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When it Comes to Having an Investment Advisor…is Nice, Enough?

Recently I had a Get Her Done Chat with a lovely lady named Susan who’s turning 60 soon. She’s starting to think seriously about retirement (because she’s been watching me and all my tips on YouTube and TikTok).

She has $500,000 managed by one of the big investment firms and she’s paying a 1.5% management fee. That’s $7,500 per annum or $625/month. Not an insignificant amount. However, fees are an issue in the absence of value.

I asked her what services the advisor is providing (i.e. value)? Other than meeting once a year to review her portfolio and making some adjustments, she really couldn’t come up with any other value.

She also admitted she doesn’t really understand what the firm/advisor is doing with her money, or why. She did say the advisor, who she’s had for several years, is likable and nice.

But….when it comes to your money and retirement, is nice enough?

We talked a bit more, and it became clear the nice advisor has never had the proper money and retirement conversation (nor provided any education). A conversation and education that my new friend Susan really needs (and deserves), by the way.

Me: “So has your advisor brought up (and educated you about)…

  • Retirement risks and how to mitigate them? Longevity, volatility, sequence of return, inflation, interest rates, etc.?
  • Optimized retirement portfolios?
  • Retirement income planning (generating protected income for life)?
  • Social Security timing & maximization?
  • Healthcare planning?
  • Long-term care planning?
  • Life insurance planning?
  • Tax planning for retirement?
  • Using home equity as an income buffer?
  • Estate planning?
  • Non-financial topics such as: lifestyle planning (where you’ll live, what you’ll do, purpose, mental and physical health, social connections, etc.)?

Susan: “Nope. Nada. Just my investments. I did ask him about Social Security and he said I can take it whenever I feel like it (me: ugh). I also asked him about annuities and he said, “Run. If anyone ever brings up annuities to you, run away from that advisor.”  (me: ugh again)

Before I could respond, Susan added, “I don’t even know when I can retire or how much money I can take from my 401k or when? Or if, god forbid, I run out of money and become a bag lady. I’m just feeling a little panicked and the thought of not having a regular paycheck from working is frightening.”

Wow…so much to unpack from her response. It was crystal clear that Susan’s nice advisor was clueless about retirement planning. As I explained to Susan, “There’s many, many investment-only advisors. This doesn’t make him bad at his job. I’m not here to judge that. It just makes him inappropriate for the “retirement planning” job you need done now. And, for an equal to or potentially lower fee than what you’re currently paying, you could be benefiting from FULL retirement planning vs. just investment advice.”

Susan decided to schedule another chat with me to dig into her details (yay). I encouraged her to take my free Her Retirement Masterclass and to check out a preview of my retirement readiness software platform before our next chat.

I explained that getting foundational retirement literacy is a key part of the Her Retirement process. This will allow her to have more informed conversations with retirement experts and make more informed decisions. She’ll also be taking a complete financial inventory within my software and will benefit from a personalized G.R.O.W. guide the software produces for her. The guide will identify her Gaps, Risks and Opportunities, which is a foundational element to her ultimate retirement plan.

I’m looking forward to being an active listener and collaborator with Susan on her journey to “more.”

Unfortunately, there’s many conversations going on across the country that are similar to Susan’s with her investment advisor. Approximately 5,200 women are turning 60 every day in the United States.  It scares me to think of the lost opportunity many women will have to improve their retirement outcome, simply because they aren’t getting the quality advice and education around retirement they deserve. Sometimes, it’s simply because they don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t know who to turn to and who to trust.

In addition, as the Great Wealth Transfer unfolds over the next decade, women will become increasingly vulnerable as they inherit significant wealth. This demographic shift, which will see trillions of dollars transferred from the older generation to their heirs, places women at a unique risk. Many women, especially those who may not have been the primary financial decision-makers in their households, could find themselves navigating unfamiliar financial terrain. This vulnerability is exacerbated by the potential influx of unscrupulous advisors looking to exploit their lack of financial literacy or experience. These predatory advisors may offer seemingly attractive financial products or services with hidden fees, poor returns, or outright fraud. It is crucial for women to seek out trustworthy, transparent, and knowledgeable financial/retirement advisors to safeguard their newfound wealth and ensure their financial security for the future.

