When it comes to retirement planning, one of the biggest fears is often the risk of running out of money. It can be worrisome to think about what could happen if you’re unable to support your expenses in the future.
Sometimes these fears can lead to people choosing a more conservative risk profile, or holding a lot of cash, but taking these defensive measures can often increase the risk of running out of money in the future.
A more conservative asset allocation decreases market risk, the risk we take on when we invest in the stock market. But a conservative asset allocation actually increases other types of risk, like the risk of running out of money, or the risk of being impacted by high inflation rates.
A more conservative asset allocation can actually increase risk in retirement, especially for longer retirement periods. Your typical 30-40 something couple has a very good chance of either one making it to age 100+ in the future. There is a 25% chance that one of them will make it to age 98 and a 10% chance that one of them will make it to age 101!
Without making other changes, like a lower withdrawal rate, more flexibility with spending, part-time income etc, being more conservative can actually lead to a much higher probability of running out of money before age 100.
Let’s explore why this is the case and what you need to consider when creating your retirement plan…
Over the last few years the number of low-cost investment options has exploded in Canada. There are new and easy ways to create a low-cost diversified portfolio that isn’t dragged down by high investment fees.
There were always low-cost, do it yourself options, but they required a fair amount of manual work to make contributions, invest those contributions, and rebalance periodically (and let’s not forget, the stress of keeping yourself on course during a correction or recession).
But now there are new options available. In addition to a low-cost ETF portfolio or a low-cost mutual fund portfolio, there are options like low-cost “all-in-one” ETFs and low-cost robo-advisors.
These new options provide investors with new ways to invest in a low-cost portfolio without necessarily doing all the work themselves.
This has understandably put a lot of pressure on investment advisors who have historically charged extremely high fees on the investment products they sell.
The average investment fee on a mutual fund portfolio in Canada is around 2.3%. This can cause an enormous amount of drag on an investment portfolio. A $1,000,000 investment portfolio would experience a $23,000 annual drag from investment fees! That has a direct impact on how much retirement income you can create from your investment portfolio.
But switching from a high-priced mutual fund portfolio can be hard to do.
Even with the high fees, traditional investment options continue to dominate the investing landscape in Canada, but things are starting to change. For the first time ever, ETFs have outsold mutual funds. More money is flowing into ETFs than into mutual funds (bear in mind that you can also have high-priced ETFs, and low cost mutual funds, so this isn’t necessarily the best indicator).
But… if these low-cost investment options have been around for a while, why the slow change? Why aren’t more people switching?
There are three main risks people face when making a change of this kind, financial risk, emotional risk, and social risk. These risks can be difficult to overcome. Let’s understand each one and why they make breaking up with an investment advisor hard to do…
There are many different risks when it comes to retirement, but one risk that isn’t talked about very often is the risk of living a long and healthy life. It may seem odd to call this a risk, but from a financial planning perspective a long and health life increases the risk of running out of money in retirement.
According to the guidelines from the Financial Planning Standards Council of Canada, for a couple who is currently 55, there is a 25% chance that either partner in a couple will live to age 98 and there is a 10% chance that either will live to age 101.
Living a long and healthy life isn’t some obscure risk… for pre-retirees the chance of living to age 100 is around 1 in 10.
This risk becomes even greater for those aiming for early retirement in their 50’s or even 40’s. Retiring at age 55 could mean a 43+year retirement period for 1 in 4 couples and a 46+ year retirement period for 1 in 10 couples.
With such a long retirement period, and such a high possibility of reaching age 90+, we want to ensure that we’re taking steps within our financial plans to avoid the risk of a long life.
There are a few things that anyone can do to avoid this risk…
When we do our own financial planning we’re often too close to our own situation to have an objective perspective. We may focus on the wrong problems… or take a narrow view of the potential solutions… or miss potential issues entirely.
One of the benefits of working with a financial planner is that they provide a second set of eyes for your financial plan. Most people are already on the right path, but there are common issues that may end up working against you. A financial planner can help find these common mistakes that may otherwise go unnoticed.
Financial planning isn’t rocket science, it’s something that can be done on your own. The math itself isn’t terribly difficult, and there are tools available online to help, but one of the major downfalls of the DIY approach is that we can be somewhat oblivious to our own personal biases.
Basically, we’re too close to our own financial situation to be entirely unbiased (This goes for financial planners too!) There are certain financial planning mistakes that we all tend to make if we’re not careful.
These mistakes can lead to potential issues over time. These issues can create more risk, or decrease investment return, or increase taxes, or create a higher risk of running out of money in retirement.
These mistakes are quite common and identifying these potential issues is the first step to creating a stronger financial plan.
What is your risk profile? This is a key question for every investor, yet I suspect it doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
Everyone sees risk differently. Some people don’t worry about risk at all, it doesn’t keep them up at night, it doesn’t cause them any stress. To them, not taking risks seems like a waste of time and resources. They’re risk seekers.
On the other hand, some people are deeply affected by risk. It causes them to worry, to always focus on the negatives, to think about all the things that could go wrong. For them, risk causes stress and sleepless nights. They’re risk averse.
Then there is everyone in-between. People who aren’t risk seekers, but who aren’t risk averse either. They see the benefit of risk, but it makes them a bit uneasy.
Choosing the right risk profile isn’t easy. There are a lot of factors to consider. Going too far one way or their other can cause issues over the long-term. But sometimes it takes some real-world experience before you can safely say what you’re risk profile truly is.
Managing money is an important life skill. Whether you’re a few years into your first job, or a few years away from retirement, do it well and your financial stress will disappear. Do it poorly and you’ll probably find yourself in a difficult situation more often than not.
The problem is we were never taught how to do this! We were never told how to manage our money. We were never told how to budget, how to pay bills, how to invest, or how to save.
We were never taught about best practices like emergency funds or automated investment plans.
Some of us may have been lucky enough to have a parent or older sibling who was good with money. We were able to learn by watching them manage their money. But because money is so secretive, its often hard to see what they were actually doing on a day-to-day basis.
This post will cover a few of the best practices, the best money management tips, and the best ways to manage your money.
If you’re reading this post my guess is that you’re probably already doing some of these things, or maybe all of them! But you might find something new to add to your financial routine. Something to make it stronger and easier to manage in the future.