Retirement, or Financial Independence, is a relatively new concept here in the U.S. Retirement used to be pretty simple: you step away from the company where you spent your entire career and they rewarded you with a pension check in the mail every month. That was really all there was to it from a financial standpoint. With people now living longer and a shift from employer sponsored pension plans to defined contribution plans (401(k)s, 403(b)s, etc.), people are now responsible for the success of their own retirement more than ever before. Listed below are risks that are unique to retirees, with explanations on ways that these risks can be mitigated.
Put simply, longevity risk is the risk of outliving your assets. According to the Social Security Administration, life expectancy for someone born in 1930 was only 58 for men and 62 for women. Now 1 in 4 people who reach age 65 will live past age 90, and 1 in 10 will live past age 95. One of the primary ways to combat this risk is to plan for longevity. When we create financial plans for clients, it is our standard to run the plan until the youngest client reaches age 95 at the minimum. Planning for a longer time horizon forces a retiree to be more conservative when pulling from their investment portfolio throughout retirement.
Inflation reduces the purchasing power of a dollar as goods and services increase in price over time. In your working years, inflation may not be as critical of an issue as many workers see cost of living adjustments to their salary. When you’re retired and not earning a salary anymore, it’s important that whatever sources of income you have, keep up with inflation. Social Security has a built-in cost of living adjustment that has historically been around 2% per year. Some government or employer-sponsored pension plans have living adjustments associated with them as well, but they are fairly uncommon and the adjustments are usually less than inflation. One way to help your investment portfolio keep up with inflation is by having a portion of your portfolio invested in stocks. Stocks have historically helped hedge inflation risk.
Long-Term Care Risk
Long-term care risk goes hand-in-hand with longevity risk. As our society continually makes medical advancements, we are able to live longer, but for some this may come at a cost. Many elderly people no longer have the ability to care for themselves, and they have to rely on either family members or professional caretakers to watch over them. According to a study by AARP, 66% of people aged 65 in 2005 will need some type of long-term care during their lifetime. Long-term care insurance policies are the primary way to mitigate this risk, but they are expensive and many people don’t like the “use it or lose it” terms of these policies. Therefore, life and long-term care insurance hybrid policies have recently become more popular. These policies allow you to access the death benefit for long-term care needs while you are still living, yet still provide a death benefit to your beneficiary after you pass away if you do not end up requiring long-term care.
Financial Elder Abuse Risk
A growing risk that retirees face is financial elder abuse. Financial elder abuse occurs when someone tries to take advantage of an elderly person for their own financial gain. What many people don’t know is that elder abuse most often comes from family members! One way to help prevent elder abuse is to simplify your finances as you get older. The less accounts a retiree has, the less accounts they have to monitor. Another way is to work with a trusted financial advisor, who can act as a safeguard if bad actors are trying to swindle money away from those who are no longer able to track their finances as easily as they have in the past.
Sequence of Returns Risk
As we all know, investment returns are unpredictable. We often have very little warning when an event like the 2008 Financial Crisis will occur and send global stock markets tumbling. Negative returns in the first few years of retirement can be detrimental to the success of a retirement plan. It is important to make sure you have a well-diversified portfolio heading into retirement with a mixture of stocks, bonds, and cash. If the stock market were to decline while you’re pulling money from the portfolio, you need conservative investments to draw from so you can allow the stocks to recover.
Loss of Spouse Risk
Losing a spouse can be a turbulent point in anyone’s life. It can be very hard to make sure you have your financial house in order after enduring such a tragic event, especially if the recently deceased spouse handled all of the finances. One of the best ways to ensure the surviving spouse maintains their level of lifestyle is to have a comprehensive financial and estate plan. Hiring a financial advisor in retirement gives the surviving spouse an advocate in such a trying time. The advisor should help create a plan to ensure the surviving spouse has enough assets and income streams to not alter their lifestyle.
If you or anyone you know is nearing retirement, contact Sharkey, Howes & Javer to meet with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and develop a financial plan that helps mitigate these and other retirement risks.