“Failure,” according to a quote attributed to Gene Kranz, the flight director of Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle missions, “is not an option.”
And the same can be said of your retirement. Failure is not really an option.
Trouble is, many people who are saving for retirement (and retirees, for that matter) don’t have the knowledge or the tools to make sure they reach their target as did so many Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle missions.
So, what can you do to make sure your retirement is a success?
Get smart: There’s no getting around it according to billboards from Prudential: “WE SPND MRE TME SPLL CHEKING THAN PLANNING FOR RETIREMENT.” If you want to enjoy the same (or perhaps even better) standard of living in retirement as you had when you were working, binge not on The Staircase but on a personal finance/retirement book or two.
Or maybe enroll in an Introduction to Financial Planning course. Here are the listings of institutions that have registered a financial planning curriculum that satisfies CFP Board’s education coursework requirement. You don’t have to become a CFP. Just take the intro course. That should be more than enough help you get smart and inspire you to start planning for your retirement. (And along the way don’t forget that old military saying: Proper preparation prevents poor performance.)
Get help. To be fair, I’m not suggesting that you become a do-it-yourselfer. Retirement planning is confusing, complicated and filled with contradictions. And you’ll really only know if you’ve made a mistake when it’s too late to do anything about it. So, long before you decide to claim Social Security, consider hiring or consulting with competent and qualified financial professional who can help you decide how much to save for retirement, how to invest your money, how to diversify your assets among different types of retirement accounts (tax-free, tax-deferred, and taxable), and so on. Talk to someone who can help you figure out what your expenses will be in retirement and what sources of income you’ll use to fund your desired standard of living.
In our webcast TODAY, for instance, we discuss with Sharon Carson, a retirement strategist and executive director at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, the notion that retirees are afraid to spend down their assets in retirement. To be sure, there are many logical reasons why retirees don’t spend their assets. They face several risks — uncertain life span, uncertain medical expenses, and uncertain market returns.
But having a retirement-income plan in place that addresses retirement risks will give you the confidence you need to spend down your assets and not sacrifice your standard of living. An adviser can help your create and monitor such a plan.
An adviser can also help you navigate the complicated world of Social Security, when to claim, what’s the difference between spousal/divorcee benefits and survivors benefits, and so on.
Also in this webcast, Rob Kron, head of investment and retirement education for BlackRock, talks about how ill-informed retirees are about Social Security survivor benefits. For instance, many spouses are unaware of the adverse effect of the primary wage earner claiming Social Security early: they are reducing permanently their spouse’s survivors benefit. An adviser can walk pre-retirees through the ins and outs of Social Security and help them avoid costly and often irreversible mistakes.
Advisers can also help IRA owners decide whether to recharacterize their Roth IRA conversions or use a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) for instance. Beverly DeVeny, director of retirement education at Ed Slott and Company, discusses in the webcast how retirees can reduce their taxable income by using a QCD and satisfy charitable inclinations.