In my opinion is has never been more difficult to plan for retirement. It is extremely difficult to guess what rates of return should be expected in the next 10-30 years. It might have actually been as difficult 10 years ago, but it seemed that it wasn’t. Estimating a 7-8% return for your portfolio seemed a pretty reasonable thing to do, and evening considering 10% wasn’t unthinkable, if you wanted to be optimistic and took more risk.
Today it is very hard to guess, going forward, what is reasonable. It is also hard to find any very safe decent yields. Is 4% a good estimate for your portfolio? 6%? 8%? What about inflation? I know inflation isn’t a huge concern of people right now, but I still think it is a very real risk. I think trying to project is helpful (even with all the uncertainty). But it is more important than ever to look at various scenarios and consider the risks if things don’t go as well as you hope. The best way to deal with that is to save more.
In the USA save at least 10% of your income for retirement in your own savings (in addition to social security) and it would be better to save 12% and you might even need to be saving 15%. And if you waited beyond 30 to start doing this you have to save substantially more, to have a comfortable retirement plan (obviously if you are willing to live at a much lower standard of living in retirement than before, you can save less).
Other factors matter too. If you don’t own your house with no more mortgage payments you will need to save more. Ideally you will have not debts at retirement, if you do, again you need to save more.
Vanguard founder Jack Bogle has a slightly more upbeat assessment. He expects stock returns of 7 percent to 7.5 percent over the next decade. He assumes no expansion in the market’s price-earnings ratio, dividend yields of 2.2 percent, and earnings growth of at least 5 percent. Bogle expects bond returns to be about 3 percent. For a balanced portfolio, that produces a net nominal return of slightly more than 6 percent. A higher forecast is T. Rowe Price’s estimate of 7 percent; until this year it had used 8 percent.
I also suggest using high quality high yield dividend stocks for more of the bond portfolio. I wouldn’t hold bonds with maturities over 5 years at these yields (or if I did, they would be an extremely small portion of the portfolio). I would also have a fair amount of the bond portfolio in inflation protected bonds.
I also invest in emerging economies like China, Brazil, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the continent of Africa… To some extent you get that with large companies like Google, Intel, Tesco, Toyota, Apple… that are making lots of money in emerging economies and continuing to invest more in emerging markets. VWO (.22% expense ratio) is a good exchange traded fund (ETF) for emerging markets. I also believe investing in real estate is wise as part of a retirement portfolio.
My preference is for a lower use of bonds than the normal portfolio balancing strategies use. I just find the risks greater than the benefits. This preference increases as yields decline. Given the historically low interest rates we have been experiencing the last few years (and low yields even for close to a decade) I really believe bonds are not a good investment. Now for someone approaching or in retirement I do think some bonds are probably wise to balance the portfolio (or CDs). But I would limit maturities/duration to 2 or 3 years. And really I would pursue high yielding stocks much more than normal.
In general I like high yielding stocks for retirement portfolios. Many are very good long term investments overall and I prefer to put a portion of the portfolio others would place in bonds in high yielding stocks. Unfortunately 401(k) [and 403(b)] retirement accounts often don’t offer an option to do this. Luckily IRAs give you the options to invest as you chose and by placing your IRA in a brokerage account you can use this strategy. In a limited investing option retirement account [such as a 401(k)] look for short term bond funds, inflation protected bonds and real estate funds – but you have to evaluate if those funds are good – high expenses will destroy the reasons to invest in bond funds.
There are actually quite a few attractive high yield stocks now. I would strive for a very large amount of diversity in high yield stocks that are meant to take a portion of the bonds place in a balanced portfolio. In the portion of the portfolio aimed at capital appreciation I think too much emphasis is placed on “risk” (more concentration is fine in my opinion – if you believe you have a good risk reward potential). But truthfully most people are better off being more diversified but those that really spend the time (it takes a lot of time and experience to invest well) can take on more risk.
A huge advantage of dividends stocks is they often increase the dividend over time. And this is one of the keys to evaluate when selected these stock investments. So you can buy a stock that pays a 4% yield today and 5 years down the road you might be getting 5.5% yield (based on increased dividend payouts and your original purchase price). Look for a track record of increasing dividends historically. And the likelihood of continuing to do so (this is obviously the tricky part). One good value to look at is the dividend payout rate (dividend/earnings). A relatively low payout (for the industry – using an industry benchmark is helpful given the different requirement for investing in the business by industry) gives you protection against downturns (as does the past history of increasing payouts). It also provides the potential for outsized increases in the future.
There are a number of stocks that look good in this category to me now. ONEOK Partners LP pays a dividend of 5.5% an extremely high rate. They historically have increased the dividend. They are a limited partnership which are a strange beast not quite a corporation and you really need to read up and understand the risks with such investments. ONEOK is involved in the transportation and storage of natural gas. I would limit the exposure of the portfolio to limited partnerships (master limited partnerships). They announced today that the are forecasting a 20% increase in 2012 earnings so the stock will likely go up (and the yield go down – it is up 3.4% in after hours trading).
