5 Mistakes That Could Derail Your Clients’ Retirement

Annuitization can help keep it real

(Image: Thinkstock) (Image: Thinkstock)

Retirement is inevitable for most of us, but adequate planning for this event can still go overlooked. Many people spend years behind a shadow of the assumption that someday, they'll retire and still have enough money to maintain a comfortable lifestyle.

(Related: 8 Financial Mistakes Couples Make That Could Derail Retirement)

Unfortunately, the individuals that retire without a plan and a clear list of financial goals often find themselves in a vulnerable position at the end of their lives. Saving for retirement can be both confusing and intimidating, but with the right guidance retirement planners and insurance advisors can help clients avoid common money mistakes that often land retirees in trouble.

1. Anxious Avoidance

The first mistake that many individuals make is to bury their heads in the sand, and avoid writing down their financial goals pertaining to retirement. Without planning, there are no concrete figures to strive for. Recently the Employee Benefits Research Institute revealed that a startling 48% of respondents on their Retirement Confidence Survey reported that they had not computed the amount of money that they will need when retirement rolls around.

Procrastinating on a measurable and specific plan of action is to court disaster. Spending even the smallest amount of time to consider and write down goals can be highly beneficial -the Harvard Business School once conducted a 30-year follow-up study with eye-opening results. Those who wrote down clearly defined goals earned 10 times the amount of those individuals who didn't. Committing financial goals to written memory is an exercise in self-awareness, one which helps establish a clearer understanding of one’s financial situation as well as an incentive to pursue ongoing financial education.

2. Being Overly Cautious

Many individuals have heard the common adage that investors should be more aggressive when they are young and switch to a conservative investment style as they near the age of retirement. While the first part is generally true, some financial advisors will become too cautious with their clients during those last years of the investment phase. They may advise moving from a portfolio that has a higher amount of exposure to stocks to investments that are based around fixed income instruments.

This recommendation may not be the best advice for retirees, as many people will be retired for as long as they were actively working. Moving too aggressively from a portfolio of stocks to bonds could severely cut the gains that could be received if a bull market emerges during a person's retirement years.

3. Underestimating the Impact of Taxes

The actual investments that individuals make when they plan for retirement are often not as important as the type of accounts that are used. Individuals who believe that their tax bill will be reduced after they retire are in for a rude awakening if they haven't planned for taxes.

IRS (Photo: Allison Bell/TA)

(Photo: Allison Bell/TA)

The amount of savings a person has in their retirement account is not as important as the amount of money that's left after taxes are subtracted. Traditional IRAs and 401(k)s require minimum withdrawals every year. These "forever tax accounts" can be switched to "never taxed accounts" like the Roth IRA. When funds are withdrawn from a Roth account the tax burden is eliminated.

4. Blowing Your Retirement Budget

During retirement, overspending can have severe consequences. Committing to a retirement budget is a must to avoid slipping into this situation. Credit cards are convenient, but should be used with caution as it’s fairly easy to slip into debt and then have problems paying back the money that's been spent.

A flexible plan should be formulated to determine how an individual is going to spend their time during retirement. They can do this by listing all of their expenses and create categories for essentials, nonessential monthly expenses and required monthly expenses such as insurance premiums and property taxes that are generally paid once a year. By defining these expenses and dividing them into a person's total expenses, it gives a measure of how much money goes towards fixed expenses. Changes can be made so that a person spends their money on items that are important to them when they retire such as travel or hobbies.

5. Maintaining the Wrong Mindset

Work has the benefit of supplying a constant flow of income. When an individual retires, however, that inflow of cash stops.

Annuities can be used as an investment strategy that's mixed with other investments. Retirees who use this option and choose a life payout plan will receive a constant flow of payments until they die. The advantage of using this strategy is that it continues to pay out constant funds, even if a person exhausts the complete value of their contract beforehand. Diversifying with an annuity means that an investor will have to part with a large lump sum of their money, but the benefits in the future can be well worth it when they start receiving consistent payouts.

There's never just one way to help an individual plan for their retirement. That said, there are certain financial decisions that are best avoided no matter who you are. Encouraging clients to maintain a proactive and collaborative relationship with financial professional will help ensure their savings remain on track to meet future retirement income needs.

—-Check out How Debt Can Help Your Clients Save More on ThinkAdvisor.

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