Market Volatility: Invest Smart, Know the Risks

Investing into the market for retirement funds is a risky business. Retirees often purchase individual stocks or invest in financial products such as mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), or even variable annuities. There are other options such as defined contribution plans that invest into stock market and sometimes a company’s stock. 401(k)s are a common option offered by employers with a matching percentage. Having various investments allows for a more diversified portfolio, leading to a better chance at the safe and secure retirement you have always dreamt of.

However, invest smart and know the risks: the financial markets have significant fluctuations. There is a huge chance of majorly reducing retirement funds due to a bad down in the stock market. Therefore, long- and short-term investments are encouraged.

With the roller coaster of the financial markets, timing is everything when it comes to withdrawing from retirement savings & investments. Unfortunately, what may happen with the return of these investments is more negative than anything to the investor. Meaning, more of the account or assets may need to be liquidated to ensure spending power and keep that consistent stream of income. This is called sequence of return risk. An example of this was with the 2008 Recession; where the market declined and many lost their homes, their other investments, their retirements. For those who have awhile to save and plan are able to likely recover loss. Retirees with less time or who need their income soon will have to sell their investment assets while the market is down to reduce further loss and keep that income. A great loss is encountered if assets cannot be recovered.

Diversification of these assets/investments is important. Individual assets, such as the mutual funds and ETFS, may be managed professionally. These funds may have a focus on small to larger companies, even with specific fields or industries in mind. For individually chosen stocks and annuities, consider stock investments. Within these various options, there are performance and choice risks. Investment for retirement funds is a choice that should be taken with research and guidance.

As mentioned, there is always risk with investing—especially for your dream retirement. The following are some great strategies to limit the risks.

Diversify. Hold various investments across the classes (i.e. hold bonds and stocks). The more spread out and full the investments are better at loss absorption your portfolio is. For example, loss in individual stocks can be offset by holding stocks in 15+ companies and balancing the funds throughout these. If you were to hold the same amount over 5 companies/stocks, you are exposed to a greater risk if one of those companies crashes versus if you have the funds spread over 15 or more. Even considering fixed income investments is great! These will not yield as much return, however.

Long term is best. With investments, time is typically on your side. Especially in the case of recovering losses. It is rare you will see recovery happen overnight—it takes years. Those near or in retirement will want to monitor their investments closely because if a major loss occurs, you may be better off selling. Top experts suggest relying on income-generating policies while moving funds from the stock market throughout your retirement years.

Roll with the pooled. Like carpooling to an event, a pooled investment is smaller contributions from individual to make a larger investment fund. Some examples are mutual funds and target-date funds. Oftentimes these are done with financial experts and there may be fees involved.

Remember fees. Higher fees do not necessarily mean a higher yield on investments. They reduce the overall return, so monitoring and understanding them is important for your financial wellbeing. 401(k)s and other defined contribution plans may have fees; sometimes a fee may be charged if using a financial advisor for advice and portfolio management.

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2022 and You: Cause and Effect

In 2021, inflation reached a 40- year high from gas, lumber, the housing market, and even groceries. It was reported in October that the U.S. experienced an increase by 6% for the consumer price index. By November, a 7% increase was noted—the largest increase in such a short time since late 1982. Unfortunately, Americans, on average, brought more money home in their paychecks, but were not able to reap the benefits due to the inflation.

What does this mean for inflation in 2022? Economists have a gloomy outlook. With the unexpected, but impending price increases, it is important to allocate more in the budget for groceries and gas. To offset inflation, add more money to your emergency funds as you can. This will keep your retirement funds more secure.

Required minimum distributions, RMDs, had major changes in 2021 (and in 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic started). As withdrawals for qualified retirement accounts—401(k)s, traditional IRAs, or 403(b)s—RMDS experienced a recent change that affects the age for when you can withdraw. Now it is 72 for those born after July 1st, 1949, and 70 ½ if born before then.

In 2020, RMDs were suspended under the CARES Act. This was in response to the 30% market drop that March. The hopes were to let the retirement money stay in the market and recover, but the 2020 change was short lived. RMDs resumed in 2021.

2022 Lookout:

Based on inflation rates, the IRS does make changes to tax brackets. Due to the 2021 inflation increase, the tax thresholds will drastically change.  This means more money can be earned before an individual or couple is bumped into the next tax bracket. Using tax-planning tactics during your working years and having a retirement plan in place allows for this potential risk to be easily managed during retirement.

Another major change happening this 2022 year is 401(k) contributions. The IRS is changing the max contribution for taxpayers. The increase is $1000 to $20,500. If you are age 50+, you get an additional $6500 as catchup. Unfortunately, traditional and Roth IRAs contributions are staying the same as 2021. However, high-income earners may be able to contribute to a Roth IRA. Income phase-out ranges were increased by the IRS to allow this. Ranging from $129,000 to $144,000 for single taxpayers and $204,000 to $214,000 for married and jointly filing.

**For more information on how is in store for 2022, please listen to Retirement Risk Show episode “The Know-How of Retirement Planning in 2022.” For all the challenges and changes 2022 will and may bring, register for our “Evolving Retirement Law: The Challenges, The Changes, and Your Choices” webinar.

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How to Face Your Retirement Risks: Think in Buckets

Since the old paradigm of retirement will do more harm than good in this current world, tackling the Top Ten Risks can be tricky.

Why won’t the old paradigm work? The first reason is folks nowadays live into their 80s when decades back that was not as common. Because retirement age back in the late 20th century was 55, many retirees waited until years past their retirement age to fully leave the workforce. Another major contributor to retirement plans back then were pensions. Social Security (SS) was on the table then, too. Folks could easily retire and enjoy their golden years off their employment pension and SS. Now, a lot of retirement is unfortunately up to the employees.

Beyond understanding SS and Medicare, balancing your assets over taxable, tax-deferred, and tax-free accounts is key to the success of your risk-free retirement. This is known as the Three Bucket System.

First and foremost, the taxable bucket is designed for emergency funds. Having 6 months of your living expenses in this bucket permits less risk. You are protected in case of emergency, and you are not exposing your savings to extra taxation.

The second bucket is tax-deferred and is a bucket folks overfill. While this bucket varies individually, there are some ‘rules’ to be mindful of. Your required minimum distributions (RMDs) should be low enough to not create provisional income (too much would cause your SS to be taxed). Secondly, you do not want them to exceed your standard deduction.

Filling the other two buckets means you can successfully begin filling the third bucket up: tax-free. The sooner you do this, the better off your risk-free retirement will do. Things that can be done for this bucket are Roth conversions or buying a life insurance retirement plan.

**We strongly encourage you to listen to our podcast Retirement Risk Show episode “Break Down the Top 10 Risks Facing Your Retirement” for a deeper dive into the information provided in this blog. For even more on the 10 Risks Top Ten Risks and strategies to reduce them during retirement, register for our webinar “Getting Safely Through Retirement.”

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