My mission with Her Retirement is to encourage more women to become students and stewards of their life and retirement. With my “More for Her Movement,” I want all women to Know More. Have More & Live More (now and in retirement).

I also connect women with professionals who are nice AND knowledgeable about all this retirement planning stuff…while also providing A LOT more value than the average Joe investment advisor. If you’re a single or suddenly single professional woman who wants more, I can help you Get Her Done.  Reach out because no, nice is not enough.

 

 

Perks of Starting an Encore Career!

In a previous blog, we looked at the benefits of a Phased Retirement.  Basically, the main benefit was to keep the mind active and help the recent retiree have a purpose in their daily life.  Another route to fulfill these needs can be through an encore career.  There are many different ways to fulfill this, either through paid or unpaid, new or known career knowledge.  Below we highlight a few ways to start an encore career.

  • Volunteer Work: For those who are truly financially independent in their retirement, meaning they have enough to live the life they envisioned or are comfortable in their retirement life, volunteer work is a great way to keep the mind active and have a feeling of purpose, like they are making a difference in their weekly life. Volunteer work is also fulfilling because the retiree can choose which field they would like to work in, such as volunteering in the field of early childhood or helping those struggling to get back on their feet.  This flexibility may help the recent retiree feel fulfilled and passionate about what they are doing with their golden years.
  • Turning a hobby into a business: This is a path that many experts warn to think through carefully, because far too many people have plunged their entire retirement savings into a passionate hobby that simply didn’t turn into a business. But if the retiree has a limit of what they are willing to invest in their new visionary business, then this may be a path that is very fulfilling!  A hobby, such as knitting or gardening, in today’s internet age, can take off to a whole new sphere of success!  And doing what one loves (such as in the field of volunteer work) AND receiving a supplemental income from it can seem like a win-win: extra money and a passionate reason to get out of bed each morning.
  • Phased Retirement: As mentioned in a previous blog, phased retirement can benefit the retiree because they are able to stay active, it is in a field that they have vast knowledge in and they can receive a supplemental, part time income (depending on how many hours are scaled back). The need to have a weekly purpose is easily fulfilled and is an easier path than starting a new business.
  • A part time career: This is one that is most familiar to retirees, be it a greeter at a store, a cashier at the local grocery store or some other part time job, many retirees find this the easiest path to transition into.  There is no great commitment or taxing work to be done, but includes a flexible schedule and some form of supplemental income.  There are many businesses that actually look for recent retirees because they find that they are more dependable than some teenage part time workers and that they are flexible are in their schedule.
  • A brand new career: Similar to a part time career, this entails going into a new field, possibly an earlier passion that may not have been financially possible before. For example, being a tour guide at a local museum or national park or a speaker to children at a school, about what life was like back when.  Or it could be a totally new career, such as an Uber or Lyft driver, where the hours are decided by the retiree.
  • Advisor: Similar to a Phased Retirement path, becoming an advisor (either for a company that the retiree has worked for or a competitor) can help the retiree with supplemental income, but also to help feel needed and as if they are making a difference somewhere.

Regardless of which path the retiree chooses, we here at Her Retirement feel that staying mentally and physically active is important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle during their golden years.  Because after all, the golden years are meant to be enjoyed and to feel like there is a purpose to getting out of bed each morning.

Are you worried about outliving your retirement?

