America and Retirement

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The Anderson Files
The Anderson Files
America and Retirement

The challenges in helping America retire are many. Kevin Palm, one of America’s retirement plan design experts, shares the three pillars of conquering the challenges of retirement. Kevin walks through these three pillars: savings rate, return on investment and longevity. He talks about the pros and cons of saving for retirement with taxed dollars (Roth) or pre-tax dollars, the role annuities can play in planning to and through retirement, and how the SECURE Act, which became law in January 2020, aids in meeting retirement goals.

Kevin can be reached at (818)379-6168 x 66168 and

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This is The Anderson Files on PodClips.
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The Anderson Files is a look at commerce, investment, economics and retirement issues that affect each and every one of you.
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Your host is Mike Anderson, Executive Vice president, retirement services, and partner of Finestone Partners.
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Finestone Partners is an independent with securities offered through Four Point Capital.
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And now your host Mike Anderson.
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My guest today is Kevin Palm.
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Kevin is a retirement plan consultant and actuary here in Southern California, with over 25 years experience consulting with plan sponsors to ensure they have successful retirement programs.
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Kevin also does strategic and annual business planning for his retirement administration company.
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Kravitz is an expert in cash balance design and administration.
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And Kevin also just happens to be a fellow UCLA alumni, which makes it even that much more special for me to have you on today.
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Thank you, Mike.
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Thanks for having me today.
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And today we’re gonna talk about challenges in helping America retire. A big subject and your initial thoughts on approaching this big subject.
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I know you’ve spent your career focused on it.
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Oh, indeed.
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I think what’s powerful is the three legged stool,
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if you will, of government helping via social security, the employer sponsored retirement market that includes 401(k) cash balance defined benefit.
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Then of course, our own personal savings and wealth that we may accumulate through our homes and other savings.
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So, and as we discussed planning this podcast that really the big concerns are, you know, having enough savings rate, whether it’s the 401(k) deferral, 403(b).
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Deferral plus employer savings investment returns, which of course is on everyone’s minds at the moment.
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And then of course, longevity, you know, it’s crazy that 100 years ago we all died around age 65.
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And now we’re all living to be mostly 90, and the other fun fact is that if you’re married at 65 there’s a 50% chance one of the couple will get to age 95.
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So longevity is a big issue.
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Yeah, at this point, when the pension retirement plan concept came about, it actually came out of the military in Germany, in the 1870s, 1880s, they set the retirement age beyond the average age that people lived.
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So they never had to pay it out.
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So, or rarely.
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So we know obviously that has changed with people living longer, people living longer, healthier lives and focusing in on the savings rate aspect of those three legs of helping America retire.
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can you share a little bit more regarding savings rates? Oh, sure.
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What the latest statistics I know.
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And this is, you know, according to Kevin Palm, but it’s the, you know, published by the Council of America and some other entities, you know, there’s the ERIC out of DC as well, but it turns out, I think our average savings rate in 401k plans is about 3%.
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If there’s any kind of employer match, that gets goosed up a bit.
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Because we all know too well, I think our personal savings rate, you know, is sort of in the spirit of the current situation, people having 3 to 6 months of emergency savings is pretty poor.
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Many of us rely on credit cards, I think, when things get tight.
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So, you know, as a general rule, American savings rates, in my humble opinion, in are still rather poor, if it may be moving to modest, and Mike as you and I have discussed, every day you and I show up to work, you know, our job is to try to move that needle and improve the American savings rate.
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And I think there’s a long way to go for our consumerism to be balanced with savings.
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You know, one thing that I’m seeing with savings rates is where the needle’s moving north and that number is improving are with the baby boomers that are about 10 years to retirement and they realize they’re most likely not gonna be able to work forever for the most part, some may want to.
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But taking, and if they do have a little bit more income and typically they’re in the highest earnings period of the working part of their life,
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I’m, actually seeing these rates go up.
