.

For example, if you’re age 40, and you want to save $1.5 million by age 65, how much do you need to put away each year?

The answer is about $24,000 a year – that is assuming you earn about 7% a year on your investments.

This type of math is relatively easy to do using a spreadsheet or a financial calculator. It’s easy because you plug in specific data, such as 25 years and a 7% return.

Now, let’s start the second part of your road trip – the decumulation phase – and see how the math gets harder.

As you start the decumulation phase, here are some of the questions you have.

How long is your road trip going to be?

What terrain will you be driving over?

What will the weather be like?

Are they any gas stations along the way?

What will the price of gas be?

These are all unknowns.

Let’s break these unknowns into four risk categories.

  1. The first category is called “Longevity Risk”. You don’t know how long you’ll live. So you don’t know how many total miles you’ll be driving. Instead of knowing it is 25 years until you reach age 65, now your road trip could be 20 years, thirty or even 40 years.

 

  1. The next risk category is called “sequence risk”. This has to do with the unknown market returns. For example, we all know that city driving takes more fuel than highway driving. But with this road trip, you don’t know what conditions you’ll encounter. This risk impacts you when you are accumulating too. But while you are younger you have time to recoup from mistakes, or from a period of time with below average investment returns. As you get closer to retirement, a bad sequence of returns, or several years in a row with poor returns, can cause a result that you didn’t see coming.

 

  1. This next risk category is “inflation risk”. What will the price of gas be as you travel along? Will prices rise over time, and if so, by how much?

 

  1. The last challenge you have is rationing your supplies. This is a risk retirees face called “overspending risk.” Suppose you pack your favorite snacks, but you go on a binge early on the trip and gobble them all up? Now, you don’t have enough for the tail end of your trip.

 

To feel comfortable transitioning into retirement, you need a plan in place to account for these unknowns.

In this podcast on Chapter 1 of Control Your Retirement Destiny, I’m going to provide an introduction to each of these four risks; longevity risk, sequence risk, inflation risk, and spending risk.

  1. LONGEVITY RISK

First, longevity risk. When you run a projection, you must start with an assumption about how long you might live. You can guess, or you can use science… sort of. Science works well for engineering when you’re working with known factors – like gravity.

But as we discussed, this road trip has a lot of unknowns, so when it comes to this type of planning, it’s really a scientific guess. Or, the term I love, that one of our clients shared with us, … a SWAG… or Scientific Wild A** Guess. (Can I say that on a podcast?    I sure hope so!)

To SWAG longevity risk – the unknown factor of how long your road trip is, it is best to start with mortality tables –– These are the types of tables that insurance companies use and that the government uses when figuring out how much in Social Security they will pay out over time.

We’ll start with data from 2014 mortality tables. If you’re curious, you can find these tables and associated research on the Society of Actuaries website.

First, let’s look at singles.

SINGLES

For a single female, age 60, –how likely do you think it is she’ll live to 85? Would you be surprised to know there is a 60% chance? - (64% white collar only)

Male – age 60 – A male age 60 has a 51% likelihood of living to 85 - (58% to white collar)

Those are high odds. Many people make decisions about money with an off-hand comment such as “well, I might not live that long”. That’s like betting against the odds!

Not only do people routinely underestimate how long they’ll live, many married couples make decisions based on their own life expectancy, as if they were single. What they need to do is look at their joint lifespan.

If you’re married, how likely is it one of you will live to 85? The odds go up to 80%! 85% when looking at just the white collar data set.

What about the likelihood that one of you will live to 90? There’s a 58% chance – which goes up to 65% for white collar folks.

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I’d play to those odds in Vegas any day. Wouldn’t you?

So doesn’t it make sense that you should align your finances to take advantage of those odds?

What do you think the 85-year-old… you will wish the 50-year-old you had done?

What about the 90-year you? What do you think they’ll wish the 60- year old had thought about?

The types of decisions I’m talking about aren’t just “save more and spend less.” There are more complex decisions to make – decisions that help reduce the risk of outliving your money.