Another stock I like in this are is Abbott, a very diversified company in the health care field. This stock yields 3.8% and has good potential to grow. That along with a 3.8% yield (much higher than bond yields, is very attractive).
My 12 stocks for 10 year portfolio holds a couple investments in this category: Intel, Pfizer and PetroChina. Intel yields 3.9% and has good growth prospects though it also has the risk of deteriorating margins. There margins have remains extremely high for a long time. Maybe it can continue but maybe not. Pfizer yeilds 4.6% today which is a very nice yield. At this time, I think I prefer Abbott but given the desire for more diversification in this portion of the portfolio both would be good holdings. Petro China yields 4% today.
When invested in a retirement portfolio prior to retirement I would probably just set up automatic reinvesting of the dividends. Once in retirement as income is needed then you can start talking the dividends as cash, to provide income to pay living expenses. I would certainly suggest more than 10 stocks for this portion of a portfolio and an investor needs to to educate themselves evaluate the risks and value of their investments or hire someone who they trust to do so.
For 2010 and 2011, the most that an individual can contribute to a traditional IRA or Roth IRA generally is the smaller of: $5,000 ($6,000 if the individual is age 50 or older), or the individual’s taxable compensation for the year. You have until your taxes are due (April 15th, 2011) to add to your IRA for 2010.
This is the most that can be contributed regardless of whether the contributions are to one or more traditional or Roth IRAs or whether all or part of the contributions are nondeductible. However, other factors may limit or eliminate the ability to contribute to an IRA as follows:
- An individual who is age 70½ or older cannot make regular contributions to a traditional IRA (just to make things complicated you can add to a Roth IRA) for the year.
Contributions to a Roth IRA are limited based on income. The limits are based on modified adjusted gross income (which is before deductions are taken). The Roth IRA earnings limits for 2010 are:
- Single filers: Up to $105,000; from $105,000 – $120,000 (a partial contribution is allowed)
- Joint filers: Up to $167,000; from $167,000 – $177,000 (a partial contribution)
For 2011 the earning limits increase to
- Single filers: Up to $105,000; from $107,000 – $122,000 (a partial contribution is allowed)
- Joint filers: Up to $167,000; from $169,000 – $179,000 (a partial contribution)
The income limits do not cap what you can add using a 401(k). So if you were planning on adding to a Roth IRA but cannot due to the income limits you may want to look into increasing your 401(k) contributions.
The biggest investing failing is not saving any money – so failing to invest. But once people actually save the next biggest issue I see is people confusing the investment risk of one investment in isolation from the investment risk of that investment within their portfolio.
It is not less risky to have your entire retirement in treasury bills than to have a portfolio of stocks, bonds, international stocks, treasury bills, REITs… This is because their are not just risk of an investment declining in value. There are inflation risks, taxation risks… In addition, right now markets are extremely distorted due to the years of bailouts to large banks by the central banks (where they are artificially keeping short term rates extremely low passing benefits to investment bankers and penalizing individual investors in treasury bills and other short term debt instruments). There is also safety (for long term investments – 10, 20, 30… years) in achieving higher returns to gain additional assets – increased savings provide additional safety.
Yes, developing markets are volatile and will go up and down a lot. No, it is not risky to put 5% of your retirement account in such investments if you have 0% now. I think it is much riskier to not have any real developing market exposure (granted even just having an S&P 500 index fund you have some – because lots of those companies are going to make a great deal in developing markets over the next 20 years).
I believe treating very long term investments (20, 30, 40… years) as though the month to month or even year to year volatility were of much interest leads people to invest far too conservatively and exacerbates the problem of not saving enough.
Now as the investment horizon shrinks it is increasing import to look at moving some of the portfolio into assets that are very stable (treasury bills, bank savings account…). Having 5 years of spending in such assets makes great sense to me. And the whole portfolio should be shifted to have a higher emphasis on preservation of capital and income (I like dividends stocks that have historically increased dividends yearly and are likely to continue). And the same time, even when you are retired, if you saved properly, a big part of your portfolio should still include assets that will be volatile and have good prospects for long term appreciation.
Related: books on investing – Where to Invest for Yield Today – Lazy Portfolios Seven-year Winning Streak (2009) – Fed Continues Wall Street Welfare (2008), now bankers pay themselves huge bonuses because the Fed transferred investment returns to too-big-to-fail-banks from retirees, and others, investing in t-bills.
Vanguard long advised people to put 9% to 12% of their salaries—including the employer contribution—in their 401(k) plans. The current median amount that people contribute is 9%, counting the employer contribution, Vanguard says.
