Why a middle-class woman may end up less ready to retire than a middle-class man.
What is the retirement outlook for the average fifty-something working woman? As a generalization, less sunny than that of a man in her age group.
Most middle-class retirees get their income from three sources. An influential 2016 National Institute on Retirement Security study called them the “three-legged stool” of retirement. Social Security provides some of that income, retirement account distributions some more, and pensions complement those two sources for a fortunate few.1
For many retirees today, that “three-legged stool” may appear broken or wobbly. Pension income may be non-existent, and retirement accounts too small to provide sufficient financial support. The problem is even more pronounced for women because of a few factors.1
When it comes to median earnings per gender, women earn 80% of what men make. The gender pay gap actually varies depending on career choice, educational level, work experience, and job tenure, but it tends to be greater among older workers.2
At the median salary level, this gap costs women about $419,000 over a 40-year career. Earnings aside, there is also the reality that women often spend fewer years in the workplace than men. They may leave work to raise children or care for spouses or relatives. This means fewer years of contributions to tax-favored retirement accounts and fewer years of employment by which to determine Social Security income. In fact, the most recent snapshot (2015) shows an average yearly Social Security benefit of $18,000 for men and $14,184 for women. An average female Social Security recipient receives 79% of what the average male Social Security recipient gets.2,3
How may you plan to overcome this retirement gender gap? The clear answers are to invest and save more, earlier in life, to make the catch-up contributions to retirement accounts starting at age 50, to negotiate the pay you truly deserve at work all your career, and even to work longer.
There are no easy answers here. They all require initiative and dedication. Combine some or all of them with insight from a financial professional, and you may find yourself closing the retirement gender gap.
This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.
1 - forbes.com/sites/karastiles/2017/11/01/heres-how-the-gender-gap-applies-to-retirement/ [11/1/17]
2 - money.cnn.com/2017/04/04/pf/equal-pay-day-gender-pay-gap/index.html [4/4/17]
3 - forbes.com/sites/ebauer/2018/03/16/how-should-we-make-social-security-fairer-for-moms/ [3/16/18]
Even with interest rates rising, you may want to explore the possibilities.
In the first quarter of 2018, the refinance share of home loan applications in the U.S. fell to 40%, the lowest in ten years. Higher mortgage rates had reduced demand for refis.1
Still, the refi is not exactly dead. If you have good credit, you may be considering refinancing yourself, for one or more reasons. Perhaps you want to shorten the term of your home loan. Maybe you have an adjustable-rate mortgage now and want to refi into a fixed rate. Or, maybe you want to tap into home equity or consolidate debt. Whatever your reason(s), you must weigh two questions. One, how long do you want to stay in your home? Two, how much money will you really save?
Refinances break down into three types: rate-and-term, cash-out, and cash-in. Rate-and-term refis simply adjust the term and/or the interest rate of your existing loan. Even though interest rates are rising now, they still make up the bulk of refinances. This kind of refi could permit you to walk away from closing with as much as $2,000 in cash. The no-cash-out variety adds closing costs to the loan balance, relieving you from having to pay those costs out of pocket.2
A cash-out refi gives you an opportunity to tap home equity and pay off your existing mortgage. In a cash-out mortgage, the loan balance on the refinance is at least 5% more than the balance on the original loan. As you just owe the balance of your original loan to the lender, the overage is either paid out as cash at closing or routed to your creditors to help you whittle down other debts.2
A cash-in refi is the inverse of a cash-out refi. You bring cash to the closing to lower the outstanding principal of the loan, pursuant to a shorter loan term or a lower interest rate available at lower loan-to-values (LTVs). You may be able to cancel mortgage insurance premium payments as part of the move (i.e., by reducing a conventional mortgage to 80% LTV or lower).2
How much will a refi cost? In ballpark terms, the answer is often $2,000-$5,000. In percentage terms, think 3-5% of the loan amount.3,4
The price of a refi may be notably cheaper in one state than another, thanks to variations in closing costs. Of course, certain closing costs may be negotiable, like app and processing fees. Sometimes you can save on title searches, title insurance, and inspections by turning to a third party for those services. If your last appraisal was conducted recently, you might be able to negotiate your way out of a new one.3
Sometimes you can refinance without an appraisal. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Veterans Administration (VA) offer streamlined refinancing programs to homeowners with existing FHA or VA-backed home loans. The underwriting process is less demanding than it would be otherwise. Besides usually waiving the appraisal, these programs also commonly waive credit score and income verifications.2
In some situations, refinancing may not be “the answer.” If you are stretching the term of your loan out with a refi, you will carry mortgage debt for years longer than you originally planned, complete with thousands more paid out in interest. If you are using home equity to fund a remodel or upgrades, your home’s value may not rise as much as you anticipate from the work. Then there are the little curveballs life throws at us, such as potential job changes and relocations. If you sense you might have to move before you can recapture the closing costs of the refi, is it even worth the trouble to try?
