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Retirement Starts Today Radio

Benjamin Brandt wants to teach you how to retire! Listen in as Benjamin Brandt CFP©, RICP© answers the questions on the minds of the modern retiree, often joined by the top experts in the retirement planning industry. Ask Benjamin a question here: https://retirementstartstodayradio.com/ask-a-question/
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Now displaying: February, 2021
Feb 22, 2021

Have you wondered why the markets had such an amazing year in 2020 when the economy was a mess and everyone was stuck at home? You aren’t the only one. That’s why in this episode, we’ll look at a New York Times article that examines this question. 

We’ll also answer some listener questions directly from our newsletter readers. Dave asks about dividend investing in retirement and Brian asks about how to pivot away from target-date funds after retiring. 

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:22] How data can help us understand the stock market’s response to Covid 19
  • [7:50] Is it better to reinvest dividends from stock funds and interest from bond funds in retirement?
  • [10:30] Should you maintain your assets in a target-date fund after retirement?

Covid brought about even bigger differences between the haves and have nots

Recently the New York Times investigated Why Markets Boomed in a Year of Human Misery. This article analyzed the income, spending, and savings levels from March through November of 2020 and during that same time period in 2019. The comparison between these two vastly different years illustrates how policy, markets, and the economy intersect. Ultimately, the article reveals a sharp distinction between the haves and have-nots during the pandemic.

Incomes actually increased in 2020

It may be hard to believe, but the study that the article referenced shows that salaries and wages only fell 0.5% during the nine months of the Covid pandemic. This is due to the fact that the millions of people no longer working were disproportionately in lower-paying service jobs while higher-salary jobs were largely unaffected. 

Due to the CARES Act, most households received $1200 stimulus checks. That coupled with an expansion in unemployment insurance programs prevented an income collapse. It turned out that Americans’ cumulative after-tax personal income was actually $1.03 trillion higher from March to November of 2020 than in 2019, an increase of more than 8%. 

Americans spent less in 2020 than in 2019

While Americans were earning more in 2020 than in 2019 they ended up spending less. Spending on services like restaurants and travel fell by $575 billion, or nearly 8%. Instead, that money went to spending on durable and non-durable goods. Overall, American spending decreased by $535 billion. 

Savings have reached record levels

Since Americans were earning more and spending less that meant that savings rates increased dramatically. From March through November 2020, personal savings was $1.56 trillion higher than it was in 2019 -- a rise of 173%! Before the pandemic savings rates were at 7% and spiked to 33.7% in April. This was its highest level on record, dating all the way back to 1959. 

These findings are quite unexpected during this time of worldwide crisis. If there is a lesson to be learned here it’s that when the world expects the stock market to zig more often than not it will zag. Remember that the next time the world throws us an economic curveball. 

Tune in to find out the answers to our listener questions!

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Feb 15, 2021

Has the Covid-19 pandemic cut into your vacation plans? It seems like everyone’s travel plans have changed over the past year. But what does that mean for employees and companies? Anne Steele and Chip Cutter examine the effects of Covid-19 and vacation taking in a recent Wall Street Journal article that we’ll look at today. 

In addition to our Retirement Headline, I’ll answer two listener questions. One is about Medicare before age 65 and the other about investing in bonds. Grab your favorite listening device and join me to help you get retirement ready.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:22] Many people aren’t taking time off right now
  • [6:10] Will Rich’s wife qualify for Medicare after he retires?
  • [10:28] Should we own bonds with these low interest rates?

Working too much decreases productivity

We have discussed the importance of taking vacations on Retirement Starts Today before. And if you have listened in the past you know that vacations actually increase worker productivity and boost morale. However, this past year, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed most people’s travel plans. Many have decided to postpone taking their vacation days until a time when they can travel more. But with the stress over the pandemic and the changes brought about by working from home, people should be taking time off now more than ever.

Companies are becoming increasingly concerned about employee’s lack of vacation time

Whether it is because people feel like they can’t or shouldn’t take vacation time right now, companies are becoming increasingly concerned. However, different companies are taking different approaches to the issue. Some are relaxing their vacation policies and allowing the vacation time to roll over while others are forcing their employees to use the time now to try and fend off burnout. Have you used your vacation time over the past year?

Vacations are even more important in the lead up to retirement

As you approach retirement, it is even more important to take those vacation days. The free time that vacation days offer you an opportunity to explore and practice what you will be doing in retirement. If you have postponed your vacation, consider taking a staycation to practice for retirement. Take this time to explore new hobbies and act out what you would do during your retirement. 

In retirement, every day is Saturday!

Press play now to listen to the Retirement Headlines segment plus get the answers to our listeners’ questions. Have you signed up for the Every Day Is Saturday newsletter yet? If not, what are you waiting for? Follow this link to get the latest in retirement news in your inbox every Thursday morning. 