For example, one decision that can have a big impact on protecting you against the risk of outliving your money is the decision as to when you start Social Security. Your Social Security benefits are inflation adjusted and you get a lot more per month if you start benefits at a later, age rather than as soon as possible.

And if you’re married, you must learn how Social Security survivor benefits work. Many couples have one person who made the majority of the income. All too often that person starts Social Security benefits at a young age, and thus severely curtails the survivor benefits available to their spouse.

There are many financial tools to consider when looking at how to protect your retirement income for life.

You have to be open minded and willing to learn how things really work. This isn’t always easy.

The bias against some financial tools can be so strong that when I mention them, you’d think I’d said a four-letter word! What are tools the illicit such strong responses? Things like Reverse mortgages and annuities.

These products can be great financial tools when used in the right situation. It’s sad that many of these tools are marketed in such a cheesy way that people refuse to consider them.

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In conclusion, when it comes to longevity risk, the unknown length of your road trip, be open minded and evaluate financial decisions such as

  • When you begin Social Security
  • Use of a reverse mortgage
  • Purchasing an income annuity

To protect the older you, it can also make sense to consider…

  • Working a little longer
  • Using investments that are most likely to keep pace with or outpace inflation

 

  1. SEQUENCE RISK

Next, let’s talk about sequence risk, or to use road trip vernacular, what we’ll call “the gas mileage question.”

As we discussed, it would be difficult to calculate how many miles per gallon you were going to get if you didn’t now whether you were going to be driving mostly highway miles, or city miles.

When planning for retirement the unknown conditions are your market returns. There’s something called The Retirement Red Zone – considered to be the last 10 years of working and the first 10 years of retirement. What if your Retirement Red Zone occurs during a time where the economy is booming? Or what if it is during a recession? These things make a big difference – and you need to know your plan will work either way.

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To study how much investment returns can vary, let’s look at two historical examples.

First, safe investments. Certificates of Deposit or CDs, issued by banks, are considered a safe investment.

In 2001, you could earn over 6% interest on a 3-month CD. If you were planning for retirement, you might have naturally made the assumption that 6% interest was realistic. For every $100,000 you had in CDs, you assumed you’d have $6,000 a year of interest income to spend.

Fast forward to 2011 – and that same 3-month CD was paying less than 1/3 of 1%. Your $6,000 of income had dropped to $300 a year. Ouch.

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Well, if CDs didn’t provide consistent income, what about the stock market? The Standard & Poors 500 Index, commonly referred to as the S&P 500, tracks the collective performance of the stock prices of five hundred of the largest U.S. based companies.

From 1926 to 2017, a 92 year time span, the S&P 500 averaged just over 10% a year ( 10.2%)

Looking at a more recent time period, 1995 to 2017 The average annual compound return was also just over 10% ( 10.1%)

I start by using averages, because financial literature often uses averages to illustrate the historical performance of an investment. And most people use past returns to choose investments and set expectations for the future.

Ten percent sounds great. If you earn 10% a year, your money doubles almost every 7 years.

But in the book The Black Swan, author Nassim Taleb uses a line I love. He says, “Don’t cross a river if, on average, it is 4 feet deep.”

By nature, an average is composed of times where returns were higher, and times where they were lower. Take the time period that has become known as The Lost Decade as an example.

The Lost Decade, 2000 – 2009, The S&P 500 had a negative return of .9 – or a loss of about 1% a year over that ten years.

All was not lost, however, depending on how you invested. The S&P 500 represents the performance of only 500 large cap stocks. If you used a globally diversified portfolio of stock index funds, with exposure to many other asset classes and to stocks across the globe, you averaged 5.4% a year over The Lost Decade. (DFA Global Equity Index 5.4%)

Still, that’s a far cry from the long-term average of 10% that you might have been expecting.

Averages can be dangerous by giving you misleading expectations.

They can also be dangerous when used in software programs and when planning for retirement. I’ll talk through an example to explain why.

From 1973 – 1982, the S&P 500 averaged 6.7%. Not a bad return. Let’s assume its 1973 and you are using an online retirement calculator. Of course, those didn’t exist then, but just humor me for the sake of leaning.

