Ep 30: This Is Why You Never Assume

On This Episode

We often see people making certain assumptions about retirement that just aren’t correct. Let’s explore some of those on today’s show.

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PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC is an SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Information presented is for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. The topics and information discussed during this podcast are not intended to provide tax or legal advice. Investments involve risk, and unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed. Be sure to first consult with a qualified financial advisor and/or tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed on this podcast. Past performance is not indicative of future performance. Insurance products and services are offered and sold through individually licensed and appointed insurance agents.

Here is a transcript of today’s episode:


Marc: Hey, everybody. Welcome into Retirement Planning Redefined. Thanks for hanging out in the podcast with us as we talk investing finance and retirement with John and Nick from PFG Private Wealth. On this episode of the podcast, we’re going to talk about not making assumptions reasons, why to never assume. We all do it as humans, but when it certainly comes to retirement, there’s some ways and pretty easy ways to just not make these assumptions, but yet it does happen. So we’re going to talk through that a little bit, got a couple of bullet points we’re going to go over, but first let me say, hey to the guys. What’s going on John and Nick? How are you doing John?


John: I’m doing good. I’m doing good. I don’t know if I mentioned it on the past podcast, but we moved to a new house and it’s been a couple of months and just settling in. So getting some new furniture, which if anyone’s ordered furniture recently, everything’s back ordered by about two months. So we finally have some of that trickling in and so it’s nice to settle into a new place and then getting ready to enjoy it with the weather turning around here.


Marc: Very nice. Yeah. If you bought or tried to buy a lumber as well, holy moly. Lumbers through the roof if you’ve gone even to just a Lowe’s or something to get some plywood. It’s pretty crazy. But Nick, what’s going on with you? How are you?


Nick: Just staying busy. No complaints. I have a friend coming down to visit. He was one of the early people to get vaccinated, so he’s coming down to visit in another week or two. So that’d be kind of cool we’ll do everything outside and all that kind of stuff, but to have some sort of activity and a friend in town will be a good time.


Marc: Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, good. Well, I’m glad you guys are doing well. So let’s jump in and talk about this week’s topic, making assumptions. As I mentioned before, I mean, it’s common right? We’re humans. We do it in all sorts of areas and ways in life, but when we’re talking about retirement, there’s a few of these that maybe just don’t hold water anymore. So let’s start with a classic one here guys. I’ll spend less when I retire. I mean, we’ve heard that for a number of years and I get it, but at the same time, I just think with the cost of everything going up, the way it is, and my dad used to tell me when you get to retirement and he got there, he’s like, “Every day is a Saturday,” and he’s like, “I always spend the most money on a Saturday.” And I thought that was a good way of looking at it because you’re inclined to just do more, at least you want to anyway. That’s the goal of retirement right, is to get out there and do those things you’ve wanted to.


Yeah. Well, one of the things that we oftentimes talk about with people is really the whole goal of this planning process and the work that we put in over the years that are leading up to retirement is to allow you to not have to spend less, to want to spend the same. Maybe you’ll pay a little bit less on certain things here and there. Maybe you got the house paid off, but really from a lifestyle standpoint and your analogy that your father used of every day’s a Saturday is correct in a lot of ways. And so a lot of times people, depending upon the conversation, people will focus on needs versus wants, but very rarely do people live a lifestyle of needs only. And so, the beauty of planning is we can try to kind of build some of those scenarios in, but ultimately, and we’ll kind of say it to people up front is like, “Don’t you want to live the same sort of lifestyle, so why don’t we budget and plan for that?”


John: Yeah. And we see a lot of people when they go to retire, a lot of those kind of bucket list of vacations happen, and I’ll tell you those aren’t cheap. So it’s kind of it’s… we call them what? The go-go years, where it’s time to really start doing things and if you plan correctly, you do want to spend the same amount of money if not more, to really start enjoying your Saturdays every day.