What is the number one fear of retirees?  According to a recent Allianz study, 60% of individuals’ feared that they would outlive their income or their portfolios’ ability to create an income for the remainder of their life.  According to research conducted by Transamerican Center for Retirement Studies, only 11% of people have even thought about how much they should invest in their retirement.  But of those who have already begun to plan on how much they’ll need for retirement, half admit that they are merely guessing as to how much they’ll actually need.  To continue with this study, 61% cited that they have a retirement strategy, but only 14% have it written down somewhere.  And less than a quarter have a Plan B in case their retirement plan doesn’t pan out.

To look at the current soon-to-be retirees, there are 76 million individuals who are part of the “Baby Boom” generation (those who were born shortly after the end of World War II). Yet these Baby Boomers are facing unprecedented hurdles when it comes to planning for their retirement:

  1. Previously dependable retirement income is disappearing or becoming less dependable (i.e. Social Security). 55% of those categorized as moderate wealthy consumers, felt they were more likely to be struck by lightning than to receive what they were promised from Social Security).
  2. With less dependable retirement income, such as Social Security, more Baby Boomers are forced to privately and personally finance their retirement.
  3. Increased life expectancy from previous retirees.

According to the Allianz study, Americans fear that a retirement crisis is developing (92% among all applicants and 97% of those in their late 40s), 61% were more scared of outliving their retirement income than facing death.  Among those aged in their late 40s, this number rose to 77%.

With all this uncertainty about traditional retirement planning being sufficient for the future, it is no wonder that many soon to be retirees are apprehensive about what the future will bring.  The good news is that there are financial experts to help guide those who are beginning or have been planning their retirement financing.  In order to quell the worry, make sure that your retirement affairs are in order and are working the hardest they can to keep you safe and secure during your most enjoyable years.

A Soon-to-Be Retiree’s Guide to a Crazy Market

Nearing retirement? When the stock market tanks … Do. Not. Panic. according to this CNN Money article…

You’ve heard that before. But it’s hard to sit tight during a market freakout if you’re closing in on retirement. Losing a big chunk of your savings now could be devastating.

Retirees should avoid drawing from investments (in other words, selling stocks) when the market is down. It’s the same golden rule you’ve followed all along, but it gets trickier once you need to use the money in your nest egg — and have fewer years for your investments to bounce back. Read more…

Once you’ve read the article, contact us for a complimentary consultation with one of our affiliate retirement specialists. He/she can review your portfolio and allocations to make sure you’re in the strongest position possible in any market. Even if you have an advisor, it’s always a good idea to get a second opinion.

When Is 6% Versus 7% a Better Rate of Return???

When utilizing proper Gamma retirement planning strategies an investor can experience significant positive effect when taking income from their retirement portfolio.  Most advisors today don’t employ a Gamma-Optimized strategy

“When it comes to generating retirement income, investors arguably spend most time and effort on selecting ‘good’ investment fund/managers – the so called Alpha decision – as well as the asset allocation, or Beta decision. However, Alpha and Beta are just two elements of a myriad of important financial planning decisions for the average investor, many of which can have a far more significant impact on retirement income.”  -David Blanchette, CFA, CFP , Head of Retirement Research at Morningstar Investment Management and Paul Kaplan , Ph.D., CFA, director of research for Morningstar Canada

A research report written by David Blanchette, CFA, CFP, head of retirement research at Morningstar Investment Management and Paul Kaplan , Ph.D., CFA, director of research for Morningstar Canada entitled;  Alpha, Beta, and Now …Gamma, explains that most retirees and their advisors are still focused on Alpha and Beta planning strategies which focus solely on investment management decisions when developing a retirement income plan. Both Alpha and Beta are statistical portfolio measurements. Alpha (negative or positive) measures manager effect within the portfolio, while Beta measures the risk or volatility of an investment portfolio versus a representative benchmark. Their research and paper concluded that utilizing a new statistical measurement they call Gamma (the effect that different retirement planning variables have on a retirement income plan) can now be confidently utilized for retirement income planning. As they explain, “We estimate a retiree can expect to generate 22.6% more in certainty equivalent income utilizing a Gamma-Efficient retirement income strategy when compared to our base scenario (traditional investment strategy only: Alpha/Beta planning). This addition in certainty-equivalent income has the same impact on expected utility as an annual arithmetic return increase of 1.59%”.