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Is that what you’re seeing as well? From this group? I would say so, you know, typically what’s a bit of a bummer is they don’t have as much, you know, at times to the compounding of interest on their asset returns, but for sure people are taking advantage of the catch up amounts, you know, the additional six grand or so above the 401(k) rate of $19,500 I think for 2020.
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So, and then the powerful thing though is to be able to get, you know, the folks in their twenties and thirties to realize it’s a good thing to, you know, just do 10% 401(k) 403(b) deferral and be very blunt, set it and forget it and, you know, use a target date fund or some other, you know, professionally managed account and I’ll let you speak to that, Mike because that’s your bailiwick.
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But that’s what I’m seeing.
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I think, yeah, you know, for the millennials and, you know, really everyone in their early twenties up to their early thirties, what I’m seeing, and this is to their credit.
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This is, a big plus, you know, when I speak with them, you know, at various companies and, you know, they’re engaged with the plan and they’re interested, and I asked them, you know, what has really piqued your interest in this? And as opposed to, hey, let’s just live, here’s the money let’s spend.
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And, let alone the cost of living in different parts of the country.
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But, and the response is, you know, I’ve got an opportunity here, and I’m seeing my parents struggle in leading up to retirement, or they may already be retired.
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And they said, you know, I’ve got an opportunity to not, you know, bluntly, not end up like my parents.
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And so, you know, it’s you have a 25-year-old taking it very seriously and I obviously very, I encourage them all the way, are you seeing a similar pattern? A nd I wouldn’t say I’ve seen specific statistics, but I’ll share them even with my own children, I’ve got children in their early twenties, the Roth 401(k) or Roth IRA is intriguing and I know we’re going to get into tax taxable retirement savings and nontaxable retirement savings in a minute.
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But I’ve been really encouraging them to really take advantage of the Roth, especially when they may be in low income tax brackets and not really need the tax deduction. Right.
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So it’s been, it’s been an interesting dialogue to talk to the, the millennials and the generation after that even now to tell them that, you know, especially if you, if you can’t just throw $1000 into your IRA, if you’re, you know, you’re not eligible for the company 401(k) plan yet.
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And there’s a really good chance 40 years from now that might be a compelling amount of money.
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And in regards to, in transitioning a little bit to the Roth and on the bigger kind of the bigger wave of taxable savings as opposed to nontaxable.
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What, what are your thoughts on that in terms of putting those dollars away for retirement taxable and non taxable? Well, the first thing that jumps to my mind is many of us might actually be moving on towards that 37% federal tax rate.
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And if you live in a state like California, you know, 9 to 13% tax rate and maybe 50% of your income is going towards taxes.
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You know, having a 401(k) profit sharing plan, you know, added on to a cash balance, defined benefit plan, may make some sense to take that as a tax deduction and defer taxes.
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One of my favorite lines from a CPA friend of mine is, a dollar in your hand
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today is still a dollar in your hand.
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It’s not, hasn’t gone to the government yet, because the minute you pay that dollar to the government it’s gone.
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And, so a lot of people are, you know, have significant amounts of money in a tax deferred account, whether it’s their qualified retirement plan and then roll over to an IRA.
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But the Roth 401(k) and the Roth IRA, which for those that maybe don’t know Roth, it’s a, you know, name of a senator that came up with the idea to have a tax deferred or sorry out, but you don’t get a tax deduction but your earnings grow tax free and so you can take it out with no tax.
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So what’s happening is, and of course, there’s the required minimum distributions that set it in half that makes some of us forced to pay taxes.
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But the Roth, you don’t neccissarily pay taxes.
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So, it’s an interesting tax diversification play even for those of us that might be in our fifties to build up a pot of money where you can take your Roth out and maybe not have your Social Security taxed.
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And then Mike, you and I have spoken about how the SECURE Act, the recent law passed that sort of is an attempt to expand retirement savings.
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They got rid of the stretch out IRA, where used to be able to pay out beneficiaries over their lifetime.
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But now if it’s the IRA beneficiaries are their children, an account holder’s children, they have to pay it out within 10 years.