Hopefully, you will be able to lower the interest rate on your loan, shorten its term, or find a way to reduce your monthly payments through refinancing. Online calculators and a conversation with a trusted mortgage professional may help you determine the potential break-even points for a refi and find paths to a home loan more suitable to your needs.
1 - cnbc.com/2018/03/13/mortgage-refinances-fall-to-decade-low.html [3/14/18]
2 - themortgagereports.com/16096/refinance-mortgage-rates [12/9/17]
3 - lendingtree.com/home/refinance/how-much-does-it-cost-to-refinance/ [3/14/17]
4 - investopedia.com/financial-edge/1010/9-things-to-know-before-you-refinance-your-mortgage.aspx [1/12/17]
Shop wisely when you look for coverage.
Are you about to buy life insurance? Shop carefully. Make your choice with insight from an insurance professional, as it may help you avoid some of these all-too-common missteps.
Buying the first policy you see. Anyone interested in life insurance should take the time to compare a few plans – not only their rates, but also their coverage terms. Supply each insurer you are considering with a quote containing the exact same information about yourself.1
Buying only on price. Inexpensive life insurance is not necessarily great life insurance. If your household budget prompts you to shop for a bargain, be careful – you could end up buying less coverage than your household really needs.1
Buying a term policy when a permanent one might be better (and vice versa). A term policy (which essentially offers life insurance coverage for 5-30 years) may make sense if you just want to address some basic insurance needs. If you see life insurance as a potential estate planning tool or a vehicle for building wealth over time, a permanent life policy might suit those ambitions.1
Failing to inform heirs that you have a policy. Believe it or not, some people buy life insurance policies and never manage to tell their beneficiaries about them. If a policy is small and was sold many years ago to an association or credit union member (i.e., burial insurance), it may be forgotten with time.2
Did you know that more than $7 billion in life insurance death benefits have yet to be claimed? That figure may not shrink much in the future, because insurers have many things to do other than search for “lost” policies on behalf of beneficiaries. To avoid such a predicament, be sure to give your beneficiaries a copy of your policy.2
Failing to name a beneficiary at all. Designating a beneficiary upon buying a life insurance policy accomplishes two things: it tells the insurer where you want the death benefit to go, and it directs that death benefit away from your taxable estate after your passing.3
Waiting too long to buy coverage. Later in life, you may learn you have a serious medical condition or illness. You can certainly buy life insurance with a pre-existing health condition, but the policy premiums may be much larger than you would prefer. The insurer might also cap the policy amount at a level you find unsatisfactory. If you purchase a guaranteed acceptance policy, keep in mind that it will probably take 2-3 years before that policy is in full force. Should you pass away in the interim, your beneficiaries will probably not collect the policy’s death benefit; instead, they may receive the equivalent of the premiums you have paid plus interest.3
Not realizing that permanent life insurance policies expire. Have you read stories about seniors “outliving” their life insurance coverage? It can happen. Living to be 90 or 100 is not so extraordinary as it once was.3
Permanent life insurance products come with maturity dates, and for years, 85 was a common maturity date. If you live long enough, you could outlive your policy. The upside of doing so is that you will receive a payout from the insurer, which may correspond to the policy’s cash value at the maturity date. The downside of outliving your policy? If you want further insurance coverage, it may not be obtainable – or it could be staggeringly expensive.3
Take your time when you look for life insurance, and compare your options. The more insight you can draw on, the more informed the choice you may make.
1 - smartasset.com/life-insurance/5-mistakes-to-avoid-when-buying-life-insurance [4/11/18]
2 - kiplinger.com/article/saving/T063-C032-S014-could-unclaimed-money-be-yours.html [10/13/17]
3 - nasdaq.com/article/4-errors-to-avoid-with-your-life-insurance-cm868133 [10/30/17]
Working longer might work out well for you.
Are you in your fifties and unsure if you have enough retirement savings? Then you have two basic financial choices. You could start saving and investing more of your pay than you currently do, or you could work longer so you have fewer years of retirement to fund.
That second choice might be more manageable, and it may also work out better financially.