You plug in 6.7% for your expected return. The software assumes you earn 6.7% each year. You start with $100,000 and tell the software to withdraw $6,000 per year. It shows you that at the end of the 10 years, you should still have $109,000 left. You think that’s great, especially considering the fact that you took out $60,000 along the way. You retire based on this plan.

Unfortunately, what really happened, is in 1973 the stock market went down the first few years. This means when you withdrew the $6,000 you had to sell some shares at a loss. Although the market recovered, you had less shares available to participate in the recovery.

So, although the software said you should have $109,000, remaining at the end of the decade, what you ended up with was $83,000. That’s a $26,000 difference between what you thought you would have based on a calculation, and what reality delivered.

How do you plan for such varying conditions? Well, when engineers build a bridge they don’t build it for average weather. They test for extremes. You have to do the same thing when planning for retirement. You test your approach to see if it works over bad economies, as well as good ones.

You can also build in contingencies. For example, assume you like to travel. Spending extra on travel might work fine as long, as you get average returns. But you know if a recession should materialize, your contingency plan will require you to travel less or give up travel for a few years. Building in contingencies give you flexibility in your planning.

Another option is to segment your investments into what is needed for different legs of your trip.

For example, picture having safe investments to fuel the first 10 years of your journey and growth investments to fuel years 11 and beyond. The technical term for using this approach is asset liability matching, and I’ll cover it in Chapter 5 on investing.

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  1. INFLATION RISK

The next thing to consider on your road trip is the unknown price of gas, or inflation risk.

When I was in elementary school, I lived in St. Louis, Missouri. Actually Chesterfield, which is a suburb of St. Louis. It was the early 80’s and I used to ride my bike to the nearest Schnuck’s Grocery store to buy my favorite candy bar, a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. It cost a quarter. today

The price of gas provides another great example. In the 1990’s the price of a gallon of gas ranged from $1 - $1.30. Today, it hovers about $3.00 a gallon.

So, we know inflation is real. Prices do rise.

The standard rule of thumb in financial planning projections is to assume a 3% inflation rate, as this has been the long-term historical average.

Inflation is measured by what is called the Consumer Price Index (or CPI) , which tracks the collective prices of a basket of goods and services.

In recent history, 1990 – 2017, inflation has actually been less than 3%, 2.4% as measured by the Consumer Price Index.

Over that time, prices of some goods have come down, while prices of some services, such as health care, have gone up.

Inflation does NOT impact all things and all people equally. Believe it or not, in retirement, most of you will not need your current level of spending to continue to go up at the same rate as inflation.

For example, assume you enter retirement with a mortgage payment of $1,500 a month. Your mortgage has 12 more years. This is a fixed payment. Your mortgage will not go up each year with inflation. Your insurance and taxes will though.

Or, early in retirement you may have children who still need financial assistance. That expense is likely to go down later.

This is why, once again, I don’t like using averages. If you tally up your expenses, and grow them by 3% a year, and save enough to support that goal, you might actually be over-saving. Now, granted, not a lot of bad things happen by saving too much. Still, many people who develop a custom plan realize they can retire earlier than they thought.

 To determine how inflation really impact retirees, research studies examined retirees and how they spend money over time.

My favorite research paper on the topic is called Estimating The True Cost of Retirement, written in 2013 by David Blanchett. David is the Head of Retirement Research at Morningstar.

The research shows:

  • Spending is at its highest when retirees are in the 60 – 65 age range
  • Then it slows down, with those same retirees spending a lot less as they enter the 75 – 85 age range.
  • As retirees near age 85+ , spending tends to increase again, primarily due to health care needs.

This spending pattern is often described as the “Go-go years, slow-go years and, no-go years.”

  • The research paper concludes that many retirees may need approximately 20% less in savings than the common assumptions would indicate.
  • And that retiree expenditures do not, on average, increase each year by inflation

This research went even deeper and segmented retirees into three groups. Those who spend about $25,000 a year in retirement, $50,000 a year and $100,000 a year or more.

Inflation has the biggest impact on lower income households.

That makes sense – when you’re on a tight budget, price increases on basics such as food and gas have a big impact. Inflation has a much lower impact on households spending $100k or more in retirement.

