Retirement calculators are everywhere. Nearly every financial institution has some form of retirement calculator. They all work very similarly, they require a few inputs perhaps age, income, spending etc. and then they provide some analysis/recommendation about retirement, how much to save, how much to spend etc.
But how accurate are these retirement calculators? What assumptions are they making when doing a retirement projection? Are they even worth the effort?
In this post we’re looking at some of the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of retirement calculators.
In general, retirement calculators make some very broad assumptions to create a very simple retirement projection very quickly. There is nothing simple about retirement, so creating a projection with only a few inputs in only a few seconds is already somewhat suspect, but as we’ll see below, the possible issues go way beyond that.
These are just some of the issues to watch out for when using a retirement calculator.
There’s a common misconception that financial planning isn’t necessary when you’re young. Young people are often told to go “read some books” about personal finance. Financial planning is traditionally thought of as something reserved for those with higher income, higher net worth, transitioning into retirement etc.
The fact is… this couldn’t be further from the truth.
One of the BEST times to build a financial plan is when you’re young, when you have lots of options, when you’re designing your life (both personally and financially), and when you’re making some BIG financial decisions that will impact you well into the future.
Some of the financial decisions you make while you’re young can haunt you for years or decades. Making the right decisions now can mean less stress and greater peace of mind in the future.
So why is there this misconception that financial planning isn’t for young people?
Most likely because financial planning in the past was focused on products, it was all about investments, insurance, new debt etc. Products that could be sold. Young people were often left out of the conversation because in general, young people don’t need products, they need advice.
Getting the right advice is so important when you’re young.
Even small decisions can have an enormous impact over time. It’s important to get the right advice early on, avoid common mistakes, and create the right systems and habits that will pay dividends for decades to come.
This advice should cover a few key areas that “traditional” financial advisors rarely cover.
It’s a challenging time for new graduates. The employment environment is difficult in many sectors/industries, plus the cost of rent and housing have outpaced inflation for years and years. It can feel very daunting to leave post-secondary when faced with mediocre job prospects and sky-high housing costs.
In some situations, the “bank of mom and dad” will step in and provide support. But, for the majority of families, that isn’t an option.
So how can parents help provide new grads a “leg up” in this challenging time?
More and more parents are inviting their adult children back home for 1-2 years after graduating to help them save money and pay off debt.
It may not be a cash gift, but it can provide nearly the same advantage.
Living at home to save money is a strategy that is on the rise. Parents are encouraging their children to take advantage of this opportunity and more and more adult children are doing it.
Living at home after graduation creates the opportunity to save $20,000, $30,000 or $40,000+ in one year, an opportunity that may never happen again.
Living at home for 1-2 years provides a huge head start for a new grad. This head start can be used to pay down student debt, build an emergency fund, start investing, buy a house etc. etc.
But it’s not all positive though. Living at home for a couple years also has risks. Without having a strategy in place it’s very easy to succumb to pitfalls like lifestyle inflation etc.
Here’s why parents should encourage their adult children to live at home for a couple years after graduation, and why new grads should seriously consider taking advantage.
Retirement is full of risk. There is longevity risk, spending risk, health risk etc. But two of the largest risks in retirement are investment risk and inflation rate risk.
What if you could transfer some (or all) of that risk to someone else? That would make retirement that much more enjoyable, less to worry about and less to stress over. There would be more time to enjoy retirement itself rather than worry about retirement finances.
The problem with risk is that it’s hard to understand and hard to quantify. We’re pretty bad at assessing risk and probability. We might look back at the accumulation phase and think that we can manage the emotional impact of investment risk and inflation risk. After all, we’ve been managing those risks for 30-40+ years before retirement, why would that change in retirement?
The difference during the decumulation phase is that those risks are exacerbated by annual investment withdrawals. In retirement, these withdrawals, necessary to support retirement spending, multiply the effect of fluctuations in investment returns and inflation rates.
During the accumulation phase, investment contributions help reduce the impact of fluctuations (dollar cost averaging is a big benefit during accumulation). During the decumulation phase however, investment withdrawals multiply the impact of fluctuations.
As you’ll see below. The based on historical standards, the variation during the accumulation phase is nothing compared with the variation that’s possible during the decumulation phase.
So, transferring retirement risk to someone can become quite appealing when transitioning into retirement. It can help reduce that variation. Transferring even a small amount of retirement risk to someone can significantly improve peace of mind. Plus, it can help create a “floor” of retirement income that is virtually guaranteed.
Behavioral investment pitfalls can have a significant impact on investment returns for the average investor. The impact can be anywhere from 0.5% to 1.0%+ per year. But that’s the average impact on the average investor. The reality is that this impact will manifest differently for each investor and it could be years or even decades before an individual investor gets trapped by one of these behavioral pitfalls.
An average impact of 0.5% to 1.0% makes it sound like this happens every year. While this is true on average, it actually reflects many different experiences for many individual investors.
The truth is that some investors will experience no behavioral impact on their investment return for years and years before suddenly experiencing a negative effect. The AVERAGE impact of 0.5% to 1.0% means that in a given year some people experience no impact and others experience a small or large impact.
The problem is that this can lead investors into a false sense of security. It can make it seem like everything is going well until suddenly it’s not.
In this post we’ll provide three examples of how behavioral investment pitfalls can actually manifest in an investor’s portfolio and how they impact long-term investment returns.
One of the most important pieces of a financial plan is income. Without an income it’s simply impossible to achieve any financial goals. Plus, having a higher income makes financial goals significantly easier to achieve.
While expenses often get a lot of focus because they’re entirely within our control, the fact is that without a certain level of household income it becomes much harder to save, invest, and still cover monthly spending.
This is why income, and specifically how income changes, should be an important part of every financial plan. Increasing income over time will make financial goals significantly easier to achieve, it makes debt payments a smaller proportion of net income, and it makes it possible to juggle competing priorities.
But unlike spending, income is unfortunately not completely within our control.
Increasing your annual income can be done a number of different ways. There are “side hustles”, there are second jobs, there is semi-passive income from rental properties etc. etc.
But the best and easiest way to increase income is to get paid more for what you’re already doing. You’re already at work, why not get paid more for doing the same thing?!? No “side hustle” required. No extra work. No stress of rental properties and bad tenants.
Increasing income is quite common, especially in a persons early 20’s and 30’s. On average income increases 7% per year during this phase. Once we reach our 40’s the pace of increases starts to slow down but those 15-20 years of steady increases can make a big difference.
How do you get salary increases of 7% per year (on average)? It takes a few things to make it easier, negotiating your salary is one, and unfortunately, switching employers often is another.
How impactful is increasing your income? Massive. In our example below, over a person’s working career, it’s equal to about $585,000 or 20,000 hours of extra work.
So, what would you prefer? Negotiating your salary every few years? Or putting in an extra 20,000 hours work (or about 10 years!)