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.”
What’s in your wallet? Whatever it is, identity thieves still see it as the easiest way to get your information.
As concerned as we all are with an online or other technology-related data breach, the vast majority of identity theft happens from stolen or misplaced items such as wallets and pocketbooks. The second most common cause is a compromised license, Social Security card or other form of personal I.D. Burglaries rate third.
These top three causes accounted for 73 percent of cases involving identity theft, according to a study of 2011 claims data by Travelers Insurance. The thieves often acquired the personal information through less obvious means, from sorting through trash for bank statements to stealing pre-approved credit card applications in the mail. Only 10 percent of those surveyed could identify the perpetrator of the identify fraud made against them.
My work and personal email inboxes are chock full of online ads, promoting next week’s so-called “Black Friday” retail doorbusters to kick off the holiday shopping season.
Seems as if retailers in the Greater Boston area need to do a little more homework, though, if they want to capture this market. According to the results of the survey that I posted last week, more than 70 percent of Boston.com readers plan to wait to do most of their holiday shopping until early December, when there aren’t many crowds in the stores. I have to agree with my readers. Who wants to deal with Black Friday when you can wait a few days and have some time to think and space to breathe in the stores?
Several companies that have contacted me, claiming to have done “studies” that forecast an increase in holiday shopping spending, also don’t seem to have a good pulse on what Boston-area residents plan to do. Sixty-four percent of readers who answered my survey said their budgets are going to stay the same this year. Another 25 percent said they’re reducing it. Only 11 percent will increase their budget.
Excel spreadsheets are once again becoming my best friend.
As I begin preparing my annual Christmas shopping list, instead of my usual paper system tacked onto my bulletin board or stuffed in my wallet, I have decided to lay out my list of people, and purchases, in a few simple columns so that I can easily find and track all of the information.
At the end of last year’s holiday season, I realized that my budget should not only include those items I buy for gifts, but all the other items I end up purchasing because it’s the one time of the year that I actually take time out to shop. It’s the extra things that end up blowing my budget and bloating my credit-card bill come January.
It also helps me reinforce the fairness factor among my kids. We always try to make sure that we split our immediate family budget pretty evenly among them, but having a formula that automatically tallies up the amounts for me as I input each one makes it a lot easier to make sure that I am keeping my word.
Consumer borrowing is up, but not for shopping – The cost of education is going to make this holiday a tough season for retailers
This week the National Retail Federation, the retail industry’s main voicebox, released its annual forecast for holiday spending, and not surprisingly the results indicate that consumers are going to continue to be cautious during the fourth-quarter buying season.
Discount stores will be the biggest beneficiaries of streamlined holiday budgets, with nearly two-thirds of consumers saying they will shop there to seek the best deals, the NRF said. Department stores ranked second. Clothing retailers were a close third, while electronics stores ranked fourth among the almost 8,900 individuals polled. Total budgets are forecast to barely edge up to an average $749.51 on gifts, décor and greeting cards, from the $740.57 they actually spent last year, the NRF said.
Consumers are also showing an interest in controlling the way they spend their money, an adjustment to the “new normal” that is evident in not only their adherence to budgets and avid pursuit of discounts, but their reduced use of credit cards. As a result there is more interest in using layaway programs (hence the already large number of TV commercials airing to promote this practice) with many consumers saying that they plan to begin their shopping this month, even before Halloween, in order to make sure they are able to grab the season’s “must have” items before it’s too late.
“Consumers have more credit available to them, and have more cards in their wallets that they did a year ago, but they have not been willing to take them out and charge up,” said Cristian deRitis, senior director of consumer credit analytics for Moody’s Analytics. “This year’s holiday season will be tough. People are worried about issues such as the fiscal cliff and the impact of Europe on the U.S. economy. Consumers are still quite cautious.”
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.”
When I was pregnant with my first child, I went into sticker shock when I learned the cost of childcare. I had assumed it would be expensive, I just didn’t realize that my recent move to Massachusetts meant I would be paying prices that didn’t just rival – they exceeded -- New York and some other places I had previously lived in.
And the trend continues. A study by Child Care Aware® of America found that Massachusetts had the highest average annual cost for full-time infant daycare in the U.S. at an average $14,980 per year, and that top expense continues through age 4. It’s only when a child enters school that the state drops off the top 10 list.