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So you and I have talked about that maybe people are gonna want to start using their taxable assets and defer the Roth just because then the Roth can transition to the kids.
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So I think what’s powerful, Mike, in the spirit of raising topics for people to ponder with their own CPA and their own financial advisors is how is this tax diversification, you know, going to play out in their sixties and seventies and eighties and especially into their estate planning? And my final thought, Mike, on this is that, as I say, estate planning, is that the fact that you may have generated a whole lot of wealth in your tax deferred IRA.
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You know, when you’re 85, it’s an opportunity opportunity to talk to your state planning attorney and your financial advisor about how you might, you know, especially with the Secure Act, how would you transition that wealth to your your estate and to your beneficiaries? Exactly.
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And with, with what Kevin’s referring to effective 1/1/2020 there was a major piece of retirement plan legislation that became law called Secure.
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And one of the provisions in that law basically took non-beneficiary or non-spouse beneficiaries for IRAs where they could elect, those individuals could elect to take distributions over their lifetime. That changed to where they need to take distributions over 10 years.
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And so from, Kevin, as you’re referring to and from an estate planning standpoint, you know, is that gonna be a catalyst where the folks that built up the IRAs spend that money now and, you know, during their lifetime, as opposed to passing it on to their kids or the non spouse beneficiaries, and they end up spending more of their taxable dollars in retirement or they take the taxable dollars and they pass those on to their kids.
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So, you know, it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out as to decision making changing, and, you know, with the law changing to a 10 year payout as opposed to over a lifetime if ,you know, your daughter inherits a large IRA and from mom and those dollars could push them up into a very, the highest tax bracket just by default.
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So it’ll be interesting to see how the two play out between taxable money for retirement and IRA money for retirement. Turning to return on investment as another leg of consideration in helping America retire.
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What are your thoughts on return on investment and, you know, numbers diversification, you know, what kind of baseline an individual needs
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So it’s meaningful for them over the long term leading up into and through retirement?
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That’s a great question.
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just as an old actuary and, and helping plan sponsors that have defined benefit cash balance plans and setting a long term rate of return assumption.
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It’s been interesting in my 37 years in the business to see, you know, 20 years ago, we might have been assuming 8 to 9% long term rates of return on investment in a professionally managed portfolio.
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You know, and now we’ve seen that trending down to 6%, if not even lower.
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And again, Mike,this is your bailiwick, not mine, but I know enough to be dangerous in the sense that I think a long term, a reasonable long term rate of return on your assets is probably 6% over the next 30 years.
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You know, there’s, there’s some prognostication, putting aside the current situation, in 2029, 2035 you know, the years that I’m hitting retirement age, there’s supposed to be another recession.
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So the whole concept of maybe earning 9 to 12% of your money long term has just probably passed us by in the 21st century.
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So it’s, and I always say too, it’s a matter of I’m going from an institutional money management perspective, you know, shooting for 6%, minimize your downside.
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So when you have the Dow down 30% as of today from, you know, in 2017, I guess, and maybe you’re down 10%.
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And then you, and it’s also interesting to you mix in the taxable assets versus nontaxable assets.
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You know, you can manage that again in the spirit of raising questions for people to ponder with their, you know, with someone like you Mike as a financial advisor or their CPA is like, what, what do you, how do you manage this interesting situation and, and Mike, I’ll throw one in too.
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There’s the interesting debate of, do you annuitize any of this money and put some of the risk on an insurance company or do you keep it in your portfolio? And have it, you know, managed by yourself or professionally managed? And I just will go on record saying I think an annuity and using an insurance company, as much as you need to manage the expense, you might pay the insurance company.
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You can’t.
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It’s an interesting diversification play to have some insured assets, you know, with an annuity as well as your Social Security benefit.
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And I’ll just talk out loud, Social Ssecurity.
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I think as long as the government has the ability to tax it, will be somewhat safe in our lifetimes.
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Who knows what it will be in, like, 2100.
