Decumulation: There Is No Rule of Thumb

By Rich Rausser, CPC, QPA, QKA,   Senior Vice President, Pentegra Retirement Services

In most pursuits, people usually look for a “rule of thumb” when it comes to sound strategies or best practices. However, when it comes to developing a retirement plan strategy the rule of thumb is that there is no rule of thumb.

The reason for this may be obvious. As individuals, we all have our own needs, wants and concerns; many of us may be the same age, live in the same geographical area, and even make the same exact salary. Even if two people were hired on the same day by the same firm at the same salary, and made equal contributions to their 401(k) plans throughout their careers, there are still a number of variables to prevent them from taking a “one size fits all” approach to decumulation.

Are both persons married? Are their spouses/partners both working and, if so, what are their salaries and retirement savings? Do they have any children? Where are they in terms of college expenses and healthcare needs?

Unrealistic Rules

I note this because there has been some discussion of late over an industry-wide “rule of thumb” that suggests retirees should try to replace 80 percent of their income during the first year of retirement. While that may be an admirable goal, it may not be realistic for many retirees for the reasons listed above as well as others.

Another specious rule of thumb is that retirees will simply take their 401(k) savings as a lump sum distribution when they retire. While lump sum distributions are certainly a viable option, many plan participants may not even be aware that other options exist and may benefit from further education about alternative distribution options.

Alternative Distribution Options

Many 401(k) plans have numerous distribution options, thus offering a tremendous amount of flexibility in how retirees can take their money. These can include what we call an “ad hoc distribution” – whereby the retiree takes out some money whenever he or she wants; a regular, periodic distribution — $2,000 per month, for instance, or $6,000 per quarter; or structuring payouts over the retiree’s life expectancy.

There is another option that I have mentioned before: supplementing one’s retirement income by purchasing an out-of-plan annuity that can provide a guaranteed level of income to retirees for as long as they live. If a retiree puts 20 to 25 percent of their retirement savings into an annuity, with Social Security providing supplemental income and the rest of the retiree’s account balance consisting of various other pieces, the retiree is in effect “pensionizing” part of their retirement savings.

The annuity option should be available to every 401(k) plan participant, regardless of individual circumstances; it should be viewed as another tool in their retirement savings tool box.

Retirement plans should be constructed in a way that provides the best possible solutions to its plan participants in a cost-effective manner.

For additional information, watch the recent webinar, “Keys to Building Successful Retirement Outcomes.”  Or, download The Pentegra Distribution Path™  for an overview of all the options available to employees and essential tips for creating a decumulation strategy to build a lifetime income stream.

Pentegra_LogoPentegra is the NAFCU Services Preferred partner for Qualified Retirement Plans for Credit Union Employees. More educational resources and contact information are available at www.nafcu.org/pentegra

10 Steps to Better Retirement Planning for the New Year

RICHARD W. RAUSSER, CPC
SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, CLIENT SERVICES

Rich RRich Rausserausser is a Certified Pension Consultant (CPC), a Qualified Pension Administrator (QPA), a Qualified 401(k) Administrator (QKA), and a member of the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries (ASPPA). He holds an M.B.A. in Finance from Fairleigh Dickinson University and a B.A. in Economics and Business Administration from Ursinus College. 

Pentegra Retirement Services is the NAFCU Services Preferred Partner for Qualified Retirement Plans for Credit Union Employees. http://www.nafcu.org/pentegra/

The start of every New Year brings the promise of new beginnings; a time to think about setting goals and resolving to do new things, particularly when it comes to finances.

It is important to take a few minutes this month to think about the state of your retirement portfolio and to commit to an annual self-assessment.  This should be more than ‘I will spend less’ in 2015. One of your resolutions should be to find better ways to manage your finances and invest your money.

I encourage everyone to jump-start their efforts with this checklist:

1. Increase Plan Contributions:  Are you contributing as much as you can afford to your retirement plan? The more money you put into your plan now, the bigger your potential retirement nest egg. Adding as little as five or ten extra dollars per paycheck could make a big difference over the long term.

2. Make Catch-up Contributions: Your plan may allow you to make “catch-up” contributions over and above the regular contribution limit if you are age 50 or older. If possible, take advantage of the opportunity to give your retirement savings a boost.

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Getting Our Hands Dirty

Written by John E. Pinto, President and CEO, Pentegra Retirement Services

Register for the webinar, “The 401(K) Plan of the Future,” presented by Pentegra Retirement Services and NAFCU Services on Wednesday, August 13, 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET. Register here.

It was not a typical day for retirement plan professionals, but it was certainly memorable.

On May 15, 2014, I had the pleasure of joining 15 of our passionate employees from our White Plains headquarters to clean gardens, dig in the dirt to plant flowers, and create crossword puzzle white boards. This was one of the most productive and fulfilling days—personally and professionally—we agree we’ve all had in a long time, and I guarantee that we will be doing it again soon!

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It’s the End of the World as We Know It, and I Feel…Fine?

Originally published on CUinsight.com.

No, I’m not talking about the fiscal cliff, although some here in Washington, DC are calling it the end. Worse. The Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012 and if you’re into certain doomsday theories, that day marks the end of the world. Which means I need to quit my job today, right now, and enjoy my remaining time on earth (T-minus 30 days) lounging on a faraway tropical island.

For the most part I’m joking, but fantasizing about cashing out to live on an island makes me wonder—will I be ready to retire when I want to?

Although retirement seems like a lifetime away (at least twenty years), and I have a background in financial services, I’m not so sure that I’ll be ready when the time comes. I have a 401(k)—several actually—as well as IRAs, brokerage accounts, and a rainy day fund. I even participate in direct stock purchase plans. It would seem like with my knowledge of financial planning (and a predisposition towards frugal living, thank you Mom) that I would be well on my way to a secure retirement. The uncertainty of the market over the past few years has left me questioning my ability to ever retire. Unfortunately, quite a number of people feel the same way.

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Does Your 401(k) Have ‘Fee Vampires’?

Originally published on CUinsight.com.

We’re big into energy conservation in my household, and it wasn’t until we began looking more seriously into why we were using so much electricity that we discovered the dark side of all those ‘instant on’ appliances and electronics. Plugged in all the time, they act like little energy vampires, sucking what is individually a small amount of electricity out of the grid for our convenience. Problem is, all those small amounts add up to a big chunk of our monthly utility bill.

We all want the best for our employees when it comes to their retirements.  We encourage, cajole, and practically order them to participate in our 401(k) programs to take maximum advantage of the tax benefits and any matching program we might have. And then we often provide education about investment options to give every employee the opportunity to select a pattern of investment that fits their personal style and time of life, to maximize the value they are going to receive from the program.

But just like we went through an energy audit, you need to go through a fee audit for your 401(k) to make sure that superfluous fees aren’t sucking a chunk of the potential return away from your employees.

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