You have a problem. You’re nearing retirement and you haven’t yet figured out your financial picture and how you’re going to survive during retirement.

But the solution is simple. First you have to figure out the lump sum amount that, at retirement, will work in coordination with your Social Security to pay your ever-increasing expenses. Then you have to pick the correct funds, stocks, bonds, or alternative investments to ensure you’ll make more than inflation by an amount that will allow you to live comfortably in retirement. Then you have to be aware that in any year you may lose your principal by investing in bad assets, with bad people, or in a bad economy. You also need to consider your withdrawal rate in retirement and work to optimize your income by avoiding withdrawing amounts that will take a big tax hit and avoid getting penalized for not take the required minimum distribution.

Okay, so it’s not that simple. Figuring out the complex American retirement system, with its fragmented rules and laws applying to everyone a bit differently, is not easy. The problem is that there are so many different vehicles for people to save for retirement and there are also laws that apply to each of these different vehicles.

As an example, take the 401(k) law that was passed in 1978 to provide wealthy people a way to defer their income until it was withdrawn at a required minimum age. This 401(k) system was adopted widely by American employers and is now the single largest private asset that people have in retirement. It wasn’t designed to be that way. In fact, it may never have caught on as a popular retirement vehicle if it was for a benefits consultant name Ted Benna. Ted figured out that people could use this previously obscure provision of the tax code to defer their income until a later age (currently 59 ½).

Unfortunately, a recent survey of workers’ current level of savings and investments shows how little we actually have in both.

current savings levels

Did Ted Benna “Create a Monster” that should be “blown up”? Check out what Ted thinks of how the 401(k) has evolved.

For a country as dynamic and forward thinking as America, you would think that we’d have a law designed specifically for saving into a designed defined contribution plan (DCP) like the 401(k). This obscure law was never intended to be used as widely as it has been but it caught on quite rapidly and is now the number one private asset base, excluding home equity, for American retirees.

Social Security was only designed to replace approximately 30 – 40% of our income in retirement. The other 60 – 70%, well that’s up to you to put together. The great thing about Social Security is that it is guaranteed monthly income that rises with the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W). The not so great thing about it is that, for some of us, we pay in much more than we’ll ever take out of it adjusting for the time value of money.

37 states that do not tax social security

The Social Security system is skewed toward providing a larger relative income to lower-income recipients and a smaller relative income to higher-income recipients. The Government does this using a bend-point formula which reduces the percentage of your benefit as your Primary Insurance Amount increases (more on this later).

With all the formulas, laws, vehicles, investments, and other variables, the problem of figuring out your financial situation in retirement is almost impossible. If you’re surfing this site, you are already one step ahead of your peers.

Planning for your retirement and figuring out the solution to tough problems puts you in position to turn your retirement dream into reality.

Solution

The solution begins with getting an understanding of your finances which leads into composing a well thought out plan to optimize your retirement.

In retirement, you shift from a steady paycheck to different sources of income, unless you’re fortunate enough to have a defined benefit pension. You’ll have to figure out how the four sources of retirement income will fit into your plan. This shift may seem daunting at first, but with careful planning and insightful education, you’ll be able to live your retirement dream without worrying about where your money will come from.

There is an optimal way to handle your finances and this is what we’ll show you on this website.

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If you haven’t saved enough up through now, that’s okay, many people haven’t. You’re in the vast majority of the American population approaching retirement with less than an ideal amount saved. Maybe you think you haven’t saved enough but aren’t sure because you fear seeing the numbers. It is possible that you may be able to retire even though you think you might not be able to. 

I realize most people don’t like talking about investing, money, interest rates, economics, etc. I know this because every time I show up at parties and start talking, people can’t wait to get away. Most people don’t know how to set up a portfolio that generates the greatest return with the least amount of risk. A lot of people don’t know the relationship between interest rates and bond prices. That’s okay. You don’t have to do it alone.

Almost everyone I know could use a retirement and/or investment plan from a competent fee-only advisor (someone with a certification of some sort: CFP, CPA, etc.). As much as people need an advisor that acts as a fiduciary, people need to stay away from brokers and insurance salesmen. It’s sad when I talk to couples who were duped by an “investment manager” who put them in a high-fee long-term annuity. So get a retirement plan, understand high-impact financial decisions, and you’ll do just fine in retirement.