The research concludes that “When correctly modeled, the true cost of retirement is highly personalized based on each household’s unique facts and circumstances.”

I see this first hand with the work we do with clients. We build in inflation raises in our projections. But as our clients reach their 70’s and we offer their annual inflation raise, they often tell us they don’t need their monthly withdrawal to go up. They’re perfectly comfortable on what they are already getting.

In conclusion, Averages can be quite misleading when it comes to market returns, and when it comes to the impact of inflation.

When planning for retirement you want to customize your spending assumptions and the impact of inflation to your financial circumstances. Using a rule of thumb, such as inflating all expenses at 3% a year, may result in over-saving for retirement.

 

  1. OVERSPENDING RISK

The last topic to introduce you to in Chapter 1 is Overspending Risk. This is the risk of spending too much too soon.

When I think about overspending risk, the movie The Martian, with Matt Damon, pops up in my mind. In the movie, he has to carefully ration his food. If he doesn’t ration his food, he’ll run out of food too soon and die before the rescue team can get to him.

In retirement, if you take out too much money too early in retirement, you increase your risk of running out of money early. That’s why you have to plan for big expenditures like auto purchases and major home repairs. Many people forget to include these items when they are figuring out how much they’ll need in retirement.

Another problem that occurs - if your investments do well early in retirement, it’s easy to take out the excess and spend it. This may seem reasonable at the time.

But remember how averages work. If you are in the middle of a time period where things are doing really well, you have to take some of the gains, and set them aside for the inevitable period of time when investment returns will be below average. This is how you ration your supplies as you travel on the retirement road trip.

If you don’t have a way to measure how much you can safely take out, and how to account for big ticket items, you can easily spend too much too soon.

Another thing that catches people off guard in retirement are taxes. Take the popular 4% rule as an example. The 4% rule says that you can safely withdraw 4% of your portfolio each year, and reasonably expect to have it last for life.

Let’s talk through an example. Using the 4% rule, you would conclude for every $100,000 you have invested, you can withdraw and spend $4,000 a year. That works, except if that $100,000 is all in a Traditional IRA, 401k or other tax-deferred retirement plan. The money you withdraw from traditional retirement plans will be taxed. If you’re in the highest tax bracket, after taxes, you might have only $2,400 of the $4,000 available to spend.

Simple rules of thumb can be great to use when you are age 40 and planning for retirement 20 to thirty years away. But once you are within 5 years of your retirement age, they are not an effective way to determine what you can actually take out and spend each year.

Rules of thumb do not account for taxes, and even if you try to account for it with an estimated tax rate, such as 20%, in reality, your taxes in retirement may be vastly different than your neighbors. And your taxes are likely to vary from year to year.

Taxes depend on the source of income. While Roth IRA withdrawals are not taxed, 401k withdrawals are. And while some people pay no taxes on Social Security benefits, others will pay taxes on 85% of the benefits they receive. You need a customized plan to accurately project how much you’ll pay in taxes in retirement.

So, let’s review what we discussed.

When you get ready to transition into retirement, it’s like heading out on a road trip where…

  • You don’t know how long you’ll be traveling. We call this longevity risk – the unknown factor of how long you’ll live.
  • You don’t know what type of driving conditions you’ll encounter. We call this sequence risk – the idea that you could retire into a bad economy or a good one – and you need your plan to work either way.
  • You don’t know the future price of gas. This is inflation risk. Research shows the traditional assumptions used in the financial planning industry may be overestimating what you’ll actually need.
  • You have to have a way to ration your supplies. This is overspending risk. Use too much too soon, and you could run short later in your journey.

There is a way to account for these challenges. It starts by looking at your household finances. Then, you learn how to align the pieces to work together. We start this journey in Chapter 2, where we begin to follow Wally and Sally, a couple getting ready to retire. We look at how they can most effectively put together a plan.

Thanks for joining me for Chapter 1 of Control Your Retirement Destiny. To learn more, get a copy of the book on Amazon, continue through the podcast, or, to work with a professional retirement planner to put together your own customized plan, visit us at SensibleMoney.com.

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