Retirement Planning Tips that Truly Matter



As each New Year begins, we see a deluge of effective recommendations on how to improve financial planning.


If there is anything worth mentioning in the past two decades that we have been dispensing retirement planning advice to numerous people, it is the fact that those who take a proactive stance have achieved positive results while those who failed to protect themselves with sufficient safeguards encountered disastrous results.


With 2017 here, we focus on a few recommendations we consider essential in coming up with an efficient retirement planning strategy.


Essential Planning Tip #1: A Retirement Plan


Seek the help of a professional financial adviser to create a retirement plan for you.


A retirement plan is essential in charting your course on the right path for a secure retirement future, to avoid scams and put your hard earned money into waste. If you are not a professional financial practitioner, do not do it yourself in order to avoid committing errors or overlooking crucial aspects.


A retirement strategy must incorporate your income sources: Social Security, CSRS or FERS annuity, FERS retirement supplement and others (rental income, military pension, etc.).


You must never take this advice for granted. Do whatever you can to rev up your potential to earn. If you work as a federal employee, determine what you need to do to avail all the benefits to which you are entitled and discuss with a financial expert who can help you maximize your benefits. Having a highly knowledgeable financial adviser, however, may not be sufficient; because a few have given bad advice to federal employees who made wrong decisions that could not be corrected.


One vital step to take involves evaluating your specific income sources and analyzing how each one affects the others, determining how all of them can be made to work in synergy.


Take this case, for instance: In general, retirement planning advisers recommend putting off availing of Social Security benefits until one reaches the full retirement age (FRA) in order to gain a higher pension amount. For those born from 1943 to 1954, the stipulated FRA is 66 and it gradually goes up to 67 for those born in 1960 or after. For those opting to retire earlier, benefits are provided for those individuals who reach 62 and 1 month at a fixed reduced amount which is 75% of the full amount of expected benefit. It is crucial for those wishing to retire early to consider it if they are better off postponing Social Security benefits for a few years and getting bigger withdrawals from their TSP and other savings. This can often be a viable choice; but does not guarantee a positive result at all times. Find out if the withdrawals from your savings will eventually eat up your savings in just a short time; in which case, you might need to avail of your Social Security benefit earlier to secure your savings. This is why you have to assess all aspects of your plan.


Compute accurately what your expected net monthly income goal will be. This involves determining your actual expenses, like your taxes, insurance, utilities, car payments, etc.


At this stage, ponder what you plan to do when you reach retirement age: visiting places, learning to play music, dining, sailing, cooking, gardening, playing golf and others. Make sure you attach a figure to each activity so you will know what your expenses will be.


A good retirement plan will tell you if you are on track to support your targeted goals. You can adjust your savings target accordingly, especially if you have to contribute more to TSP or other savings plan to reach that target.


Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) must be part of a retirement plan to maintain your buying capacity in the future. As a married individual, you will also have to consider the survivor needs of your spouse which is a vital aspect of the plan. In case of the death of one of the spouses, the survivor might lose not just a part of the of the Social Security benefits received but basically half of the deceased spouse’s pension or federal retirement annuity, as it may apply.


An effective retirement plan has several components; and when everything is in place, you will easily recognize lapses or realize when you must adjust your plan along the way. A yearly evaluation of your plan is recommended in order to assess your progress and to make necessary changes according to your goals and needs.


The biggest mistake most people make, especially the young, is to procrastinate planning for one’s retirement. They feel that working with a financial advisor requires a big investment which they cannot afford and that doing it early enough is a waste of opportunity.


Initially, a lot of financial advisors offer a no-obligation consultation to find out what your financial situation and needs are. After that, they can quote a price for making a retirement plan for you. In fact, many people talk to several financial advisors before deciding who to work with in the end.


Planning for the future has no fixed-age requirement before you must do it. We can say that the earliest bird catches the biggest worm. With people having different needs, knowing you are on target as to your own goals can provide lasting peace and satisfaction.


Essential Planning Tip #2: Prepare a long-term healthcare plan


Provide for your and your family’s healthcare needs, especially for long-term medical care.