Research suggests that working longer might be a good way to address this shortfall. Last month, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) published a paper on this very topic, and its conclusions are significant. The four economists writing the report maintain that when you reach your mid-sixties, staying on the job just one more year could help you greatly. Waiting a little longer to file for Social Security also becomes a plus.1
What was the most noteworthy finding? By the time you are 66, staying on the job just an additional three to six months will do as much for your standard of living in retirement as if you had contributed 1% more to your retirement plan for 30 years.1
Here is an example from the report, with an asterisk attached. A 66-year-old who has directed 9% of their earnings into an employee retirement plan during the length of their career retires. Had they simply put 10% of their pay per year into that retirement plan rather than 9%, they would have retired with 11.11% more money in that account.1
If they work for another year, retire at 67 and file for Social Security benefits at 67, they may put themselves in a better financial position. In this simple example, Social Security benefits would constitute the other 81% of their retirement income. They are just slightly past their Full Retirement Age as defined by Social Security, so by retiring at 67, they receive 108% of the monthly Social Security benefit they would have received at 66.1,2
The asterisk in this scenario is the outlook for Social Security. In the future, will Social Security benefits be reduced? That possibility exists.
Working full time until age 67 may be a tall order for some of us. Right now, only about a third of American workers retire after age 65; about a fifth retire at age 60 or younger. Perhaps the ambitious, energetic baby boom generation will alter those percentages.3
Working one or two more years may be worthwhile for several reasons. Your invested assets have one or two more years to compound before potentially being drawn down – and when assets have grown for decades, even a year of compounding is highly significant. If you have $350,000 growing at 6% annually in a retirement fund, waiting just a year will enlarge that sum by $21,000 and waiting five more years will leave it $118,000 larger – and this is without any inflows.3
Spending another year on the job may help you become fully vested in a pension plan, and it also positions you to receive greater Social Security payments (assuming you are currently 62 or older). Wait until age 65 to retire, and you can leave work without having to worry about buying health insurance – Medicare is right there for you. You also keep your mind active by working longer, and you maintain the friendships you have made through your career or workplace.3
Retire later, and you may do yourself a financial favor. Consider the idea, and be sure to consult with the financial professional you know and trust today regarding your retirement prospects.
1 - marketwatch.com/story/you-may-want-to-work-longer-heres-why-2018-01-22/ [1/22/18]
2 - bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-01-23/the-remarkable-financial-benefits-of-delaying-retirement [1/23/18]
3 - fool.com/retirement/2017/04/23/5-benefits-of-delaying-retirement.aspx [4/23/17]
Want a better financial future for yourself? Act now.
As a young woman, you have an opportunity to make some major financial strides. You truly have time on your side when it comes to investing, saving, and harnessing the power of compounding. Now is the time to pay yourself first and do those things that could make you wealthy in the future.
Your first move should be debt reduction. This frees up money for the other moves you can make and lessens the amount of money you pay to others, instead of yourself, each month.
Consider attacking your highest-interest debts first rather than your largest debts. If you have big credit card balances, high-interest car loans, or similar financial obligations, that borrowed money may be extremely expensive. Credit bureau Experian says that monthly household credit card balances in this country hover around $6,375. According to personal finance website NerdWallet, the average interest rate on a credit card right now is 14.87%, and the average U.S. household pays out $904 a year just in credit card interest. A constant debt of $6,000 is bad enough, but having to pay roughly another $1,000 a year just for the opportunity to borrow? That really hurts.1
Whether your major debts are larger or smaller, think of the progress you could possibly make by devoting thousands of dollars you pay to others to yourself. Say you direct $3,000 you would otherwise pay to creditors during a year into an investment account returning 6%. Say you do this for 10 consecutive years. At the end of that 10-year period, you are looking at $47,287, not simply $30,000. That is what compound interest – the best kind of interest – can do for you financially.2
Across longer time periods, compound interest has a proportionately greater positive effect. Stretch the above example out to 35 years and those annual $3,000 investments at a 6% return grow to $377,421. (Keep in mind, you may be able to save and invest considerably more than $3,000 annually as you earn more money per year.)2
Save or invest whatever you can. Setting aside a little cash for yourself is good, too. You want to build some kind of emergency fund with money you can touch; money you can get at right away if you need it quickly.
Many retirement savings vehicles offer you tax breaks. The common workplace retirement plan or IRA is tax favored: money within the account grows tax free, and it is subtracted from your paycheck before taxes. You only pay taxes on the money when it is withdrawn. In addition, many employers will partially match your contributions if you meet a certain minimum. Roth IRAs and workplace plans allow both tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals, provided Internal Revenue Service rules are followed. While you get no up-front tax break for contributing to a Roth account, you also have the potential to withdraw the money tax free for retirement, which is a great thing.3
Not using these saving and investing accounts could be a big mistake. Some people are skittish about Wall Street investments, but largely speaking, those are the kinds of investments that have the potential to return better than 5% a year (think about the scenario from a few paragraphs earlier). In fact, the S&P 500, the broad benchmark of the stock market, gained an impressive 19.42% last year.4
Parking too much money in cash and avoiding all risk can come with an opportunity cost you may not be able to afford. Sallie Krawcheck, the former president of the investment management division of Bank of America and CEO of Ellevest, estimates that a woman making $85,000 annually who puts 20% of her yearly pay into a bank account rather than an investment account could effectively forfeit more than $1 million after four decades of doing so.5
Now is the ideal time to plan to get ahead financially. Think about your future, and make the wise money moves that give you the potential to make it bright.
