Avoid these financial pitfalls in retirement
Investing is a challenge at any age, but as you reach retirement, it becomes especially important to avoid making mistakes.
When you’re younger, you have more time to recover from a bad investment or market downturn. However, when you are older and your investments are providing your income, it’s important to preserve your nest egg.
There are things you can do to protect your money and help make it last. Here are three common pitfalls to look out for:
Paying too much in fees
Why is it important to stay vigilant about fees? Recently, while reviewing an investment portfolio with a potential client, we discovered he was paying 2.32% in fees on a mutual fund he’d invested in — not the 0.68% he assumed he was being charged. He didn’t dig into the prospectus to uncover other fees, such as trading costs and 12-b1 fees.
Be cautious when advisers and mutual fund managers justify their high fees by promising market-beating results. High fees do not always translate to better investment performance. If you aren’t paying attention, these fees have the potential to quickly dissolve any profit you may make from the investment.
Fees are typically based on a percentage of your assets. As your account balance increases, you are paying an ever-growing dollar figure in fees.
An investor with a $350,000 portfolio could easily be paying $3,500 to $7,000 or more per year in management fees. As money is deducted to cover these fees, there is less capital left in the account to compound and grow.
There are tools available for you to use in reviewing your portfolio and the fees you may be paying. One example is a prospectus, a legal document with in-depth details about your investment.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask your financial adviser about fees you may be paying to buy, sell or hold each of your investments. Ask which fees will and will not be listed on your statements and how you can track the unlisted ones.
Taking unnecessary risk
For years, investors have said a solid portfolio is composed of 60% stocks (for higher returns) and 40% bonds (for stable income).
However, times have changed. A combination of a record-setting bull market coupled with historically low interest rates has made this previous investment approach far less prudent these days.
Bonds — generally perceived as safe, reliable investments — are at risk due to rising interest rates, which can cause future bond prices to fall.
Stock market valuation already exceeding a 10-year bull market could potentially be a concern if you are counting on your portfolio for income in the near future.
There is nothing wrong with stocks, bonds or a portfolio that is diverse in both. Balance is key — and that means looking into other asset classes, such as real estate, commodities, annuities, futures, etc.
In retirement, it’s particularly important to lower the level of risk in your portfolio. Yet many investors have no idea how their portfolio equates to their personal risk tolerance — the amount of risk they can sustain taking while still progressing toward their financial goals.
Not long ago, I had a conversation with another prospective client who described himself as an “ultra-conservative” investor. But when we looked at his portfolio, it was not in line at all with his risk tolerance. This tends to be a common occurrence.
That doesn’t mean you should be stashing your nest egg under the mattress or even in a savings account. But you may want to do some thoughtful strategizing to help ensure that too large of a portion of your portfolio is not at risk in retirement.
Taking too much too fast
Running out of money during retirement is some people’s greatest fear, surpassing job loss and even public speaking.
There are good reasons to be concerned. People are living longer, so the money they save may have to last 20, 30 or even 40 years. Also, fewer Americans have pensions.
Most people could be forced to depend on their investment savings for more of their retirement income and for longer than they expected. That is why they are being advised to withdraw less each year.
You may have heard the rule of thumb is to take 4% from your investment savings in the first year of retirement and then add 1% to 2% in order to account for inflation yearly. In doing so, your portfolio could possibly sustain you for approximately 30 years.
That calculation has been the source of much debate in recent years. A safer suggestion is a 3% (or even 2%) withdrawal rate.
To put that into perspective, if you had a $1 million nest egg, you would take $30,000 (3%) or $20,000 (2%) in retirement income each year to supplement your Social Security benefit and any other reliable income you receive.
If that wouldn’t be enough for the retirement lifestyle you envision, it is time to take control. The biggest pitfall of all is not having a comprehensive plan in place as you move into retirement.
If you are near or already at your goal retirement age, review your investments along with any additional assets and Social Security on a yearly basis. Doing the legwork up front can very well lead to being able to comfortably and confidently put your feet up later in life. And isn’t that what we all strive for?
Jeff Beyer is CEO of Pennsylvania-based Paladin Retirement Advisors. Kim Franke-Folstad contributed to this article. This article was written by and presents the views of the author, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. Check adviser records with the SEC or FINRA.
© 2019 The Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.