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In the past, employer-sponsored pensions were much more common, and employees were encouraged to save more thanks to contribution matches. Now, 401(k)s are the leading retirement savings vehicle in the workplace, and self-directed savings, with varying degrees of employer matches, leave retirees’ financial futures all over the board.
As a result, more people lack the savings to last a lifetime when they leave the workforce. According to John Huff, the 2016 President of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, four out of 10 baby boomers have no retirement savings. None at all.
As you can imagine, this poses a challenge for financial professionals working with clients who have little to no assets but still need retirement income solutions. And it’s not just an issue for people who didn’t save. Others may have experienced losses in the securities markets or had to make substantial withdrawals during the recession.
To find a retirement income strategy that may be successful, financial professionals have gotten resourceful. Some financial professionals who once eschewed annuities are now taking a second look.
Just because people don’t have a lot of money saved for retirement doesn’t necessarily mean they have no assets. For example, some boomers may be out of cash but living in an oversized house they no longer need. In this scenario, homeowners who downsize before retirement could use some of the proceeds to purchase an annuity that will provide a guaranteed stream of income during retirement.
Others may have either received, or expect to receive, a modest inheritance and can use an annuity to convert that fixed amount into a lifetime of retirement income.
While it’s becoming more common for financial professionals to recommend annuities, employers are still warming up to the idea. Eight in 10 U.S. employees say they’d like to have a guaranteed income option in their defined contribution plan, but only 50 percent of employers understand this — and less than 1 percent offer it.
The appeal of pensions was that they did more for retirees than just provide retirement income; they provided peace of mind. The same can be said of annuities. In fact, nine out of 10 affluent households with annuities say they’re confident in their retirement.
If you’re a Baby Boomer within sight of age 65, you’re probably thinking about your next move—and it may well be a career change instead of a traditional kick-back-and-relax retirement. Among 1,005 Boomers who haven’t yet left their full-time careers, 60% expect to keep working at least part-time after they “retire,” says a study from Bankers Life’s Center for a Secure Retirement.
The job market is ready for them. Of the 2,293 Boomers in the study who have already retired but have found other work, 80% reported it was “easy” to find the jobs they have now.
“As the next wave of Boomers retires, the competition is likely to intensify,” says Bankers Life president Scott Goldberg. “But, with part-time and freelance roles becoming more prevalent in the overall job market, there is good evidence to suggest that future retirees will have an even greater number of positions to consider, even if the competition for those roles gets more intense.”
Great, but anyone contemplating what lies ahead might want to consider two of the study’s less cheerful findings. First, it seems that most people overestimate their ability to choose when they retire. Nearly seven in ten (69%) of middle-income retirees would have liked to have stayed longer in their old careers, but had to leave earlier than they planned for “reasons beyond their control,” the report says—most commonly because of health problems (39%), being laid off (19%), or to care for a loved one (9%).
Second, Boomers’ expectations about what they’ll be able to earn in their post-retirement careers seem overly optimistic. Only about one in five (21%) of the people in the survey who are still working in their primary careers say they’d be “willing to take a pay cut” when they move on to another job in retirement. That doesn’t jibe with the experience of current retirees who are working, almost three-quarters (72%) of whom report earning less on an hourly basis now than they did in their old roles. More than half (53%) say they make “much less.”
That doesn’t mean they’re unhappy. About 80% of the people who retired and then found new jobs say they like their current careers better than their old ones. They also report less stress and “better relationships” than the Boomers surveyed who haven’t retired yet.
Even so, the study’s message is clear. Given your druthers, you might stay in your pre-retirement career until you’re 65, 70, or beyond, and then move on to something that pays equally well. But, just in case that doesn’t work out, it’s smart to have a Plan B.
AGT is here to help plan that option B
Ten thousand Americans a day are turning 65, including a couple we’ll call Stu and Helen. In excellent health, Stu and Helen could be facing a retirement of 30 years — or even longer. One of their biggest fears about their impending retirement is their potential longevity — and running out of money to not only pay their bills, but enjoy their free time.
Stu and Helen participated in their companies’ 401(k) plans. Like many workers, neither has a traditional pension, so they are solely responsible for their own retirement security.
Fortunately, couples like Stu and Helen have options for creating a “personal pension.” By using some of their savings to purchase an annuity, they can guarantee a steady stream of income for life.
With an immediate annuity, they can make a lump-sum payment to a life insurance company, and the company will send them their choice of monthly, quarterly or annual payments. They can choose to receive the income payments over a specified number of years or as a guaranteed stream of income they can never outlive.
They could also consider purchasing a deferred annuity, which allows savings to grow tax-deferred during an accumulation phase until they decide when payouts begin. People who are years away from retirement — or who are retired but don’t need income right away — might choose this type of annuity.
With a deferred annuity they decide how their money grows during the accumulation phase. A fixed annuity earns interest at a guaranteed rate. An index annuity is tied to a market index like the S&P 500 stock price index.
