Content provided by Kostya Etus, CFA, CLS Portfolio Manager
There have been numerous studies about the dismal savings rates of Americans. One recent survey* found that a third of the population has no retirement savings at all and a majority are significantly behind on their savings. Millennials are causing the most alarm as they will have fewer safety nets (such as corporate pension plans, which seem to be going the way of the Dodo) to rely on in retirement than previous generations. Gen Xers face another troublesome issue as they are frantically trying to rebuild their savings that were decimated by the Great Recession of 2008.
If you feel you may be in either camp, you are not alone. But there are some easy dos and don’ts to help get you on track and feel more reassured about your retirement.
- Diversify. Everything in life should be diversified, but let’s start with investments. Utilize a variety of asset classes in your investment accounts (stocks, bonds, cash, etc.) for smoother returns over time with lower risk.
- Manage tax locations. Utilize a mix of account types, such as tax-deferred (401(k)), tax-free (Roth), and taxable (standard individual) accounts because the future is uncertain, and each can be beneficial in certain scenarios.
- Max out available employer 401(k) matching. It’s free money!
- Save on taxes. Don’t forget contributing pre-tax dollars to your employer’s retirement plan lowers your current tax bill.
- Utilize direct deposits. Putting away savings automatically every month takes some of the planning and worry out of the process.
- Accumulate debt. Don’t get deep into debt, but don’t use paying off debts as an excuse to avoid saving for retirement either. You can pay off debts and save at the same time.
- Invest in one stock. The idea is to diversify your holdings with many securities to mitigate the risk of any one position having a severe loss.
- Cash out early. Try not to pull money out of your retirement account. First, there may be penalty fees involved, but more importantly, you are eating into your retirement livelihood. If you cannot keep your retirement account open for any reason, simply roll it over to another account.
- Chase performance. Don’t consistently sell out of poor-performing investments and buy outperformers. Aside from increasing transaction costs, you may miss out on significant turnarounds as markets tend to be cyclical. In other words, focus on the long term.
- Move to cash. The stock market is volatile, but historically it has recovered and often outperformed over long periods of time. You are better off staying invested and diversified. Getting scared and moving to cash may cause you to miss out on significant gains, which may make it harder to recoup losses in the future.
Now that you have had a chance to go through these brief suggestions, think about your own situation. Do you want to be eating ramen or relaxing on a beach when you retire? There is no better time than now to stay balanced, diversified, and save, save, save!