Q&A: Keeping pace with retirement saving

Dear Liz: My wife is distressed by your recent column about how many multiples of salary are needed to retire. She interpreted the column as saying you must have the sum total of those numbers. So if you need one times your salary saved at 30, three times by 40, six times at 50 and eight times at 60, she thinks you would need 18 times your salary in total by age 60, or $1.8 million if you earn $100,000. I interpreted it to mean that your target would be $800,000 at age 60. Am I wrong?

Answer: You are interpreting the guidelines correctly: You would need eight times your salary at 60, not 18 times. The numbers, by the way, come from Fidelity Investments and are meant as general guidelines for people hoping to retire at 67 (at which point, Fidelity says they should have 10 times their salaries saved). Your needs may vary; some people will need less, some will need more. People who have large traditional defined benefit pensions, for example, may not need to save as much, while those who want to retire early or indulge in expensive hobbies, such as traveling or supporting adult children, may need to save more.

Guidelines tend to be the most helpful when you’re many years away from retirement and only guessing about how much money you’ll need. Once you’re five to 10 years from your desired retirement age, you should have a better handle on your likely expenses and sources of income. Well before you actually retire, though, you should consider consulting with a fee-only, fiduciary financial planner for a second opinion on your retirement plans. (“Fee only” means the advisor is compensated only by fees paid by clients, rather than through commissions or other arrangements. “Fiduciary” means the advisor is required to put your interests first.)

The National Assn. of Personal Financial Advisors, the XY Planning Network and the Garrett Planning Network all represent fee-only planners and can offer referrals.

How to nag new coworkers to save for retirement

he most important thing you can say to a new hire may well be: “Have you signed up for the 401(k) yet?”

An astounding 3 out of 10 workers don’t know whether their employers offer retirement plans, according to a survey by research firm Morning Consult for the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.

“That was, quite frankly, shocking,” says Kevin Keller, the board’s CEO. “But it clearly shows that people just don’t know what their options are.”

In my latest for the Associated Press, tips on convincing your younger co-workers to save for retirement.

Q&A:Ready to retire? If you’ve saved 8 times your salary by age 60, maybe

Dear Liz: I keep reading about how much money one should have saved at various ages to comfortably retire. These are usually a multiple of your annual salary. Do these projected amounts factor in whether you are single or married with a single income? Or if you still have a mortgage? What about having to take a lower-paying job in future years because of downsizing? Is Social Security included? It’s tough to know what these suggested amounts assume to know, given that each person’s situation is different.

Answer: Exactly. So it’s smart to do a little digging.

Fidelity Investments, for example, has come up with some salary-based rules that suggest you have an amount equal to:

One time your salary by age 30

Three times your salary by age 40

Six times your salary by age 50

Eight times your salary by age 60 and

10 times your salary by age 67.

Fidelity assumes you’ll want your standard of living to continue basically unchanged in retirement. Its rules are based on a number of factors, including a 1.5% real wage growth throughout one’s working life, a 15% savings rate starting at age 25, claiming retirement and Social Security at age 67 and a portfolio invested at least 50% in stocks that replaces 45% of your individual income in retirement. Fidelity used multiple market simulations “to support a 90% confidence level of success.”

Few people’s lives will follow an idealized trajectory. For example, many people who enter their 50s with full-time jobs will lose them, and only 1 in 10 will find a new one that earns as much, according to a study by ProPublica and the Urban Institute. You can’t know for sure how long you’ll live, what investment returns you’ll get, whether you’ll need long-term care (although that’s likely) or even what your fixed expenses will be, at least until you’re relatively close to retirement.

People also will have vastly different needs and interests in retirement. A thrifty homebody will probably need less than a globe-trotting spender. Working at least part time in retirement also can shift the math in your favor because you’ll need to draw less from your retirement funds.

What we do know is that people who save a lot tend to have more options as they age. And once you reach your 50s, you’d be smart to consult a fee-only financial planner who can give you a second opinion on your retirement plans to ensure you’re on track.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Baffled by points and miles? Let the 80/20 rule guide you. Also in the news: How to turn around car payment trouble, 7 ways to make your money last in retirement, and 8 ways to save on wedding gifts.