Even if you have a sound plan for your retirement years with a secure retirement income target in place may not be sufficient. Considering enhanced healthcare nowadays and the improved life expectancy among Americans, it is also a vital need to prepare for a more comfortable senior-year life through having a long-term healthcare plan.


LTC or Long-term care is a valuable protection for those who need care due to such conditions as physical injury, chronic illness, frailty or cognitive impairment. In general, the care provided is custodial care, not rehabilitative or intensive care. Based on the Department of Health and Human Services studies, 7 out of 10 people who reach 65 will require some kind of LTC. Depending on certain conditions, the care will vary in terms of cost based on the kind and length of care required, the care provider and the location of residence.


How do you pay for a long-term care need?


First is by the traditional LTC policy which is available through the Federal Government’s tie-up with John Hancock. An individual chooses the amount of daily benefit needed, the benefit duration and the inflation coverage. Perhaps, this is the least expensive way to acquire a LTC plan; nevertheless, the two main disadvantages pointed out are: (1) No guarantee on the premium given and rates have increased a few times. The most recent rate increase was in 2016 at 83% on the average, although beneficiaries’ premiums doubled. (2) In case you will not require a LTC, the insurer will not return all your premiums.


The Hybrid Life/LTC policy offers an option that has been attracting many individuals. In essence, the policy is a Universal Life insurance coverage which provides a chronic-care clause. Many of the providers channel 2% of the death benefit toward long-term care needs. For instance, if your plan stipulates a death benefit of $500,000 and you need LTC, you will receive a benefit of $10,000 monthly for LTC. In case you will not need LTC, your beneficiaries will receive $500,000 upon your death.


For those who have neglected the task of preparing sufficiently, self-insuring is the only choice. The rich, on the other hand, can opt for self-insurance without affecting their finances. Read this Forbes article: Can You Self-Insure for Long-Term Care?


An alternative plan is to buy into a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRCs) which provide different services in the locality as well as enhanced quality of care according to the changing needs. Nevertheless, CCRC’s charge high entrance fees and monthly charges, ranging from $100,000 to $1 million entrance fees and from $3,000 to $5,000 monthly changes which may increase with time.


You final choice is to avail of Medicaid. To qualify, you should have limited income and resources which may require spending down majority of your assets. Likewise, Medicaid might not satisfy some costs of your long‐term care needs; hence, preventing you from getting the quality of life you aim for.


Long-Term Care Requirements will Impact Family Relationships


Planning for long-term care will not only affect a family’s financial resources but also cause emotional and physical stress for family members who must assist overworked caregivers. With children in the picture as well, an individual may have to set his or her life on hold. Hence, not only is the caregiver affected but also the spouse and the children. When care is not equally shared among members, conflicts and squabbles may arise, sometimes even leading to estrangement. In short, LTC may have the potential to shatter families.


Essential Planning Tip #3: Avoid Splurging Your Money in Retirement


Many get into the trap of splurging away their money once they retire.


Having a sound budget in retirement helps prevent a person to commit the worst mistake ever – spending too much money too soon.


Overspending is a kiss of death for retirees. Prepare a list all of your monthly, quarterly or annual needs and divide into two classes: (1) Needs – such as food, rental or mortgage, transportation and healthcare. Account for any increase in healthcare cost. (2) Wants – such as hobbies, travel, sports and social affiliations.


For those who have been used to exorbitant payments for car and house obligations, changing your lifestyle may be only the solution. The key is to accept the realities of retirement life and then resolve to reduce your fixed expenses to free more funds for the things you truly enjoy.


Avoid the temptation to unnecessarily support the needs and wants of grown-up children and grandchildren. This happens so often to so many people in retirement.


Take the case of a lady who had taken a pension buyout from a private company. With her sizeable IRA, she felt she could adequately provide for her children. Thus, she overspent on her daughter’s wedding and kept saving her son from his financial straits. In short, before realizing it, she had spent too much too soon. Although we all feel we need to go out on a limb to help out our children, we should do so without endangering our own essential needs. Rarely, if ever, are there second chances in retirement.