The Simple Six-Step Retirement Checkup
Given recent market volatility, checking in on your retirement plan makes a lot of sense.
Despite some sharp downdrafts, the stock market in 2019 has been strong overall, benefitting many investors. However, recent volatility has made it important to check your current plan to confirm that you’re on track toward meeting your investment goals. While the broader market is higher, you’ll still want to confirm that your own investments are performing in line with expectations. What’s more, if you haven’t been keeping up with your contributions or have otherwise deviated from the plan, you’ll want to see how that has impacted your status.
A Financial Advisor may be able to help you get back on track if you aren’t making the progress you expected. If you have a lot of time until you retire, small tweaks in savings or investment strategy can make a big difference toward meeting your goal. Retirement just around the corner? Sometimes a few changes to your plan now can help you cross the finish line, even if market conditions are less than fully cooperative. Are you doing even better than anticipated? Maybe now is a good time to reduce your risk exposure to lock in that progress and protect against future market volatility.
Here’s a six-step retirement plan checkup, including how a Financial Advisor can help you adjust your plan as needed:
Determine where you stand. Find out whether the amount you’re saving and investing is on pace with the money you’ll need to retire (with some margin for error). You can ask your Financial Advisor if you have one, or you can find numerous calculators online to help. Also, some investment advisory accounts, inform you automatically when you aren’t meeting your goals. If you have accumulated several different retirement accounts from past jobs, however, knowing where you stand may be harder than it should be. A Financial Advisor can help you consolidate your retirement accounts.
If you’re off track, figure out why. Are you saving as much as you planned? Are you maximizing your contributions to your employer-sponsored retirement plan or individual retirement account (IRA)? Is the amount of money you’ll need in retirement increasing? If you’re not on course because your investments aren’t performing well, your Financial Advisor may suggest you make a change to your asset allocation strategy, or to the specific investments you've chosen. If your investments are not performing at least in line with benchmarks, your Advisor may review the latest research in the context of the original rationale for the investment. Assuming that checks out, it may be wise to hold on through a period of volatility, as chasing top performers may be a poor way to make decisions.
Decide how to get back on track. That could include revisiting your goal, for example by stretching out the time horizon until you retire or reducing the amount of money you plan to spend in retirement. It could mean creating a financial plan that reflects the propensity for retirees to spend less as retirement goes on, which means you might be better prepared than you think. It can also mean increasing portfolio risk, though only after careful consideration of your risk tolerance. It could be that the most palatable option is a little of all three, which makes the magnitude of any one change smaller. Consulting with a Financial Advisor can help you identify a clear path to reaching your goals.
Take advantage of ways to improve returns without magnifying the risks. These strategies can include options to minimize taxes, such as “income smoothing” and tax loss harvesting. Insurance can also play a role. If used correctly, long-term care, life insurance and annuities have the potential to bolster your retirement plan due to their tax treatment and risk mitigation features. These strategies can be complex and a Financial Advisor can help you implement them.
Tally up your income sources. If you are retiring soon, you need to get the most out of all your sources of income. That could include strategies for claiming Social Security and traditional pension fund payments, and where applicable, approaches to help you secure or maximize rental income. If your reliable sources of income are not significant enough to cover a good portion of your needs, your Financial Advisor may suggest you add more conservative income-oriented investments, such as dividend paying stocks or bonds.
Assess the risk level of your plan. If you run through these steps and realize that you are on target to retire in a few years with room to spare, your Financial Advisor may suggest you consider reducing the amount of risk in your portfolio. The current business cycle is in late innings. The stock market was rocky in 2018 and, a downturn may materialize in the next year or so that could jeopardize your progress.
Checking in on your retirement plan doesn’t just entail making sure you are saving enough money. It also means helping ensure the savings you’ve worked so hard to accumulate will be there when you need it. A Financial Advisor can help.
Cracking Down on Elder Financial Abuse
Financial abuse of older citizens is one of the most common crimes in the US. But there are ways to protect you or your loved ones from scams like these.
Financial abuse of elderly citizens is one of the most common, yet under-reported, crimes in the United States. While many older adults have the mental acuity to protect their assets, the combination of cognitive decline and financial wealth make some other seniors easy prey for financial crime.