Recently, Vanguard has begun urging people to contribute 12% to 15%, including the employer contribution, because of the stock market’s weak returns and uncertainty about the future of Social Security and Medicare.
Experts estimate Social Security will provide as much as 40% of pre-retirement income, or $35,080 a year for that median family. That leaves $39,465 needed from other sources. Most 401(k) accounts don’t come close to making up that gap.
The median 401(k) plan held $149,400, including plans from previous jobs, according to the Center for Retirement Research. To figure the annual income from that, analysts typically look at what the family would get from a fixed annuity. That $149,400 would generate just $9,073 a year for a couple, according to New York Life Insurance Co., the leading provider of such annuities— less than one-quarter of the $39,465 needed.
Just 8% of households approaching retirement have the $636,673 or more in their 401(k)s that would be needed to generate $39,465 a year.
Knowing exactly what is needed for retirement is difficult. But knowing what is a responsible amount is not. It is certainly no less than 8%, and is likely the 12-15% figure Vanguard recommends. If you start at 10% from the time you join the full time workforce (in your 20’s) then you have some flexibility you can see how thing look when you are 30, maybe 12% is sensible, maybe 15%, maybe 10%. If you fail to save for a decade however, you are likely to need to be at 15%, or higher.
In the USA we fail to save nearly enough for retirement by and large. And fail to save emergency funds or prepare for economically difficult times. We by and large chose to spend today and hope tomorrow will be good rather than first establishing a good financial safety net before expanding spending.
When people are debating withdrawing from their retirement account it is actually not the important decision it seems to be (normally). Normally the important decision was years before when they chose to take on consumer debt and not to build up an emergency fund. And when they failed to just build up saving beyond that which could be used for nice vacations, a new car, or to live on in economically challenging times.
If someone had been saving 15% of their salary in retirement since they started working if they took an amount that left them at 10% that is hardly a horrible result. While someone that was already behind by say adding just 3% to retirement savings and they took out all of it that would be much worse.
And we should remember even having a retirement account to withdraw from might put you ahead of nearly 50% of the population (and our state and federal governments, by the way). If you have to resort to withdrawing from your retirement account don’t think of that as the failure. The failure was most likely the lack of savings for years prior to that. And as soon as possible, re-fund your retirement account and build up a strong emergency fund, even if that means passing spending on things you want.
401(k), IRAs and 403(b) retirement accounts are a very smart way to invest in your future. The tax deferral is a huge benefit. And with Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s you can even get tax exempt distributions when you retire – which is a huge benefit. Especially if you don’t retire before the bill for all the delayed taxes of the last 20 years starts to be paid. The supposed “tax cuts” that merely shifted taxes from those spending money the last 10 years to those that have to pay for all the stuff the government spent on them has to be paid for. And that will likely happen with higher tax rates courtesy of the last 10 years of not paying the taxes to pay for what the government was spending.
When looking at your 401(k) and 403(b) investment options be sure to pay close attention to expenses for the funds. Some fund families try to get people to investing in high expense funds, that are nearly identical to low expense funds. The investor losses big and the fund companies take big profits. Those people serving on the boards of those funds should be fired. They obviously are not managing with the investors interests at heart (as they are obligated to do – they are suppose to represent the investors in the funds not the friends they have making money off the investors).
Here is an example (that I ran across last week) expense differences for funds that have essentially identical investment objectives and plans in the same retirement plan options: .39% (a respectable rate, though more than it really should be) for [seeks a favorable long-term rate of return from a diversified portfolio selected to track the overall market for common stocks publicly traded in the U.S., as represented by a broad stock market index.], .86% [for “The account seeks a favorable long-term total return, mainly from capital appreciation, by investing primarily in a portfolio of equity securities selected to track the overall U.S. equity markets based on a market index.”]. Do not rely on your fund provider to have your interests at heart (and unfortunately many companies don’t seek the best investment options for their employees either).
The .47% added expense isn’t much to miss for 1 year. However, over the life of your retirement account, this is tens of thousands of dollars you will lose just with this one mistake. Personal financial literacy is an easy way to make yourself large amounts of money over the long term. It isn’t very sexy to get .47% extra every year but it is extremely rewarding.
$200,000 at 6% for 25 years grows to $858,000
$200,000 at 6.47% for 25 years grows to $958,000
So in this case, $100,000 for you, instead of just paying the fund company a bit extra every year to let them add to their McMansions. In reality it will be much more than a $100,000 mistake for you if you save enough for retirement. But if you save far too little (as most people do) one advantage is the mistake will be less costly because your low retirement account value reduces the loss you will take.
These moves follow several recent age increases across Europe and among U.S. states. Faced with one of the worst pension shortfalls in the country, Illinois in March lifted the retirement age for new state workers from as low as 55 all the way to 67.