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But so anyway, it’s an interesting standpoint of, again, maybe full circle conversation, Mike, of the three legged stool, you know, having some annuitized incomes.
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So you don’t, so you can sleep at night and not have to worry about the markets going down.
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You have some investable assets that you work with someone like you to invest.
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And then of course, you know, you have your personal wealth too, your house or whatever.
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So it’s an, it’s an interesting thought process to go through, and again, it’s nice that you have an actuary online.
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My daughter even said that I live my life in the future.
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I’m looking out the windshield, and it’s powerful that people be looking out the windshield and I know there’s lots of great software modeling that can show like how long an IRA, whether it’s a Roth IRA or a traditional IRA, can last.
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And again, I’ll, I’ll close on this.
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I’m very aware that the annuity versus investable assets.
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There’s a huge debate, even if you look online, so many investment advisors would love you to have personal assets invested and avoid the expense of an annuity contract.
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But again, I grew up as an actuary, and insurance companies, I think have a place in life and you’re spreading risk a bunch, you know, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people
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with this longevity issue and it’s a compelling thing to be, at least be thoughtful about.
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This is Mike Anderson with The Anderson Files.
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And my guest is Kevin Palm. Kevin,
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for, on the annuity subject, you know what I, where I find them to be effective and very useful and they’re not for everybody.
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But where I find them useful is if it’s pretty much determined on doing a projection that an individual, a couple will be down to Social Security at a certain point of within their actuarial life expectancy.
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It can be a very useful tool for some, it’s not for everyone.
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And as you’re referencing the diversification value of an annuity, again, it can be a very key planning component for many. In retirement saving, there’s two phases, there’s the accumulation phase during the working part of your life.
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And then there’s the distribution phase.
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Do you see differences in terms of earning and return on investment during the accumulation phase, as opposed to the distribution phase? Do you see the requirement for different earnings achieved in the two different periods? I think so, although it’s a continuum, I like some of the science behind target date funds and again, Mike, again, I might be tiptoeing into your, you know, expertise.
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That’s OK.
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We’re friends.
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It’s OK.
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So, what I do know about when target date funds first came out, they were like retirement date funds.
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And so I’ll pick on my retirement age of, you know, 65 in 2029, they were sort of targeting and rebalancing the portfolio towards 2029.
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Now, I know the modern science says it’s actually through retirement.
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So, you know, I’ll be 65 in 2029 going all the way through, you know, 2040, 2050, and God willing, 2060, you know, I’ve seen the balance is shift so that maybe you’re minimizing your risk over time.
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So what’s powerful for the audience is that I don’t think there’s a, you flip a switch at 65 or 67.
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If that’s your Social Security retirement age, or even 70 a half, you just, it’s that, you know, check in more frequently with your, your financial advisor and reassessing your risk tolerance, how much cash you need.
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And Mike, it was an opportunity for me to throw in there too.
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I’m very aware that in the defined contribution market, which is the 401(k) profit sharing plan space that, you know, some vendors are offering guaranteed income for life.
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There’s their quasi-insured products. Right. You know, paying out the 4% of your value is almost in perpetuity but guaranteeing your baseline.
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So, I wanted the audience to hear that there’s some interesting diversification plays, that is kind of a blend of an annuity with some, you know, with your asset returns, but, you know, with a floor, maybe so you can sleep at night.
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So again, the reason I share that is that there’s a lot of talk about how do American, weather the storms of retirement, right, is about every, you know, to be very blunt, every 7 to 10 years of my lifetime, the equity market does something interesting, let alone the bond market.
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So you always have to just be thoughtful and you already use the word diversification.
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One of my investment friends likes to make sure he refers to having nine players in the ball field.
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They use the baseball metaphor and you want to have, you know, you want to have a piece of your assets and all nine in all nine places and what I mean by the nine places, you know, large cap equity, small cap equity or value rather versus growth.
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And again, I’m using your language, not mine, but it’s powerful just to always be diversified.
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And I was a, it’s a wonderful thing if anyone has, you know, made their retirement off the FANG stocks, you know, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google.