Marc: Yeah. And if you think about the go-go years John, in that respect, you’re doing more in the first couple of years of retirement, but you’re starting… Yeah, maybe there’s some trade offs like I think there’s some statistics, like people go out to eat more in their thirties, forties and fifties. As you get over 60, you start going out a little bit less and less. And we’ll just take COVID out of the equation for right now. And even with that’s the case, you’re going to start trading that off for other things. So yeah, you might spend less than this category, but you may spend more in another category. So just the general assumption that you’re going to spend less in retirement is typically a false one, especially if you are having some dreams and some lofty things that you want to do again, COVID aside or not right? So that’s one classic one to ponder. Another one that goes right along with it guys is the taxes will be lower. Typically, we think our tax rate will be lower in retirement and maybe that used to be the norm when the tax rates, there was a wider range in them. I mean, I’m talking 20 or 30 years ago, but I don’t know that that’s the case anymore. What do you guys see?


John: When we do planning for the most part, I’ll say we see taxes drop a little bit, but Nick and I really try to kind of build a worst case scenario and we’re historically in very low tax brackets. So when we’re doing planning for our clients, we make sure that even if the plan showing lower taxes, that we adjust their plan to taxes do go up. At some point they’re going to go up, I’m assuming with all the spending the government is doing, that they can adjust to that. So although we have seen that, we definitely do not make plans based on that and when we run some numbers, we kind of stress test to say, “Hey, what if taxes do go up into retirement?” So one of the big things that we’ll see when people retire is they do have a little bit more deduction. You have that deduction of, once you hit 65 on your taxes, and then also you’re not paying social security tax anymore because there’s no more earned income. So that tax does get lowered, but from an income tax standpoint, maybe a little bit, but again, not enough to really say, “Hey, I’m going to be spending a lot more because my taxes are lower.”


Nick: It can also very much be a production of how you have saved over the years. So for example, if maybe you’re eligible for a pension and you have a pension which is going to be fully taxable when you receive it plus the money that you saved has gone all to pre-tax accounts, to pre-tax 401k, pre-tax IRA and you don’t happen to have any Roth accounts or any accounts that are what we would refer to as non-retirement non-qualified accounts, that can have a significant impact as well. So it’s not as simple as a total income number. It can also be, “Where is the income coming from and how does that impact the overall situation?” And just like John said, the probability of taxes going up in the future is fairly high with the debt levels and those sorts of things.


Marc: Yeah. I mean, just some quick numbers. Right now, I think it’s around 75% or so the federal budget is allocated towards entitlement programs. I mean, think about that. So what’s it going to be 10 years from now? And that’s not factoring into your guys’ point, some of the stimulus stuff. So it’s going to continue to be a situation where I think everybody’s in the same agreement that it’s going up. It’s just a matter of when, when they’re going to do it or whatever the case is. So being prepared and not just making that assumption again, that you’ll be in a lower tax bracket. That’s the goal if you’re working with a good team and working with guys like yourself to get to plan, to keep your taxes as low as possible. That’s always the goal, but just don’t assume it’s going to happen.


Marc: Let’s talk about the college conversation, guys. We’ll try to stay away from those, “Should it be paid off or should it not be by the government,” well, if we can. But just in general, the thought from a retiree standpoint, especially for people who’ve had kids later in life and they really want to help them with retirement… or excuse me with college, that’s great. We all love our kids. We all want to do things, but at some point, do you guys see a situation where people can put themselves behind the eight ball for their own retirement and now they’re becoming a burden on their kids later in life because you’ve sacrificed your own retirement to help them get started? That’s a slippery slope.


John: Yeah. So actually oddly enough, I just had this conversation today where a client had some money that was freed up and their kids are young and they’re in daycare. So there’s some extra money now that they’re going to school. I mean, the question is, “Hey, what should I do with that?” And part of the conversation was, let’s start looking at your overall retirement plan to see what that looks like before you start socking away all this money into a 529 plan or any other college savings plan because there are loans for college. There’s no loans for retirement.


Marc: Right. Maybe a reverse mortgage will be about the only thing way you could finance a retirement. Maybe right? But that’s totally another conversation for another day.


