Charles Schwab & Co. financial consultant Kimberly Segal says she recommends her clients save enough to meet 80 percent of their current expenditures when planning for retirement. But a recent survey by her firm finds that Bostonians with means aren’t necessarily hearing the message. Most are expecting to only need about half the income they earn now when they retire, even amidst concerns about healthcare and other rising costs.
It’s not as if Segal’s clientele can’t afford to save. The demographic polled by Charles Schwab are technically well off, with at least $250,000 in “investable assets and retirement funds.” On average they earn $113,000 a year, yet in retirement they expect to only need $63,000.
The disconnect is particularly striking given that the majority of survey respondents plan to continue living in the Boston area in their golden years. Only one in four said they will move to a new area, seeking a better quality of life and lower living costs when they stop working.
“We’re urging people at a younger age to look at retirement planning, prioritize current and future expenses, and take action on the plan to make them financially secure for retirement,” Segal said. “Doing it early on can alleviate concerns, especially unforeseen expenses in medical and healthcare costs.”
Several analysts have reported that car sales are expected to rise this year, in part because there’s a sizeable group of people who need to replace their older vehicles. But how much is the “right” amount to spend?
If you’re looking to finance, you might consider the 20-4-10 rule: 20 percent down; financing that lasts no longer than four years; and principal, interest and insurance that doesn’t exceed 10 percent of your gross household income.
It’s a formula that can help change the way we think about how we define the affordability of a car, and potentially start to free up some extra cash for other, more important financial needs such as retirement or even the more basic emergency savings fund.
“How that change in thinking lowers your stress level is just amazing,” says Mike Sante, a managing editor at Interest.com, which recently completed a study that looked at car affordability. “It can make a tremendous change in your quality of life. This is where the money is for your savings.”
Americans are largely spending too much on cars, an asset that is often our second-largest household expense after rent or a mortgage and offers no potential for increasing net worth. For example, taking into account car insurance costs and the Boston area’s median income of almost $70,000 a year, Interest.com calculated that a typical Boston household can afford to spend up to $26,025 on a car. It would take a pretty good amount of self-control to avoid spending more than that, since the average new car with bells and whistles costs $30,550.
The rally in the markets this week probably has a lot of people checking their 401(k) balances to see what kind of bump they may have gotten in their portfolios. Mary Mullin, a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch Wealth Management here in Boston, says that there are some pretty solid reasons to be optimistic about a rebound in growth, not just in the U.S., but worldwide this year.
“The macroeconomic challenges still exist, but we’re talking to individuals about re-evaluating their portfolios because there are a lot of good companies out there doing good things,” Mullin said in an interview.
Mullin said research published by her firm examines the “great rotation,” referring to a move in the markets from cash and bonds into areas of potential growth, including housing, and back into equities.
If you look at individual companies, you’ll find several with strong balance sheets and profitability, she said. “A lot of companies have cash on their balance sheets and are paying strong dividends or are increasing their dividends,” Mullin said. “We’re also seeing signs of life in the housing market, which brings consumption that goes around that.”
So what are some investment themes that Mullin is looking at as she advises her clients?
I feel like every January, most personal finance columns encourage us to kick off the New Year with a fresh set of financial resolutions that involve finding ways to streamline our budget and save more. At the top of almost every list: give up that daily Starbucks latte.
I’m kind of tired of hearing that same tip, and feel that if at this point people haven’t gotten the message then writing it one more time isn’t going to persuade them to change their habits.
So let’s assume that we all know it’s not the smartest move to spend several dollars on that higher-priced cup of Joe every day when you can brew a less expensive version at home and put it in a go cup. This year, what else can we do to get our financial house in shape?
Bob Stammers, who heads up investor education for CFA (Chartered Financial Analysts) Institute, offered a few other ideas that I found pretty helpful:
2013 is going to be another good year for borrowers, and a lousy year for savers, as interest rates remain low amidst a slow-growth economy, Bankrate Senior Financial Analyst Greg McBride said in an interview.
McBride forecasts that the U.S. economy will expand by about 2 percent this year, tempered by an unemployment rate that will decline very slowly and gains in wages that will be “nothing to write home about.”
Those consumers looking to purchase or improve their homes or upgrade the cars will have a window of opportunity as borrowing costs remain low. Auto loans, for one, are at record lows and are still falling, making 2013 a favorable year from a financial standpoint for anyone looking to buy either a new or used car, McBride said
Easthampton Savings Bank is one of 88 banks nationwide that is participating in this year’s “Lights, Camera, Save!” video contest for teens that’s organized by the Education Foundation of the American Bankers Association.
