The 4 Essential Elements of a Retirement Plan
Until recently, many retirees have been able to rely upon the three-legged stool of retirement income sources: A defined benefit pension plan that guarantees a lifetime income, their own savings, and Social Security. Within the last couple of decades, the first leg of the stool has all but disappeared as many defined benefit plans have been replaced with defined contribution plans such as a 401(k) plan. This has shifted the responsibility for creating a retirement income source to the individual. With expanding life spans and increasing retirement costs, it will require serious retirement planning to ensure that your income will last a lifetime. Here are the four essential elements of a sound retirement plan:
Set Clearly Defined Goals
With an increasing life expectancy, it’s no longer enough to simply state, “I want to retire at age 65” as a goal. In order to inspire a well-conceived plan and the will to faithfully execute it, you need a clear vision of your life in retirement.
- Do you plan on actually retiring; or would you like to work in some other field?
- How will you live in retirement?
- Where will you live?
- What would you like to accomplish?
As you get closer to your retirement goal, your vision will become clearer and more focused. Along the way, your retirement goal becomes your investment benchmark, guiding your investment decisions based on where you are in relation to your goal.
Calculate Your Retirement Costs
One of the more popular rules suggests that retirees will need just 70% to 80% of their pre-retirement income to maintain their standard of living. The major flaw with this rule is it doesn’t account for the true cost of aging. In calculating the cost of retirement, the equation has become more difficult due to the new reality of expanding life spans which can also mean higher health care costs. The cost of your retirement needs to factor realistic spending assumptions based on your goals and desired lifestyle with contingencies for health care costs and unexpected expenses.
Once you know the cost or your retirement you can calculate how much you will need at retirement which becomes your accumulation goal.
Long-Term Investment Strategy
Accumulating enough capital to provide lifetime income sufficiency is a daunting task, made more difficult in an environment of low returns on savings and increased stock market volatility. It requires a serious long-term investment strategy with the confidence and discipline to follow it. It starts with a specific [investment objective], which can be stated as the return on investment that must be achieved to meet your capital need.
The next step is to develop a risk profile that will enable you to match your tolerance for risk with a portfolio of investments that can reasonably expect to achieve your objective. This is done by developing an asset allocation plan that mixes different types of investments with varying correlation to one another. Then, through broad diversification within the asset classes, you can reduce portfolio volatility and achieve more stable long-term returns.
Tax-DiversificationFor decades we have been told that the best way to accumulate capital for retirement is through tax deferred savings vehicles, such as a 401(k) plan or an IRA. Although it still makes sense for accumulating capital, it doesn’t take into account the tax consequences of income withdrawals and its impact on the total spendable income available in retirement. Retirement planning used to be almost entirely about capital accumulation; however, with the possibility of living 30 years or more in retirement, the emphasis is now on [managing your income during retirement]. If your only income source is a 401(k) plan, your income will be taxed as ordinary income. With diversified income sources that include a Roth IRA for tax free income, or a non-qualified investment portfolio for long term capital gains, you can minimize your taxes in retirement which will help make your income last longer.
RETURN TO PARTICIPANT INSIGHTS
IMPORTANT DISCLOSURE INFORMATION
MCF Advisors, LLC (“MCF”) is a SEC registered investment adviser. Registration as an investment adviser does not imply a certain level of skill or training. The oral and written communications of an adviser provide you with information about which you determine to hire or retain an adviser. More information about the adviser can also be found by visiting: https://adviserinfo.sec.gov/. This is not intended as an offer or solicitation with respect to the purchase or sale of any security. MCF may only transact business in those states in which it is registered, or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration requirements. Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by MCF), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this blog/newsletter will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful. Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this blog/newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from MCF. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing. MCF is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of this content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. A copy of MCF’s current written disclosure statement and customer relationship summary (“Form CRS”) discussing our advisory services and fees continues to remain available upon request. The scope of the services to be provided depends upon the needs of the client and the terms of the engagement. If you are a MCF client, please remember to contact MCF, in writing, if there are any changes in your personal/financial situation or investment objectives for the purpose of reviewing/evaluating/revising our previous recommendations and/or services.