Building Your Retirement Income “System”

We all need to face the fact that with modern medicine plus the desire of many people to stay active and fit that the length of our retirement, once we start it, is probably going to be a lot longer than it was for previous generations!

Let’s take a look at the current mortality tables and see what we learn.  A male 65 has a life expectancy to live to 82.2, but if he does his life expectancy now goes to age 88.9 and if he gets there his life expectancy is now 93.2!  You Go Guy! A female age 65 has an expectancy of 84.9, then it goes to 91.3 and then, lord willing, to 95.4!  You Go Girl!  The essential thought here is that we stand a good chance of being retired for a long long time!  And, we better be prepared for that!!

The secret, in our mind, is to set up and tend to your Money Buckets.  Yes, buckets, and there need to be at least three of them!  Sometimes a fourth is appropriate, depending on the retiree’s goals.  Let’s look at each bucket and its purpose in the big retirement picture.

Bucket # 1: Holds money for the early years of retirement: traditionally age 65 – 75. This bucket’s first job is to SUPPLEMENT the fixed portions of retirement income such as Social Security and Pension payments and any other regular guaranteed income streams. This bucket has a FAUCET from which is taken a steady stream of money so that the retiree’s make ends meet each month. Its’ second job is to have enough additional money so that all of the newly retired pent up needs get met: that could be painting everywhere, installing new everything, taking that long-awaited cruise, etc. Each bucket will have a DIPPER just for this purpose: dipping out some cash for “needed” items or adventures. Important thought: It Is OK if this bucket is empty when you get to Bucket # 2! That thought is LIBERATING!  That means that you and an enjoyable early retirement during the GO GO YEARS!

Bucket # 2: Holds money for the middle period of retirement: traditionally ages 75 – 85.  Its job for the first 10 years is to grow.  This takes advantage of time, compound interests, and market cycles.  When it is time to open its FAUCET it too will supplement the income stream from Social Security and Pensions, etc.  Its job is the same as the first bucket, making ends meet.  It too has a DIPPER, but it is more for emergencies and opportunities: to pay for the first and facilitate the second.  These are the SLOW GO YEARS!

Bucket # 3: Holds money for the LONGEVITY ISSUES. There are several jobs, potentially, being done by this bucket.  First, is the overall concern about paying for Long Term Care. Not a happy thought, but it will help preserve the rest of the money for Legacy and Philanthropic plans which would be a second reason for this bucket.  A third reason would be to generate an income for this period because by then buckets number 1 and 2 may have run dry.  Frequently people also want this income guaranteed for life for both of the spouses.  In other words, and income that neither of them will ever outlive.  This is done with an Annuity and often the Annuity can also take care of the Long Term Care needs, or a portion of them, as well. These are the NO GO YEARS!

Of course, each bucket has to be designed to meet the RISK TOLERANCE of each person. This system gives us more flexibility – because there are several buckets, we can manage each differently because their respective jobs are different and the last two have a long ‘runway’ before they are needed.

The diagram above will help you sort this all out and clearly depict the job, and the respective size of each bucket.  I hope this helps, and feel free to call us with any questions, thoughts or observations you may have!

Stewardship and Investing

My Partner and I are proud to be Social Entrepreneurs. Therefore, every day we talk about Sustainable, Responsible and Impact Investing (SRI).  We also talk about Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) screening and scoring.  More importantly, we talk about managing risk, rates of return, portfolio growth and retirement planning. That’s our business! Making money for our clients in a Sustainable and Responsible way.

All of these subjects come from the same source – STEWARDSHIP!  That’s ultimately the foundation of the discussion.  We can ask ourselves: “Will future generations have what they need to live a full and productive life in the future?”  The answer is evidenced by each of us, every day.  The decisions we make in our daily lives tell our story; good or bad. We will follow this truth: If it is to be it is up to me!

Stewardship means mindfully behaving in such a way that if everyone did the same, we would all be better off and our future would be bright!

How can we do this stewardship thing?  First, we must learn about the Circular Economy where there is NO Waste!  Second, we should  examine the supply chain management of corporations we buy things from. This will uncover hidden problems or harmful behaviors along the chain. The United Nations gives us a very good road map. They created the Sustainable Development Goals. They speak directly to the subject of Stewardship and show us what needs to be solved!

We can also turn to Shareholder Advocacy.  This actually FORCES Stewardship when needed!  This involves posting resolutions for corporate shareholders to vote on, in terms of continuing or stopping various corporate behaviors. This is the ‘walk softly, but carry a Big Stick’ approach to stewardship. Believe it or not, aberrant corporate behavior can be, and IS, changed every year by shareholder vote, or the threat of a shareholder vote!  We can make a difference!

There is definitely a need for an overwhelming theme of planetary stewardship.  Fortunately it is built into the SRI/ESG world by definition.  I think we should actually start taking credit for it! My first step is to start actually using the STEWARDSHIP word aloud in public.

More bad news on the student loan front

A new report out from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of the Inspector General (click here to read – it’s a long one) found proof of something we’ve been talking about with clients for a long time- Student Loan servicers, the companies responsible for managing and advising loans issued by the federal government, have been failing to give accurate information to borrowers for years.

A significant amount of the counseling we do on student loans relates to this exact issue. Many borrowers are confused by the options available, and are either looking to decrease their payments, or pay off their loans faster. Every borrower’s goals and ‘constellation’ of loans is different and requires a different approach, which makes the fact that loan servicers aren’t giving complete information that much more difficult to swallow. Even worse, there appear to have been no consequences for providing bad information to borrowers, and the government wasn’t even tracking when servicers received complaints or were out of compliance with the rules.

It still gets worse! The report finds that income driven repayment plans have been mis-calculated, resulting in higher monthly payments than borrowers would have otherwise been responsible for (an especially bad situation when working towards loan forgiveness) AND the servicers weren’t even informing people about loan forgiveness programs that they may be eligible for! A significant amount of the work we do on student loans revolves around loan forgiveness and strategies to get loans forgiven.

Even with all of that, this report still misses out on the single dirtiest trick that student loan servicers use against borrowers (because the trick is completely legal and the report examines compliance with the law, not dirty tricks): Applying excess payments to next month instead of principal. Basically, the fine print of many of the letters we’ve seen from loan servicers says that, unlike a mortgage, if you send them extra money above and beyond what you owe, rather than applying the excess to the principal of your loan (and thereby reducing the amount you owe), instead they’ll apply the excess payment to next month’s payment (which doesn’t change how much you owe – you’re just letting them hold on to your money interest free until they apply it to your loan).

If you’re in this situation, the The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a loan servicer letter template you can use to force your servicer to treat you fairly. Just make sure you keep good notes! We can’t know whether this applies to you (as you’re just reading our blog!), so if you have questions about your loans and would like us to review them for you, just click the button in the bottom right corner of the screen to book an appointment.