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But to me that the challenge with that is like, well, when do you take your profits, you know, you’re not diversified.
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And not to say it can’t be a part of your portfolio, but that, that’s my take on how, you know, it’s basically this time value of money and you have to sort of manage it from year to year, the older you get.
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And, you know, turning to longevity, I have to tell you just in practice over the last 7, 8 years as retirees, the likelihood of them living longer, it’s being voiced more and more by these the baby boomers that are near or at retirement transitioning in.
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And you know, the, the question I get very prevalent over the last 6,7,8 years has been
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OK, Mike, am I going to outlive my money? So we do many retirement plan projection reports, taking snapshots of current finances, projecting them out, taking into account inflation in various types of income, Social Security, 401(k), profit sharing plans, taxable money.
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How long they are going to be living? And it’s the number one question, and you know how as a plan administrator and actuary, you know, how are you viewing the longevity element of retirement? Well, Mike, I think that deals with the why I mentioned the insured aspect of ensuring some of your assets needs.
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You’re so right that annuities makes sense for some and not others.
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Again, a lot of the vendors, 401(k) vendors out there.
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What I mean by vendors is the John Hancocks, the empowers that tend to be on the insurance side.
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One, you know, offer guaranteed income for life.
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And I think you hit a spot on topic for people to be thoughtful about it is do those projections, what can you afford to live on in retirement? And I would like to remind people it’s going to be common sense.
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So forgive me if I’m preaching to the audience here, but they already know this, but you know, there’s your grocery money and your mortgage and your property taxes and being able to have three squares a day and a roof over your head.
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And then there’s the money that you can go travel with,
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eventually, and so it’s all about what can you afford to live on? And I always say there’s the person who’s gonna try to actually live their life and die when they have $0.
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Exactly then.
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And for so many of us want to be able to leave at least a few bucks to our kids.
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So I don’t think we’ll spend it all.
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And then of course, there’s the people that, you know, that 4% number I gave you Mike and I know that number is debatable, but 4% of your portfolio as a distribution is really a perpetuity type of calculation which means that the money would live forever, potentially if you always earned 4%.
00:24:10.28 – 00:24:19.93
So again, I think you just raise a really good question for people to be thoughtful about what their tax advisor and their financial advisor to figure out how long it’s going to live.
00:24:19.939 – 00:24:24.489
And we’ve used the word estate a few times and estate planning is so important.
00:24:24.55 – 00:24:25.579
I’ll be very candid.
00:24:25.589 – 00:24:32.199
I’ve struggled over the years to talk about my demise and giving assets to my kids and my other beneficiaries.
00:24:32.209 – 00:24:42.55
But the powerful thing that makes sure people do and model it and you because if you’re not thinking about your future, you’re probably, you may be doomed to not have a good future.
00:24:42.859 – 00:24:43.78
00:24:43.79 – 00:24:54.18
And Kevin as as we wrap up, can you share the your website, your web address? Oh, sure.
00:24:54.189 – 00:24:59.75
For, for we specialize in cash balance plans, which is a type of defined benefit plan.
00:24:59.76 – 00:25:01.17
So it’s a real easy web address.
00:25:01.18 – 00:25:04.829
00:25:05.15 – 00:25:17.17
And it talks about an additional way to save money in addition to your 401(k) profit sharing and IRA amounts which are basically capped at around $57, $58,000 a year, maybe $62,000 if you’ve got to catch up.
00:25:17.239 – 00:25:21.189
But anyway, Mike, thanks for letting me put that out there for everyone.
00:25:21.199 – 00:25:22.04
00:25:22.05 – 00:25:23.51
And Kevin, thanks so much.
00:25:23.52 – 00:25:26.67
We hope to have you back in the future.
00:25:27.03 – 00:25:32.76
And because there’s plenty more to talk about on the American retirement subject.
00:25:32.77 – 00:25:37.03
I’m Mike Anderson on The Anderson Files for PodClips.