This is certainly an eye opening conclusion to an extremely thorough and riveting research report on Retirement Income Planning that absolutely validates why Her Retirement’s pragmatic and research based approach to retirement income planning works so well. The difference is that Her Retirement has looked at the  research of Blanchette, Kaplan, Finke, Phau, and Milevsky, as well as many others over the years, and developed a pragmatic approach that incorporates many of the same principles and strategies for maximizing a retirees’ retirement outcome.

Volatility and Sequence of Return Risk Must Be Part of the Equation

As a quick reference, recent research has indicated that when a retiree begins to take income from their portfolio it’s imperative to reduce volatility in the portfolio in order to increase the portfolio’s survival rate. The evidence concludes that for any stated rate of return, the portfolio with the lowest volatility will survive the longest when taking income from the portfolio. On the converse, the portfolio with the highest volatility will suffer portfolio failure the quickest.  With this knowledge, we constructed a portfolio to statistically reduce risk, to the greatest extent possible, while offering the highest return for that risk. Our recommendation was to utilize a moderate portfolio consisting of 50% diversified stocks and a 50% position in Equity Index Annuities (EIAs) linked to various globally diversified indexes.

In addition, a major risk that must be calculated to assess its effect on a retirement projection is Sequence of Return Risk. This is the risk that a portfolio will suffer major losses in the early years of retirement. This event would be known as “negative” Sequence of Return Risk and would have a negative effect on the survival rate of the portfolio (i.e. the portfolio would have a much shorter lifespan and a retiree would run out of money far sooner). On the converse, there is “positive” Sequence of Return Risk where the portfolio has tremendous upside growth in the early years or retirement. In a positive sequence of return environment a retirement portfolio would experience much greater potential portfolio survival (i.e. the portfolio would last much longer while taking income from the portfolio).

An “average” Sequence of Return Risk is a market environment where there is average or lower overall volatility in the portfolio which would give the portfolio moderate survival ability while taking income from the portfolio.

In summary, depending on the market environment (negative, positive or average) what the retiree experiences early in their income phase will have a direct effect on the portfolio survival rate…even with identical portfolio returns over the long term.  A retirement income projection analysis must calculate the effect Sequence of Return Risk has on the long term survivability of a retirement portfolio. This will assure the highest probability of portfolio survival based upon the income strategy employed.

Based upon the below retirement projection, one can see how the practical application and effect  of a Gamma-Efficient retirement income strategy can have greater impact on income when compared to a traditional Alpha Beta strategy that is employed by most retirees and advisors today.  In this recently completed retirement projection for a new client we found the following:

After projecting the client’s traditional Alpha Beta retirement strategy (the “before” scenario), we reallocated the client’s current 80% diversified stock and 20% diversified bond portfolio to a more conservative allocation that would offer less return, but would dramatically reduce the portfolio’s volatility, while also offering reasonable growth potential.  The client’s retirement projection variable was reset to the “new” reallocated portfolio and the results of the “before and after” are quite compelling.

The Results Speak for Themselves

The retirement projection assumptions utilized for this analysis were as follows:

Rate of Return Estimates –
Global Stock Portfolio @ 8% net
Global Bond Portfolio @ 3% net
Equity Index Annuity @ 4% net

Current Portfolio at 80% global stocks and 20% bonds = 7% melded return estimate (net)
Proposed Portfolio at 50% global stocks and 50% EIAs = 6% melded return estimate (net)

Additional Assumptions –

The client is currently 53 years old and preparing to retire at age 62 with a net retirement income need of $5,000 per month. We inflated her income needs at a 3% adjustment per year beginning immediately in the projection.  Her current portfolio is valued at $450,107. She also has a small pension that will begin at age 65 paying her $11,124 annually. As well, the client will begin taking Social Security income at age 62 in the amount of $2,473 per month with a 2% cost of living pay increase per year. The client also has $25,000 per year rental income. We increased the rental property income at 1% cost of living adjustment. The analysis will also assume a marginal tax rate of 17%.

