By Casey Smith, ASA ALPA R&I Committee 401k Specialist and
Kyle Waller, Research Analyst, Wiser Wealth Management, Inc
The saving rate among Americans is decreasing, yet the need for income in retirement is as crucial as ever with pensions and social security becoming scarce and not as guaranteed as they once were.
There is a real cost to not saving, and that cost increases as retirement approaches. This is a particular concern for us as pilots with forced retirement ages, since we will not be able to choose to continue working into our 70s. That being said, there is still hope at any age and it is never too late to start getting out of debt and saving for future needs. No matter the state of the nation’s economy, focusing on your personal economy should come first.
As we can see above, the saving rate among Americans has been on a sharp downtrend since the late 1980s, dropping to record lows during 2008. Recently, it has risen to just under 4% on average in 2009 and this year.
Saving has risen again recently due to the lower availability of credit. Since credit is never a guarantee, Americans need to adjust their dependency on easy access to credit and put away a higher percentage of what they earn. In general, the upcoming generation of retirees is more accustomed to widely available credit and is more optimistic than previous ‘thriftier’ generations.
Financial wisdom is an important key to having a successful portfolio. However, the more valuable factor that is often overlooked is time. Time gives the investor the ability to make it through both economic downturns and market booms. Historically, the market has behaved with large gains or losses over short periods of time. The secret to financial success is having a good strategy and the time to see those investments through the long run. You can see the value of time and saving sooner rather than later in the scenario below.
How Much To Save
A good rule of thumb is for an individual to be able to withdraw 3-4% in retirement without touching principle. This would generate $40,000 annually from a $1,000,000 portfolio.
Source: Morningstar, Inc using a 7% interest rate
Life isn’t as simple as the illustrated example since a professional pilot will most likely receive significant pay increases throughout his or her career. Another thing to consider is that as retirement approaches, it makes more sense to alter the investment portfolio to become more conservative, taking less risk and avoiding major market swings. This is another reason a younger person saving for retirement is at an advantage; they can take an aggressive investing approach and see that strategy through bad market cycles to success.
The ASA matching schedule is given below: A healthy amount to save each month is 15-20% of your income. The sooner retirement is for you, the higher this percentage should be. At the very least, an ASA employee should be putting 6% into his or her 401K account out of every paycheck. Not doing so is taking a voluntary pay decrease. If you’re not saving this much, stop reading, log onto your account and change the percentage to at least 6%.
|Completed Years of Service||Matching Percent|
|4 to less than 7||50%|
|7 to less than 10||75%|
|10+||75% of the first 8%|
The ASA matching program matches a portion of the first 6% of your contribution based on completed years as an employee. Therefore, a second year employee (one year completed) will be matched 1.2% if they put at least 6% away in their 401K account (20% of 6%), this is in contrast to a 5% contribution rate which would be matched 1% (20% of 5%). Therefore, the real cost of not saving at least 6% is 1.2% for a second year employee. The incentive is increased as the employee completes more years. The program is designed to make a monetary incentive for saving through the program.
When making a plan for saving, it is important to note that good saving and investment behavior is as important as anything else. Saving should become systematic and so should the way you invest. This means no matter what the stock market is doing, you should be putting the same amount into your 401K and investment accounts every month. You should begin to think the same way about investing as you think of your monthly mortgage, a required bill.
Long term investing success really depends on playing great defense, which is sticking to the plan. This involves patience and endurance through market crisis, which will always come and go. An investor with a great strategy and the time to see it through will be successful and profitable in the end.
Why is behavior important? There is a gap in the stock market return and the average investor return, coined the behavior gap (see www.behaviorgap.com).
This behavior gap is caused by investors reacting to the ups and downs of the stock market, and can be very significant. When an investor reacts to the stocks market, i.e. buying stocks when they are rising, that investor is buying high. In the same way, selling stocks when they are falling is selling low. A profitable strategy is obviously just the opposite, selling high and buying low. To pull off this strategy successfully, a great amount market insight and forecasting is required. Even with good information, it is difficult do profitably over the long run. The better strategy is choosing funds to create a diversified portfolio and sticking to that plan no matter what happens in the market. This is a simplified version of a buy-and-hold strategy, but the “behavior gap” will be completely erased when an investor properly employs a no-nonsense buy and hold strategy.
Investment and retirement savings success does not depend on financial knowledge or complex strategies. When you are saving for retirement, create a hands off plan for saving, get on board with that plan and see it through to retirement.
You can view more 401k articles, the pilot retirement calculator, 401k model portfolios and research at www.wiserinvestor.com/resources/asa