John: Yeah. And when the kids get to that point of school, depending on how you structure your retirement assets, there are some ways that you can access those retirement funds to help them pay for school. And kind of the way I view it is that you can tap those funds to pay for school and still kind of maintain your retirement. So it’s always something you really want to take a look at and just plan for and be prepared.


Nick: Yeah. I would say that our default is, typically save first for yourself and for your retirement and then we can build in strategies and structures for saving for college expenses for the kids. We really don’t know what that space is going to look like 10 or 15 or even 20 years from now, whether college will be fully required for everything or what sort of programs will be put in place, even the ways that students will be able to qualify for things like financial aid and those sorts of things. And so, anytime a plan is too heavily focused in one area, we oftentimes see mistakes. And so it’s difficult with this conversation because it can be a very personal conversation. Oftentimes, it’s based upon the client’s experience when they were children, whether or not they had to go through it themselves.


Nick: And that can go both ways like, “Hey, I don’t want this burden to be on them,” or, “Hey, I learned a lot by having to do that and I’d like my kids to do the same sort of thing.” And so just like so many other topics, we really try to talk about the financial side of things and help them understand the impacts in that space and then get their feedback on their personal feelings about it, and then try to find a way to kind of mold those two together to make it make sense from both a preferential and personal standpoint as well as a financial standpoint.


Marc: That’s a great point. Yeah, exactly. Because it can be, and everybody [inaudible 00:10:29]. it’s almost like the same conversation around legacy planning right? Some folks say, “I don’t want to leave anything to the kids because they’re doing just fine,” and others say, “I want to leave as much as I can.” So yeah, it becomes a very personal conversation, but just be careful because what we’ve seen over the last couple of years is people sacrificing a little too much. And then again, like I said, it comes back around and you wind up being a burden. You’re in your seventies and you need help with retirement and now you’re trying to lean on your adult kids who are maybe just starting their own families. And so it’s just a slippery slope. So just be careful.


Nick: Yeah. And one other thing on that. You pointed out the legacy planning and that’s kind of a good point because, and we consider that factoring in the overall throughout the whole planning. But a lot of times what we will see are, “Hey, we paid for school so we are going to spend our money in retirement and use our money in retirement,” or the vice versa where it’s like, “Hey, we didn’t help out with school so we’d like to make sure that we leave some money.” So again, it’s a multi-tiered sort of conversation. And ultimately, we always try to focus on control. Be in control of your own money, be able to have as much of an impact as you can on your own personal decisions. And so, sometimes knowing like, “Well, hey. If I can help them out down the line afterwards, that may be a way to “make up” for not having put away as much money for their education or whatever.”


Marc: That’s a good way of looking at it. And again, it’s all very personal things. So just, again, the topic this week on the podcast, it’s just not making the assumption that you have to help your kids through college before you worry about retirement savings because they can get you into a bit of a pickle. One more here, guys, on the main topic this week, and that’s the classic “I’ll never be able to retire” kind of assumption. And I think what we find, and you guys tell me what you see in your practice is many people just assume that and they never take the time to sit down and go through a planning process and find out if they’re right or wrong because they are just terrified and they’re assuming they’re going to be wrong. And more times than not, they’re actually not. People find that they’re in better shape than they thought they were when they go through the process typically.


John: Yeah, I would agree with that. Nick and I do the classes and a lot of those people are kind of in that position, it’s time to start looking at it. And we’ve had a lot of scenarios where people feel that they haven’t done enough. And when we do the plan, it’s, “Hey, you’re on track and it looks really good,” and it produces a nice kind of sense of relief for some of those individuals. I definitely will say, never assume that and it’s better to take a look at it sooner rather than later because if it’s vice versa where you need to start saving more, we do find that people in their fifties, kids have moved out. They’re kind of off the payroll. And now if there’s a time to really catch up, it’s going to be in your fifties to sixties. So it’s really important to build that plan, see where you’re at and if you’re on track, great. Let’s enhance that to give you more flexibility down the road and if you’re not on track, now is the time to really… it’s better to start planning sooner rather than later versus, “Hey, once you hit 60 and it’s like, your working years-“


Marc: It’s going to be harder right?