“If their parents are going to retire at 65 after working 40 years, they need to plan for about a 20-year investment horizon,” he says. “For my students’ generation, with life expectancy going up about a month a year, in their cases they have maybe 25 years in retirement they have to plan for.”
Greece, until recently, allowed workers in more than 580 job categories considered hazardous to retire with full pensions as early as age 50 for women or 55 for men. In response to its fiscal crisis, that country has raised the retirement age to 65 for most workers.
In Ireland, the government has proposed gradually raising the retirement age from 65 to 68. Hungary raised its retirement age in 2008 from 62 to 65 — one big reason why the ruling Socialists got trounced in parliamentary elections in April.
We have not raised retirement age along with our increasing longevity. That is workable, if you save enough extra during your work life to enjoy a longer retirement. However, we are not saving even enough to retirement properly even if the life expectancy had not increased over the last 50 years.
Governments have failed to take a sensible retirement strategy for dealing with longer life expectancies. They can lower benefits, move back the retirement age or increase the amount they put aside to pay benefits. Most likely it takes a combination of all 3, or at least 2 of the options. As I have said for a long time one smart move governments should make is to make it easier to ease into retirement by going part time. This is good for the economy and good for people and helps deal with the problem of extending the retirement age too far (where many that age have trouble working full time).
Retiring overseas has been growing in popularity over the recent decades. A lower cost of living and health care systems that work are two of the big draws. Americans Who Seek Out Retirement Homes Overseas
She said a minimum amount for a comfortable retirement in a number of appealing places — Cuenca, Ecuador, and La Barra, Uruguay, being two examples — would be about $1,200 a month.
Mr. Holman said that if you purchased a home in Medellin, you could live quite comfortably on less than $2,000 a month. As time goes on, retirement hot spots change along with countries’ economic and political situations.
Ms. Peddicord said she used to recommend Ireland, Thailand and Costa Rica, but no longer does. She cited the high cost of living in Ireland, the anti-foreign sentiments in Thailand, and the growing crime rates both within and outside of San Jose, the Costa Rican capital.
“In Panama, for example, your rent could be $1,500 a month for a two-bedroom apartment in a nice building in Panama City with a doorman and a pool,” Ms. Peddicord said, “or it could be $200 a month if you choose instead to settle in a little house near the beach in Las Tablas, a beautiful, welcoming region.”
Lee Harrison, an American who retired to Ecuador several years ago and then moved in 2006 to Uruguay, said there were a wide range of financial issues to consider before making the leap to retire abroad.
For example, he recommends that retirees maintain a bank account and credit cards in their country of origin as well as in their new country, to facilitate money transfer. He also said that retirees should investigate their home country’s system of sending pension money to retirees abroad, as well as their new destination’s ability to accept electronic bank transfers.
Retirees also should request help from a tax adviser and make certain their move doesn’t trigger the need for a new will.
Financial considerations aside, advisers say that when making the decision to retire abroad, most retirees find that the journey itself is the reward.
“I know lots of people who retired to one country and then decided to move again somewhere else but never back” to their home, Ms. Peddicord said. “I don’t know of anyone who has decided to move back full-time after having had a taste of living abroad.”
Living overseas is something a significant portion of people in the USA have no interest in at all. But for those that like the idea there are appealing options with some strong benefits. At the same time you need to understand the significant change this bring to your life and plan for it I suggest visiting the location several times over the years – before you retire.
Failing to pay for the deferred costs of current expenditures gets all those practicing credit card budget thinking in trouble. That includes lots of individuals. But it also includes many governments. They pay huge rewards to special interests and act like they think the cost doesn’t exist. Only an extremely financially illiterate society could elect so many of these people. We have not learned that in the modern financial economies financial illiteracy is a huge societal problem (along with scientific illiteracy).
Such poor financial management by public sector organization (California is horrible also) are causing huge damage to those living in such poorly managed states.
The use of public money for outsize retirement pay really stings when budgets don’t balance, teachers are being laid off, furloughs are being planned
Roughly one of every 250 retired public workers in New York is collecting a six-figure pension, and that group is expected to grow rapidly in coming years, based on the number of highly paid people in the pipeline.
Thirteen New York City police officers recently retired at age 40 with pensions above $100,000 a year; nine did so in their 30s.
Before Yonkers adopted a richer pension formula for police in 2000, for instance, it was told the maximum cost would be $1.3 million a year. But instead, the yearly cost is now $3.75 million and rising. David Simpson, a spokesman for the mayor of Yonkers, said pension cost projections were “often lowballs,” so the city could get stuck. “Once you give something, you can’t take it away,” he said.
It isn’t complicated. So long as you elect people that are financial illiterate and only care about granting favors to special interests, not the consequences of doing so, you are setting yourself up for a great deal of pain once your credit card bill comes due.