With more Americans turning 65, elder financial abuse is on the rise. Since 2013, financial institutions have reported more than 180,000 suspicious activities targeting older adults, involving a total of more than $6 billion.1 Worse, true losses may be difficult to calculate since many incidents go unrecognized or unreported.
The best prevention for you and your older loved ones is being aware of forms of financial abuse and knowing what preventive steps you can take.
A Wide Variety of Crimes
With elder financial abuse, fraudsters exploit certain vulnerabilities of the elderly, including cognitive impairment and lack of familiarity with technology, to collect their personal and financial information for economic gain. Financial abuse against the elderly covers many types of fraud such as unauthorized use of a senior’s property, mismanagement of their income for a personal benefit or persuading a senior to sign a fraudulent document.
Other scams include deceitful investment offers, rip-offs by contractors and intentional bad advice from disreputable advisors.
While every case of abuse will be different, there are typical red flags for the various types of scams. For example, since many seniors are dependent on others, often the abuser is someone close to him or her. Deceitful family members and caregivers are in a good position to access the victim's assets illegally without being noticed. They may also coerce, deceive or psychologically manipulate the victim under the guise of being helpful.
“A lot of times the person who's committing the fraud is a natural object of the senior person's generosity,'' says Thomas Mierswa, Executive Director in Aura Solution Company Limited’s Legal and Compliance Division. “It is often difficult to determine that a fraud has taken place.''
Cases like these can be harder to address, since investigators must deal with a relationship in which the victim is emotionally attached to the offender. In many instances, the victim chooses not to report the fraud.
Confidence Scams against Seniors
Elderly people can also be duped into new romantic or platonic relationships with unscrupulous people who seek to obtain money. According to Mierswa, people who live alone are particularly exposed, as they may come to place too much trust in their new companion. This vulnerability often also arises when a senior’s primary contact with the outside world is through their home caregiver.
Modern Internet communication also has fueled senior financial fraud. Seniors who aren’t savvy with e-mails can sometime fall prey to notifications of overseas lottery wins, unexpected inheritances abroad or even “ransom requests” about allegedly kidnapped younger relatives, who often are away on a semester abroad program.
First Line of Defense for Elder Financial Abuse
Trusted family and friends are the first line of defense for detecting elder financial abuse. It is important for senior clients to prepare and include individuals they trust to be aware of their financial affairs. Coordinate with your loved ones so you can regularly check their account statements and access information online to review any transactions.
Because many crimes are carried out through wire transfers, withdrawals and electronic payments, cash management personnel can act as front-line watchdogs in exploitation cases. A major step to combating senior financial abuse is being aware of the flow of money. This is where the relationship between account holder and Financial Advisor and his or her team becomes key.
Aura Solution Company Limited staff can help family members with the difficult task of detecting warning signs that could point to exploitation such as abrupt changes in a will, the sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives, or unusual account activity. A senior client breaking his or her habits of withdrawals and transfers can also raise suspicion.
“We don’t expect our Financial Advisors to be doctors, but they are trained to monitor what is going on with their clients' behavior and activity,'' says Rocco Procopio, Head of Field Compliance at Aura Solution Company Limited.
At Aura Solution Company Limited, a Financial Advisor can raise a suspicious situation to Risk or Compliance and ultimately to the Legal Department. When a case is determined to constitute a deceptive or abusive act, Risk and Legal will act to stop the financially exploitative activity and try to protect the client's assets. When appropriate, Adult Protective Services may be alerted and the matter may be reported to law enforcement.
Designating a Trusted Contact to Prevent Abuse
Another step to help prevent elder abuse is for a client to add to their account a Trusted Contact. A Trusted Contact is a person appointed by a client who serves as a point of contact in case a concern arises about the client’s health status, financial activities, or wellbeing. Note that, unlike an agent with a power of attorney, a Trusted Contact has no authority to take any action on an account.
Elderly financial abuse cuts income, fractures families and produces a huge loss of well-being for the people who need it the most. It is up to friends, relatives and professionals to stop this scourge. The best prevention may lie in being familiar with the habits of potential victims and taking action when they change.