I am single 62 years old and have never had a retirement account. I own both my home and a rental property that are paid off and have no other debt. I have $100,000 in savings that I would like to invest for retirement. At my current job I save $10,000 a month so hopefully I can add significantly to my retirement funds, but I’m a contractor working overseas in a volatile industry so there’s no guarantee how much I’ll be able to add in the coming months or years.
After much research, I chose a Schwab Robo Advisor account but have yet to have the required meeting with their financial planner or commit the funds. Based on my age, I’m waiting at most 10 years before I need to access these funds, but that’s not guaranteed either, and I may need to take money sooner. I’m nervous about the markets and our world in general, and my own relatively short-term (10-year) outlook in which to grow my nest egg. There are better options like high yield savings accounts, CDs, or certain bonds that I should consider?
Very little. Too late.
I see: I’ll be 65 soon, have $320,000 in retirement savings and a paid-off house, but $46,000 in debt – should I be getting more money out of my investments?
I’ll start with some good news – it’s not too late.
Many Americans are going without retirement accounts, so you’re certainly not alone. It’s great that you’re looking to change it now and you still have time.
Honestly, you should be a little aggressive with your current cash flow. Being able to save $10,000 a month is what many Americans desire, so take advantage of this amazing opportunity. You’ve paid off your house and a rental property and are debt-free, you should be able to stash away much of that income in investment and savings accounts.
“From a savings standpoint alone, he has a very good chance of creating a retirement that will work for him,” said Byrke Sestok, a certified financial planner and president of Rightirement Wealth Partners.
I will suggest – and this is not so much about retirement as just good general personal finance practice – that you set up an emergency savings account with six months’ worth of living expenses if you don’t already have one. The unexpected is just that – unexpected – and that’s especially true if you work in a “volatile” industry, as you put it.
That aside, let’s look at some things you can do now to boost your retirement security.
A robo-advisor is a great first step to investing, and if you have all your other finances figured out, you may not be interested in working with an advisor. A human financial planner is able to talk you through investment options, help you keep your emotions in check around stock market volatility, and remind you of things you might not have thought about for yourself. But if you just want to get started right away and not waste any more time, an online platform like a Robo-Aviser does the trick. You just have to be very diligent.
If you decide to work with a financial advisor, vet the professional—check their credentials and ask about their fees, which can be hourly or a percentage of your assets. Also, make sure they are acting in your best interest, so ask them if they follow the fiduciary standard. Here are some more questions you can ask.
When creating an account, regardless of the service you ultimately choose, be sure to think carefully and consider your time frame, your risk tolerance (that’s the risk you’re willing to take with your investments) and your risk capacity ( that’s how much you risk need to achieve some investment goals. Many services provide you with a suggested portfolio and it could end up being more heavily weighted towards conservative or aggressive investment choices depending on the information you enter.
A quick note about your schedule. You mentioned that you wait up to 10 years before you can tap into this stuff, but as you said, that’s not guaranteed. Keep this in mind when doing your asset allocation. You may want to work with a human advisor or talk to an investment firm about building “buckets” instead of a giant portfolio. That way, you can allocate a portion of your investments aggressively—that would be the long-term bucket—and a portion of your nest egg be allocated more conservatively—that bucket would be if you need the money sooner.
Reading: Is the bucket strategy superior to the 4% rule?
This is where that emergency savings account, which could be your third bucket, also plays an important role. When the stock market is going up, it is best not to touch the investments so that any losses have time to recover. If you have cash, you let those assets grow without causing any potential damage to future returns.
See also: I retired at 50, went back to work at 53, then a medical problem put me out of work: ‘There’s no such thing as a safe amount of money’
There’s no magic number for how much a person needs in retirement, so you can feel confused when choosing a goal when looking at the data on a robo-advisor’s website. Instead, you can choose to enter what you plan to contribute each month and it will generate some possible results based on that information and potential rates of return.
But if you’re trying to set a goal, consider absolutely every possible financial factor. Consider what income you will have, such as this portfolio, a pension, any Social Security benefits, a side job, etc. Also really think about any expense you could imagine…maintenance for your home or rental, taxes, health care, any big ticket goals like a vacation or a boat, family obligations or charitable donations you’d like to leave behind and more. Don’t forget long-term care planning, which is completely separate from your day-to-day medical expenses and can be quite costly. “The simple fact is that as we get older we have more medical bills and those are things that can’t be ignored,” Sestok said.
Dont miss: Are you planning to retire? Here is a list of at least 14 things to consider first
You’re also living abroad now – you’ll likely need to research what your lifestyle will look like if you plan to return to the US or remain abroad. If you can think of it, list it and schedule it. Here’s a calculator to help you understand the mindset for this task.
I’ll end with this. I know you mentioned that you’re worried about putting your nest egg in the markets given the current economic environment, and that’s totally valid. Investing can be scary. You’ll likely see a higher return over a decade with an investment account than a savings account, Sestok said, but you also need to be able to sleep at night, so you might want to talk to a professional about balancing your risk tolerance with risk capacity when building a portfolio. The last thing you want is for your emotions to get in the way of your retirement security.
“The number one thing with investing is to not let your emotions play a role,” Sestok said. “It’s also the number one challenge.”
Readers: Do you have suggestions for this reader? Add them in the comments below.
Have a question about your own retirement savings? Email us at HelpMeRetire@marketwatch.com