The contest asks teens ages 13-18 years old to create a video that educates themselves, and their peers, about the value of saving and using money wisely. The videos can’t be longer than 90 seconds and must be an original work by the student (including all music and images).
Expecting an inheritance? Apparently so, if you’re a member of Gen Z. And that youthful optimism may deter these individuals from taking retirement savings seriously – with potentially damaging consequences.TD Ameritrade interviewed about 1,000 members of Gen Z (young people ages 13-22) and a similar number of parents, and found that almost 40 percent of Gen Z respondents believed that they will have an inheritance and therefore won’t need to worry about saving for retirement. In contrast, just 16 percent of parents thought as much.
That result was surprising, said Carrie Braxdale, managing director, investor services, TD Ameritrade, Inc., because this group of young people was generally pretty savvy about articulating the current challenges in the economy and job market. And with the majority of them already actively using some kind of investment or savings account, they also clearly had been taught about the importance of saving and thinking about a financial plan.
Still, they are focusing mainly on “savings needs that are more near-term,” Braxdale said. “Many explicitly said they are saving for college or current expenses.”
Whenever I write anything about affluent Americans, inevitably I hear from some readers about how journalists are “out of touch” and not understanding the issues. I find these emails striking because they reflect a lot of the uncertainty and frustration most people are feeling in today’s job market and economy. And while I am often just reporting the results of someone else’s study, I understand that even doing that simple act can rub people who are struggling the wrong way.
So when I was told about a recent “Affluent Insights Survey” that Merrill Lynch conducted, I found myself wondering how we might think about its results so that it can be useful information for a variety of individuals, of varying incomes, and not just for those who happen to have $250,000 or more of investable assets. To me, these surveys are helpful if we can find even just one or two nuggets of new information that might serve as potentially interesting solutions when applied to our own lives.
Let’s start by laying out some of the context for the results uncovered by the survey. Among the 1,000+ individuals that Merrill Lynch interviewed, close to half view today’s economic uncertainty as a “new normal,” with rising healthcare costs, the care of aging parents, and the extended financial support being given to adult-age children weighing on their minds. Four out of five, or about 80 percent, of those surveyed worry that they won’t be able to achieve their financial goals before they retire.
Some of these “affluent” individuals are drawing a harder line on funding college. About 48 percent told Merrill Lynch that they were willing to support adult-age children for as long as they need. But some are trying to use the expense as a way to teach a financial lesson. About 38 percent of parents today paid for, or plan to pay for, the full cost of their children’s college education, down from 48 percent a year ago, the survey said. And when asked about their ability to fund higher learning, 19 percent said they chose not to pay for the full amount so that their kids would appreciate their education more.
Increasingly, “families are getting together, with their college-age kids, to talk about how they will pay for college, even in this group where the cost was traditionally paid for by parents,” said Merril Pyes, a managing director in Boston with Merrill Lynch. “Parents are talking with their kids about how to pay for it, what they’ll get out of college, and what their kids will do when they get out.”
Having more conversations as a family about finances seems to be one of the bigger lessons we can learn from this survey, which provided other examples of how people are trying to communicate, and work together, more to solve concerns and challenges.
Individuals who participate in company stock plans are increasingly earmarking the assets for investment or retirement instead of paying off debt – a shift that offers some hope that segments of the population are starting to be able to refocus on saving rather than just paying off bills, Fidelity Investments said today.
The Boston-based investment company found that more than half (57 percent) of company stock plan assets are being allocated for eventual investment or retirement savings after participants sell them. Just 13 percent are targeted for paying bills or debt in the future. In past years, about a third of assets were allocated for bill payment, and only a quarter targeted for savings and investment, Fidelity said.
Earlier this week a study by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) showed that the number of American households opting out of the banking system grew steadily from 2009 to 2011.
About 17 million adults don’t have a checking or savings account at all, representing about 8.2 percent of U.S. households. Another 51 million are so-called “underbanked” adults, which means they have a bank account but may also consistently frequent higher-risk services such as pawnshops and payday lenders. The FDIC said it partnered with the U.S. Census Bureau to conduct the survey in June 2011, collecting responses from almost 45,000 households.
The purpose of the report was to assess the inclusiveness of the banking system since, as the FDIC said, “public confidence in the banking system derives in part from how effectively banks serve the needs of the nation’s diverse population.”