All these assumptions and variables were entered into our Retirement Income Projection Analysis (RIPA) system and here are the results:

The Results – Results presented on both a negative and average Sequence of Return environment

Negative Sequence:
Current Scenario – Age 90 Client Runs Out of Money
Proposed Scenario – Age 90 Client has $818,887

Average Sequence:
Current Scenario – Age 95 Client has $1,355,620
Proposed Scenario – Age 95 Client has $1,625,598

As we see by the above results, it’s imperative to develop a strategy that will utilize risk reducing investment vehicles to assure an income portfolio’s survival over the long term. Traditional stock and bond growth strategies employed by most are not enough. A Gamma-Efficient portfolio strategy must be utilized to assure the highest probability of portfolio survival.

Why 6% is better than 7%?

A new paradigm needs a new strategy:  growth vs. income planning; Alpha Beta planning vs. Alpha Beta and Gamma strategies to generate a better retirement outcome.

As Blanchette & Kaplan explain, “Alpha and Beta are at the heart of traditional performance analysis; however, as we demonstrate, they are just one of the many important financial planning decisions, such as savings and withdrawal strategies, that can have a substantial impact on the retirement outcome for an investor.”

The above “current vs. proposed” is a very real and very typical scenario with many retirees. In most, if not all cases, the results will be the same… math is math and there’s really not much debate in how numbers calculate. This is an important and valuable outcome scenario where a combined stock and equity index annuity portfolio (generating a 6% return) is clearly better than a stock and bond portfolio (with a 7% return).

We have witnessed clients that are “annuity phobic” due to all the media’s misinformation and hype, as well as the all stock proponents who wrongfully claim that all annuities are too expensive.  We’ve also witnessed clients that are “stock phobic” due to more rhetoric about how one can lose all their money in the stock market and stocks are no place for retirees to invest due to the risk. We purport that the best approach is a combination approach (based on research and factual numbers, not hearsay).

We also suggest several additional Gamma strategies/products to further increase the portfolio’s life expectancy:

Single Premium Immediate Annuities (SPIAs)
Dynamic Withdrawal vs. Traditional Static Withdrawal
Sound Social Security planning with sophisticated Social Security timing software

At Her Retirement we focus on the same five important financial planning decisions/techniques as suggested by Blanchette & Kaplan’s Alpha, Beta and now…Gamma research:

1) A total wealth framework to determine the optimal asset allocation
2) A dynamic withdrawal strategy
3) Guaranteed income products (i.e., annuities)
4) Tax efficient allocation decisions
5) Portfolio optimization that includes a proxy for the investor’s implicit and/or explicit liabilities

“We believe retirees deserve an investment and income planning experience that is founded on long-term, research and evidence-based results NOT rhetoric.  And we’re committed to providing this for them.” -Her Retirement

Part 3: Americans fear outliving their income more than they fear death… Have You Been Putting Off a Retirement Evaluation? The Truth will Empower You.

Part 3 of a 3 part series of articles on the value of retirement evaluations

The Value of a Retirement Portfolio Review…uncovering a portfolio’s true value

As stated in part 2 of this series of articles, it’s amazing that most individuals spend more time planning their summer vacation than planning their retirement.

When meeting with potential clients, the primary focus of our first introduction meeting (or complimentary consultation) is to discuss the client’s current retirement situation, including their investments, their retirement goals and aspirations, and risk tolerance. The primary focus of this initial consultation is to find out if the client and/or their advisor has run a recent portfolio evaluation, at least on an annual basis. This is extremely important in the retirement planning process because without an annual review of the current portfolio, one cannot ascertain whether the asset allocation is correct or not.  For instance, proper asset allocation looks at how much stock, bonds, international stock, small cap or large cap stock are in the portfolio and at what percentage. Without this review, an individual could be too heavily weighted in one particular area or another, while also assuming too much risk or not enough risk to get the return they need.