Surveys show that 90 percent of annuity owners think annuities are an effective way to save for retirement. And annuities are among the most regulated financial products in the marketplace. From product development to advertising to sales, life insurers must comply with state and federal laws and rules that help prevent fraud and protect consumers. In addition, most states provide a “free look” period allowing customers to return annuities to the insurance company for a full or partial refund.
Planning for retirement can be stressful. But for retirees like Stu and Helen, the guaranteed income from annuities can provide peace-of-mind for a lifetime.
As boomers retire from their jobs at unprecedented rates in the U.S., you’d think they’d be spending their free time with friends, lingering over the morning newspaper and coffee or taking January vacations in a warm place. But many seniors are finding themselves in a predicament that few anticipate in retirement: parenting for a second time. Census reports indicate that 2.7 million grandparents are responsible for their grandchildren. Their added duties may be fulfilling, but they may be stressful, too.
In fact, many things can trigger stress among retired adults — paying bills on a fixed income, failing health, caring for ill parents or spouses, or even grandparenting. Excessive stress can lead to serious health problems.
“When stressed, the body releases substances such as cortisol and adrenaline that affect every organ and can cause muscle tension, insulin secretion and increased heart rate,” said Arthur Hayward, M.D., a geriatrician and the clinical lead physician for elder care with Kaiser Permanente’s Care Management Institute.
“You can’t avoid stress, but managing it can help preserve your health and well-being,” Dr. Hayward added. He recommends identifying and understanding the cause of your stress and finding ways to relieve it, such as these eight tips:
Pace yourself. Don’t take on too much. Be aware of your limitations.
Set realistic goals and expectations, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Plan time for yourself. Recharge your batteries.
Exercise and eat a balanced diet. Get plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Try relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga.
Get enough sleep. If you have problems sleeping, talk to your doctor. Drinking caffeinated beverages and alcohol can affect your ability to get a good night’s sleep.
Talk with a loved one or write in a journal.
Stay positive. Positive thoughts can make a difference, such as “I am hopeful” or “Things will be better.”
For more information, go tokp.org/healthyaging. For questions or advice about a specific condition, talk to your physician.
Ben Franklin once declared, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Yet, equally enlightening are his thoughts on expenses: “Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.”
And there are plenty of “leaks” that can scuttle an already-tight budget. For instance, a spouse idled by the sour economy, a fender bender with the family car, or an unexpected hospitalization. That’s why financial advisors recommend that you have a rainy-day fund—enough liquid assets to cover three to six months’ worth of emergency living expenses. In case of financial emergency, access to additional money will save you from relying on credit cards or loans that simply compound the problem.
When starting an emergency fund, here are a few tips to abide by:
- Determine what amount is best for you. Most experts agree that you should keep between three and six months worth of your living expenses set aside in your emergency fund. Your specific situation – whether you have children, carry substantial debt and types of insurance coverage you have – will determine what amount is best for you. Examine your situation — your income and your needs — to decide how much you should save.
- Start small. Starting an emergency fund can be as simple as depositing $100 into your high-interest savings account. But before you begin, be sure that you’re meeting your basic living expenses. And as you build your emergency fund, be sure you’re also reducing your spending and avoiding debt.
- Stick to a schedule. Get into the habit of making regular deposits. Whether it is weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, create a schedule and stick to it. Once you make saving automatic, you won’t even have to think about it.
- Consider an online savings account. In many cases, an “online” savings account may make more sense than an account at a traditional, bricks-and-mortar bank. That’s because many traditional banks are not currently offering a savings option with interest rates high enough to meaningfully beat inflation. In addition, an online savings account is a reliable way to manage your money.
You know you’ll be eligible for Medicare when you turn 65, but what does that mean? More than 10,000 people age into Medicare eligibility every day, but many have questions about how to enroll and which plan will best meet their health and budget needs.
Medicare provides important benefits for people who qualify, including preventive care, hospital care and even prescription drug coverage. While there are multiple plan choices available, selecting the right Medicare plan may be easier than you think.
It’s important to note that people who are recently disabled — and haven’t turned 65 — may also qualify to enroll in Medicare. The disabled segment of the population is growing. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the disabled now total some 5 million Medicare beneficiaries. To determine if you or a family member may be newly eligible for Medicare, visit http://www.medicare.gov or call toll-free 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY: 1-877-486-2048) 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Enrolling in a timely manner is also important in order to avoid potential financial penalties. Equipped with the correct information, people qualifying for Medicare can select the plan that best suits their lifestyle and health care needs.
Here’s what you need to know:
Anyone who has legally lived in the United States for the past five years qualifies for Medicare at the age of 65. People eligible for Medicare have three options: Original Medicare, Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage.