1 - tinyurl.com/ybxskou6 [2/19/18]
2 - bankrate.com/calculators/savings/compound-savings-calculator-tool.aspx [2/22/18]
3 - fool.com/retirement/2017/05/20/taxable-vs-tax-advantaged-savings.aspx [5/20/17]
4 - ycharts.com/indicators/sandp_500_return_annual [2/22/18]
5 - money.cnn.com/2017/03/08/pf/financial-moves-sallie-krawcheck/ [3/8/17]
Why you may want to have one in place in any market climate.
What is a stop-loss strategy, and how can it potentially aid an investor? Savvy investors use stop-loss orders as a kind of “insurance” against stock market losses. Simply explained, a stop-loss order is an order you give to a brokerage to sell a stock when the share price falls to a certain level.
A stop-loss strategy may be used to preserve gains and alleviate downside risk. Say you buy 10 shares at $60 a share, and eight months later the price is at $68 a share. You place a stop-loss order with your broker, telling your broker you want to sell if the share price dips to $66. One day, the share price falls to that level, and the stop-loss order becomes a market order authorizing a trade. If the market (or market sector) dives quickly, you may not be able to sell your shares for $66, but you will likely be able to sell them near that price.1
You can also employ trailing stops as part of a stop-loss strategy. This can be useful with a growth stock. As an example, suppose you buy into a company at $20 a share, and two years later, the share price stands at $35 and seems poised to rise further. Is it time for profit-taking, or should you hang on to those shares a bit longer?
A trailing stop may provide an answer to this dilemma. When you put a trailing stop in place, you authorize your broker to sell the stock when the price dips a certain percentage below the current market value – say, 10% under market price. So if shares move up to $50, then fall to $45, you are able to sell at or near $45, and you profit more than you would had you sold at $35.2
The trailing stop moves up as the share price moves up. Obviously, you do not want to set the trailing stop only a handful of percentage points below the current price, because that could mean activating the stop too soon.
Profit targets are also part of stop-loss strategies. When the price of a stock reaches a certain level – a target price – you sell. In setting a profit target, you know when to get out, and you know your degree of profit as you close the trade.
How much gain do you need to break even or profit? Here is the key question in a stop-loss strategy. Reaching a price target represents a win, and a stop-loss represents a loss. At a glance, it seems easy to gauge whether your stop-loss strategy is a success: the wins merely have to exceed the losses. The evaluation is not quite that simple. You can use relatively simple math to figure out your break-even percentage: (Stop Loss ÷ (Target + Stop Loss)) x 100.3
For the sake of simplicity, say your average loss is $100 and your average target $200. The calculation becomes: (100 ÷ (200 + 100)) x 100, or 0.33 x 100 = 33%. Commissions aside, you need to win on 33% of your trades to break even. Win more trades than that and you are profiting.
When exactly will you break even or profit? Time will tell, but the answer may directly relate to the difference in your loss level and your target level. If your target level is way above your loss level, in theory you will have to win very few trades to profit – but in reality, you may have a hard time winning any trades, and your strategy could fail. When your target level is closer to your loss level, you must win more often to break even, but winning may become easier for you.
A stop-loss strategy could help you sustain the income stream from your portfolio. A little reflection will reveal why. When Wall Street slumps, a buy-and-hold investor can become a buy-and-fold investor, hanging onto losers too long and then selling them at or near a market bottom. Alternately, an investor may fall in love with a winner so much that no profit is ever taken – he or she learns a tough lesson when its share price falls and the opportunity to sell high is lost. Having price targets and stop orders in place takes some of the emotion out of trading in these circumstances, helping to mitigate losses and lock in gains.
Sure, there are potential drawbacks to a stop-loss strategy. Some people prefer price alerts to automatic stop-losses, because they want to stay hands-on and not cede control of trades to software and algorithms – and in a steep market drop, those algorithms may quickly drive a stock’s price well under a stop in the blink of an eye. An opportunity cost can also be paid with the use of price targets – maybe this or that stock clearly has more upside, and it really feels like you are selling too soon when the target is reached. These points aside, a well-considered stop-loss strategy may have real value for an investor, especially one who does not actively trade stocks on a day-to-day basis.
1 - investopedia.com/ask/answers/06/stoplossorderdetails.asp [1/4/18]
2 - thebalance.com/trailing-stop-1031394 [7/25/17]
3 - thebalance.com/calculating-your-break-even-percentage-1031085 [10/14/16]