It’s also imperative to look at each individual stock, bond or mutual fund position on a micro analysis level to assure each component or each manager or stock or bond is performing to its maximum ability. For instance, we frequently explain to clients that there’s two types of returns: absolute return and relative return. Absolute return simply tells you that you earned a 5% return over the past five years, but there is no context nor any ability with an absolute return to determine if this 5% was good, bad or ugly. An absolute return tells us nothing.

The more important factor to look at is relative return which tells you how well your portfolio is doing, or how well each individual component within the portfolio performed against the appropriate benchmark. This is the more important factor when reviewing a portfolio on a regular basis. This tells the true story. When looking at relative returns, for instance, that same five year period we discussed in the absolute return section above the results look a little different.  If over the past five years you got the same 5% return, but the appropriate benchmark did 4%, that means you out performed that benchmark on a relative basis by 1% a year over a five year period. That would be a positive relative return performance. However, if you did that same 5% return and you weighted it against the appropriate benchmark, and the appropriate benchmark did 6.25% return over that same period of time, you would have a negative relative return over that five year period of minus 1.25%.

So as you can see, it’s imperative when working with an advisor or doing your own investing, that you perform an overview of your portfolio on a regular basis to assure your asset allocation is appropriate for whatever stage of life you’re in. It’s also absolutely essential that you do both a micro and macro component review against the appropriate benchmarks on a regular basis to maintain the positive relative performance on the portfolio over time.

This is the next factor that is extremely important to understand. When working with your own investments, or with a financial professional or advisor, make sure that you prepare (or have he/she prepare) these relative performance reports and portfolio overviews at least annually. And if you’re not getting this done, our advisors can offer a comprehensive current portfolio analysis to show you how has your portfolio performed based upon the exact make-up of your portfolio over the past year or years.  A 1% positive relative return versus a minus 1% negative relative return means a tremendous amount of additional monies in your pocket while in retirement, and it’s essential to the overall longevity and survival rate of your portfolio.

The second piece to the equation in the complementary consultation is running a sophisticated retirement projection.  The retirement projection takes all factors into consideration such as inflation, estimated rates of return, volatility of the portfolio, Social Security income, pension income, and any and all other factors entered into the system. We then project out your retirement income needs to assure that your portfolio and your overall retirement income scenario will continue and your income will continue for your entire lifetime.  Not all retirement projections are created equally.  Let us repeat, not all retirement projections are created equally. There is a definite advantage to using a more sophisticated retirement projection analysis system, especially when it comes to tracking the volatility of a portfolio within the projection and looking at what is known as Monte Carlo simulations, or viewing your portfolio and testing it in retirement against sequence of return risks.  If your retirement projection has a straight line percentage and does not factor in volatility, either through Monte Carlo simulation or sequence of return risk environment simulations, then the projection is really not giving you what you need.

It’s extremely perplexing when a perspective client nearing retirement does not take this complimentary consultation offer into consideration. Especially after we discover that they or their advisor have never done a retirement income projection, looking at absolute and relative return results. This is the most important and crucial step in determining where an individual is with regards to their retirement planning. Once again, it’s imperative to understand where you are with your portfolio, to maximize the returns within that portfolio, as well as understanding where you are currently in your retirement planning process. Will your portfolio last to age 100? Will your portfolio last until age 80? These are crucial questions that must be answered in advance of retirement. Our advisors provide a complementary consultation to assess each individual’s current portfolio and retirement projection values and needs. Don’t you owe it to yourself to make this happen? If you or a friend of family member could benefit from this complimentary consultation, let us know.