Original Medicare is broken into two parts — A and B. Medicare Part A helps cover hospital expenses, and Part B helps cover everyday health care costs like doctor visits, outpatient care and some Part B prescription medications. Both Parts A and B have a deductible, as well as coinsurance once the deductible is met.
Medicare Supplement insurance plans, sold by private insurers, can help pay some of the health care costs that Original Medicare doesn’t pay, like copayments, coinsurance and deductibles. If you have Original Medicare and you buy a Medicare Supplement plan, Medicare will pay its share of the Medicare-approved amount for covered health care costs. Then, your Medicare Supplement plan pays its share. Medicare Supplement plans, however, do not cover prescription drug costs.
Medicare Advantage plans are run by private insurance companies, and all plans cover everything Original Medicare plans pay, as well as extra benefits and services. Medicare Advantage plans often include coverage for prescription drugs, vision and dental benefits, along with fitness programs and comprehensive preventive care. More than 16 million Americans have signed up for Medicare Advantage plans.
Medicare Part D provides prescription drug coverage for people with Medicare. These plans are available as standalone plans or as part of an all-in-one Medicare Advantage plan. Some Medicare Advantage plans, however, are sold without Part D included.
Enrolling in the right Medicare plan is an important decision, and by understanding the facts, you can navigate the process with ease. For more information about Medicare plans and their coverage, visitwww.Medicare.gov orwww.Humana.com/medicare or call a licensed Humana sales agent toll-free at 1-844-663-8090 (TTY: 711) between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.
If you’re contemplating retirement, you’ve probably given a lot of thought to its impact on your finances. But have you considered how retiring might affect your health?
The latest in the debate over whether retirement improves or worsens health appears in the current issue of The Journal of Human Resources. Its conclusion: “Results indicate that the retirement effect on health is beneficial and significant,” writes Michael Insler, an assistant professor of economics at the U.S. Naval Academy.
The boost to your health is comparable to reducing the risk of being diagnosed with diabetes by 25%, for those of retirement age, Insler concludes.
Better Health Behaviours
In an interview with Next Avenue, Insler acknowledged that his conclusion “in some sense is counter-intuitive,” since, he says, a common notion is that “oh, people retire and they kind of lose their will to go on.”
If retirement does benefit health, why is that so? “I think the obvious hypothetical answers to that question are health behaviours,” says Insler.
Retirees have more time to invest in their health, he writes in the Journal. “It may be easier for them to quit smoking or to be more physically active when not burdened by the work-week grind.”
Insler based his findings on an analysis of data from the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study, sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, which surveys a representative sample of 26,000 Americans over age 50 every other year.
He found that of the respondents who ever reported smoking, about 69% reported doing so in the survey that took place two to four years before they retired. But only about 56% said they were still smoking two to four years after they retired.
Insler also found that people were more likely after retirement to exercise vigorously for at least 30 minutes three or more days a week. Two to four years before retirement, about 48% of survey respondents said they exercised that much; that proportion increased to nearly 52% two to four years into retirement.
Same Data, Different Conclusions
But what if you really love your work? Might not retirement make you “lose your will to go on,” as Insler put it?
“Job satisfaction isn’t really something that I looked closely at,” he says. “It could be part of the story.” But, Insler says, “It’s less about your stress and satisfaction and more about the time you devote to your health upkeep.”
Although Inas Rashad Kelly and her co-authors used the same Health and Retirement Study data as Insler did, their analysis reached a different conclusion. In a paper published in 2008, they found that retirement affected health adversely.
The fact that their conclusions based on the same data set diverged from Insler’s “points to the complex and multifaceted nature of the issue at hand,” Rashad Kelly, an associate professor of economics at Queens College, part of the City University of New York, told Next Avenue.
Social Security Age
Retirement’s negative effect on health was especially strong among people who were forced, or encouraged, to retire and those who said they weren’t particularly enjoying their spouse’s company, Rashad Kelly and her co-authors found. But the effect was weaker among retirees who said they voluntarily retired, had stressful jobs, remained physically active and continued to socialize.
Economists trying to assess the ramifications of raising the age at which retirees can begin collecting Social Security are especially interested in whether health improves or declines in retirement.
If retirement exacerbates common, expensive health problems, then raising the eligibility age for Social Security might make sense. Such a move could help encourage people to work longer, reducing the strain on Social Security and Medicare. If health tends to improve after retirement, however, then getting people to continue working by raising the eligibility age for Social Security might reduce expenditures for that program but shift them to Medicare.
“We conclude that raising the retirement age for Social Security purposes may not have been such a bad thing,” Rashad Kelly says. “Yet we certainly do not propose altering the age one begins to receive much-needed health care through Medicare, and our results do not suggest that Medicare costs will go up on average if people work longer.”
Insler emphasized that it’s difficult to predict the health effects of retirement on individuals. “I’m trying to calculate an average impact for a population,” he says. “Does it mean it will necessarily happen to them? No.”