Middle-income Americans entering retirement now will have to reduce their standard of living by an average of 24 percent to minimize their chances of outliving their financial assets, the study found. Workers seven years from retirement will have to cut their spending by even more — 37 percent.
This is one more study pointing out how many people are failing to take the most basic steps to manage their finances. Saving for Retirement is not very complicated. The details can get a bit complex but some of it is really basic like saving at least 5-15% of your earnings each year (or more if you fall behind) in tax differed savings accounts (IRA, 401(k)…). Many people just choose to sacrifice their future to buy more toys today.
There are different strategies but the minimum you should be doing (in the USA where social security will provide a portion of retirement savings) is saving, in a 401k, IRA or something similar: 5% in your 20s, 8% in 30s, 10% in your 40s, 11% in your 50s, 12% in your 60s. If you save more earlier you may be able to save less later. And if you fall behind you will have to save more. To retire earlier, than say 68 (today, or say 70 by 2020, and if you assume life expectancy rates will continue to increase you need to plan on working longer or saving more for a longer retirement), you should save more.
I commented on, WaMu Free Checking: The High 3.3% APY May Be Worth A Look, yesterday:
I agree it is worth considering. It has FDIC insurance. But the bank is not very stable. The stock price, for example, was above 40 in the last year. It is below 5 now. But as long as your entire deposit is covered by FDIC you are in safe (though if a bank goes under – not that likely – there can be a delay in getting your money). Normally a bank’s assets would be bought out by another bank.
And today I read of the second largest bank failure in the history of the USA, IndyMac Bank seized by federal regulators:
Regulators said depositors would have no access to banking services online and by telephone this weekend, but could continue to use ATMs, debit cards and checks. Online banking and phone banking services are to resume operations Monday.
Federal authorities said based on a preliminary analysis, the takeover of IndyMac would cost the FDIC between $4 billion and $8 billion.
It is important to make sure your deposits are FDIC insured (in the USA), and to know the limits of the coverage.
IndyMac was a huge mortgage focused bank. Their stock price had fallen from a high of nearly $30 in the last year to below $5 in April, $2 in May and $1 in June. It is a very good thing we have the FDIC.
Energy and food prices have obviously been increasing dramatically. The economist has a nice chart showing where people spend most on food and fuel. In the USA, Canada, Western Europe and Australia people spend less than 25%. In Brazil, India, China, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey… they spend 25-40%. In Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Pakistan… they spend 40-50%. And in Mongolia, Nigeria, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar… they spend over 50%.
The data is from the IMF. As with any economic data there are issues to consider about comparing across countries. Still this is a stark illustration that the impacts those in the wealthy countries feel from rising energy and food prices are felt to a greater degree in poor countries (that already have economic difficulties).
The race has barely begun – finished plants are years away – but it’s blazing fastest in the Mojave, where the federal government controls immense stretches of some of the world’s best solar real estate right next to the nation’s biggest electricity markets. Just 20 months ago only five applications for solar sites had been filed with the BLM in the California Mojave. Today 104 claims have been received for nearly a million acres of land, representing a theoretical 60 gigawatts of electricity. (The entire state of California currently consumes 33 gigawatts annually.)
Failing to save is a huge problem in the USA. Spending money you don’t have (taking on personal debt) and not even having emergency savings and retirement savings lead to failed financial futures. Even though those in the USA today are among the richest people ever to live many still seem to have trouble saving. Here is a simple tip to improve that result for yourself.
Anytime you get a raise split the raise between savings, paying off debt (if you have any non-mortgage debt), and increasing the amount you have to spend. I think too many people think financial success is much more complicated than it is. Doing simple things like this (and some of the other things, mentioned in this blog) will help most people do much better than they have been doing.
There are lots of ways to spend money. And many people find ways to spend all or more than all (credit card debt, personal loans…) they have which are sure ways to a failed financial future. So anytime you get a raise (a promotion, new job…) take a portion of that extra money and put it toward your financial future. The proportion can very but I would aim for at least 50% if you have any non-mortgage debt, don’t have a 6 month emergency fund, or are behind in saving for retirement, a house…
Exactly how you calculate if you are behind, I will address in a future post (or you can look around for more information). By taking this fairly simple action you will be setting yourself up for a successful financial future instead of finding yourself falling behind, as so many do. And then when things go badly, as they most likely will sometime during your life, you will have built up a financial position to draw on. Instead of, as so many do now, find that you were living beyond your means when things were going well – which it doesn’t take a genius to see will lead to serious problems when things take a turn for the worse.
So lets say you take a new job and get a raise of $4,000 a year. Instead of spending $4,000 more just put $2,000 away (pay off debt, add to your retirement savings, add to savings for a house, add to your emergency fund…). Then you get a promotion of another $3,000, increase your spending by $1,500 and save the rest. It is such a simple idea and just doing this you can find yourself in the top few percent of those making smart financial decisions. And if you get to the point that you are ahead in all your financial areas then you can take more of each raise you get (but most of the time you will have learned how valuable the extra saving are and figured out the extra toys really are not worth it). But if you want to, once you have created a successful financial life, you can choose to buy more toys.
There are external risks to your financial health. Many people ruin their financial health even before any external risk can, but lets say you are being responsible then what risks should you seek to protect yourself from?
|medical costs||health insurance||emergency fund, healthy lifestyle to reduce the likelihood of needing medical care|
|property losses (house damaged, car stolen, property damage…)||homeowners insurance, rental insurance|
|job loss||emergency fund, unemployment insurance (provided by the government and paid for by the company in most cases – in the USA)||updating skills, maintain a career network, education, learning new skills|
|disability (which both damages your earning potential and often has medical care costs)||disability insurance, health insurance||social security disability insurance – in the USA|
|investment losses||sound investment portfolio and strategy (diversification, appropriate investments, adjusting investment strategy over time)||extra savings|
|having to pay damages caused to others||homeowners insurance often includes personal liability coverage (and car insurance often includes some coverage for damage you cause while driving). check and likely choose to pay for extra liability insurance – costs to add coverage is normally cheap.|
|unexpected expenses||emergency fund||extra savings|
|loss of income of someone you rely on (spouse)||life insurance||extra savings|
Another protection is to be financially literate. You can risk your financial health by being fooled in spending money you should save, borrowing too much for your house, failing to buy the right insurance, using too much leverage, investing too much in high risk investments…