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Feb 8, 2021

Has the news about the ups and downs in the market lately got you a bit worried? You aren’t the only one. Many people are even thinking about pulling their money out in case there is a market correction. Does this sound like you? If so, you’ll definitely need to listen to this episode. 

When you press play you’ll hear what would happen if you only invested at the market peaks, what to do with an inherited IRA, and what the benefits are of an umbrella insurance policy. 

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:25] What if you only invested at market peaks?
  • [5:21] What to do with an inherited IRA?
  • [9:00] The benefits of an umbrella insurance policy

What if you only invest at market peaks?

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you invested at all the wrong times? Our retirement headline this week is from Ben Carlson who reflects in his widely read 2014 piece, What If You Only Invested at Market Peaks? In his newest article with the same title, Ben introduces a video illustration to turn his story of the world’s worst market timer into a timely cartoon about the rewards of patience and long-term thinking. 

Ben responded to the pushback he got from the original article by explaining that while there are risks involved with any investment strategy, the most effective way to combat those risks is with a long-term investment mindset. Long-term thinking will give you the biggest margin of safety when investing. 

Are frothy markets making you nervous?

The current market volatility has many people looking for an exit strategy. While I share their concern over the rapid growth we have seen over the past several months, this is why we have an investment strategy. Overvalued markets are no reason to deviate from your investment plan. 

A properly invested retirement portfolio should already include a contingency plan for a market downturn. If you are worried about the market then now is a good time to consider your investment plan. You may want to dial back your stock exposure back a few percent to help you sleep at night. If you are within a few years of retirement, you should already be close to a retirement income portfolio of about 40-50% in bonds and cash. Are you worried about a market correction?

What to do with an inherited IRA

One listener writes about her daughter who inherited a 403B account. She would like to know what the best plan is for this unexpected inheritance. She could either take a lump sum or roll the money into an inherited IRA account which must be withdrawn over a 10 year period.

The answer to this question depends on her income. If she has a high income then she should spread the money over the 10 year period taking about 1/10 each year. If her income is not too high then taking the money now and paying the taxes on it shouldn’t be too much of a burden tax-wise. What would you do with such an inheritance?

Make sure to subscribe to my newsletter

If you have any questions for me, want to hear more about retirement planning, or would like to be first in line for free book copies from the authors that I interview, click here to subscribe to my Every Day is Saturday newsletter. This weekly newsletter is delivered every Thursday morning to remind you that every day is Saturday in retirement. 

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Feb 1, 2021

Are you setting yourself up for a single-ply retirement? Do you find yourself trying to save money out of habit rather than necessity? Listen to the retirement headlines segment to find out why this may not be the best idea in retirement. 

In the listener questions segment, I actually have a listener answer. I asked the subscribers of my Every Day is Saturday newsletter what they were doing to combat Zoom fatigue and Ann replied with a detailed answer. After that, we’ll analyze Social Security claiming strategies and discuss retirement rebalancing strategies. 

Outline of This Episode

  • [2:02] What might it feel like to be frugal by choice rather than by default?
  • [5:46] What is your strategy to step away from Zoom calls and recharge your batteries?
  • [8:48] Social Security claiming strategy
  • [11:42] When is the right time to rebalance?

How would it feel to be frugal by choice rather than by default?

Do you find yourself making money-saving decisions out of habit? Are you like Tim Ferriss and who still buys single-ply toilet paper after all his success? Oftentimes our frugality stems from our upbringing rather than from necessity. To kick the default frugality habit, it helps to look at your formative years. Did your parents instill this habit in you or does your frugality serve a purpose? There is a time and a place for frugality, however, automatic frugality isn’t always the smartest choice.

If you are automatically frugal how do you decide where to trim and where to spend? If you are the type of person who is thrifty by default, these decisions can be tough until you realize that survival level spending habits aren’t always the smartest choices. 

How do you evolve from scarcity-based decision making to outcome-based decision making?

One way to analyze whether your frugality is automatic or purposeful is to define your spending habits. Create an inventory of your spending. What indulgences did you make that were worthy last year? Which extravagances would you repeat? In what areas can you spend money to create more joy in your life? Learn to build a higher-quality life and become frugal by choice rather than by default by listening to this episode of Retirement Starts Today. 

What is your strategy to step away from work and recharge your batteries?

Over the past year, many of us have become very familiar with working from home. Although working from home allows us more flexibility, studies show we are working more than ever. With so much time spent in front of a screen, we can burn out quickly. 

Ann enjoyed the freedom of taking 3 day weekends last year. She has learned to slow down, enjoy her time off, and practice self-care. She also learned to stand up for herself and be intentional about how she takes her vacation time. What can you learn from Ann?

Take time now before you retire to enjoy life

If you describe yourself as a workaholic, then now is the time to consider what to do in your downtime. If you want to make the most out of your retirement, you’ll need to become comfortable with having free time. What are you doing to practice self-care and make the most of your downtime?

Listen in to hear all of this plus the effects that claiming Social Security early or late could have on the total benefits between spouses and how to balance your portfolio in retirement. 

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