Baffled by Points and Miles? Let the 80/20 Rule Guide You
The Pareto principle.

Car Payment Trouble? How to Turn It Around
Taking back control.

7 Ways to Make Your Money Last in Retirement
Budgeting for the future.

8 Ways to Save on Wedding Gifts
Great presents that won’t break the bank.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 7 ways to make your money last in retirement. Also in the news: 5 money strategies for military deployments, 9 housing and mortgage trends for the rest of 2019, and how to protect yourself from gas pump skimmers.

7 Ways to Make Your Money Last in Retirement
Strategies for the long haul.

5 Money Strategies for Military Deployments
Managing the homefront.

9 Housing and Mortgage Trends for the Rest of 2019
What’s hot in the market.

How to Protect Yourself From Gas Pump Skimmers
Be on the lookout.

Make your money last in retirement

Many people worry about running out of money in retirement. That’s understandable, since we don’t know how long we’ll live, what your future costs might be and what kind of returns we can expect on our savings.

There are several ways, however, to boost the odds that your money will last as long as you need it. In my latest for the Associated Press, how to make your money last in your retirement.

Q&A: Working after retirement

Dear Liz: My profession was one of the hardest hit by the Great Recession. I retired by default when I turned 62 in 2012. My Social Security payment was reduced because I started it early. I’ve found it necessary to return to the workforce part time to move beyond just surviving and have some discretionary funds. What does my employment mean for future Social Security payments?

Answer: You’re past your “full retirement age” of 66, so you no longer face the earnings test that can reduce your Social Security benefit by $1 for every $2 you earn over a certain limit ($17,640 in 2019).

Sometimes returning to work — or continuing to work after you start receiving Social Security — can increase your benefit if you had some low- or no-wage years in your work history. Social Security uses your 35 highest-earning years to calculate your checks. The amounts are adjusted to reflect changes in average wages, which is somewhat similar to an inflation adjustment. If you should earn more this year than you did in one of those previous years, your current earnings would replace that year’s earnings in the calculation and could increase your check.

Another way to boost your benefit if you’ve reached full retirement age but are not yet 70 is to suspend it. That means going without checks for a while, but your benefit earns delayed retirement credits that can increase the amount by 2/3 of 1% each month, or 8% a year. It may not be practical for you to do this: You probably need the money, and you could be too close to 70 to get much benefit. But perhaps that’s not the case for someone else reading this.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Why you should shop for a car loan before going to the dealership. Also in the news: The lowdown on new tools to jump-start your credit, 7 Father’s Day gift ideas under $50, and the best beach towns to spend your retirement.

Car Buyers’ Best Cost-Saving Move: Shop for a Loan First
Don’t put yourself at the mercy of the dealership.

The Lowdown on New Tools to Jump-Start Your Credit
The pros and cons.

7 Father’s Day Gift Ideas Under $50
It’s the thought that counts.

Dream of spending your retirement on the beach? Here are the best towns
Spending your golden years on the sand.

Don’t believe these Social Security myths

Researchers tell us that most people would be better off waiting to claim Social Security benefits. Yet most people file early.

More than half apply for Social Security before they reach full retirement age, which is currently 66 and rising to 67 for people born in 1960 and later. More than 30% apply as soon as they can — at age 62. Only about one in 25 applicants waits until age 70, when monthly benefits max out.

Some people have little choice, of course. They may have no savings and no job. Others have better options than applying early, but don’t realize it.

In my latest for the Associated Press, the myths surrounding Social Security.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What you need to know about working in retirement. Also in the news: 5 reasons to keep renting, how one couple paid off $33K of debt in 18 months, and how to opt of out Chase’s new binding arbitration rule.

What You Need to Know About Working in Retirement
Things to consider as you make your retirement plans.

5 reasons to keep renting
The flexibilities and amenities.

How I Ditched Debt: ‘It Made Our Marriage So Strong’
One couple’s story.

How to Opt Out of Chase’s New ‘Binding Arbitration’ Rule
You have until August 7th.