Nick: Yeah. And just like so many things in life, we’ve had conversations with people like this. And the reality is, is that we can’t change the past. So we really try to emphasize the present and the future and decisions that can be made moving forward. It can be difficult for us as advisors sometimes because ultimately, we tell clients, “We can’t care more about your money in your retirement than you do.” So the number one factor in this whole thing is that it has to be an important thing for you and you have to be motivated to make changes if you are behind the ball and we’ll absolutely help you get there, but I would say one of the biggest mistakes that we’ll see is that people get paralyzed by the concern about mistakes that they’ve made in the past, and then all of a sudden, it’s five years, 10 years later and they’ve just really doubled up on the mistakes. And so the sooner you can make changes the better and less focused on the past and more focused on the present and the future.


Marc: Absolutely. So some good points to ponder there as we’re talking about not making assumptions for retirement. And of course, if you’ve got questions or some concerns, you need a little bit of help, you want to get a second opinion on a plan you might have, or even the first opinion if you’ve never taken the time to do so, reach out to the team, go to the website, pfgprivatewealth.com. That’s pfgprivatewealth.com. You can click on the podcast link right there at the top of the page. There’s a blog. And there’s a contact section where you can send us an email to the show if you’d like to do that as well. You can find all those goodies at pfgprivatewealth.com. And like I said, if you want to send an email question, feel free to do so. And we’ve got one this week, we’re going to toss out to you guys. Bo sent one and he said, “Fellas, I need about $5,000 to live on each month in retirement and my social security and pension is looking about to be $5,300 a month. You think that means I can leave my 401k behind to my son? What do you guys think?”


So there’s a couple of things with this question. Ultimately backing up a little bit, we’re always concerned when people provide flat numbers like this. I think I’ve been doing this since ’07 and John you’ve probably been doing it at least as long, I think an an extra year. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anybody come in with $5,000 a month flat on expenses. It’s an awfully convenient number. And so first thing-


Marc: Well, he does say, “I need a [inaudible 00:15:58],” I guess, so we’ll give him the benefit, but yeah.


Nick: The first thing that we like to do is kind of peel back those numbers and make sure one of the things that we’ve learned kind of throughout these years of doing this are that sometimes when people post questions like this, some people think pre-tax and some people think net of taxes. And so first backing up to see in reality, depending upon how they’re calculating the numbers, that $5,000 expense number might actually be closer to 6,000 or 6,500. And then the social security and the pension numbers may be net versus gross. So the first things that we’ll make sure that they understand will be, from a cost of living standpoint and projecting out the numbers for the social security, are they using a cost of living and which number are they using it? And then for the pension also, the same thing. I would say at this point, depending upon where the pension’s coming from, if it’s coming from a private company, typically we don’t see cost of living’s built in. If it’s coming from some sort of like state or a municipality employee, then there will be some cost of living’s built into that.


Nick: So making sure that they calculate inflation on both income and expenses is going to be a huge deal. So as far as being able to leave the money, the first conversation that we’re going to have with them about specifically, “Hey, am I going to be able to leave my 401k money behind?” We’ll be making sure that they understand how required minimum distributions work and what that looks like. So as an example, making sure that they understand that starting at age 72, they’re going to have to start pulling money out of their account so that the government can tax that from an income standpoint. And that doesn’t mean that the client has to spend that money. It means that they will pull it out so that they can pay the taxes and then either they can save it or they could spend it.


Nick: So just like so many other things, it’s a pretty nuanced… it’s a question that on the surface seems super simple like, “Hey, I did the math. My income is 5,300. My expenses are 5k. I look great. Let’s just plug along. And my goal is going to be to leave my money behind for my son.” So kind of diving into making sure that they first understand how those factors are going to work from a planning standpoint with things like inflation, how they understand that the required minimum distributions are going to work, pulling that money out and then really focusing and drilling down on if it’s very important for them to leave money, for Bo to leave money to his son.


Nick: Let’s figure out what might be… is that the best way to leave the money or are there other things that we could do to leave that money? Like for example, does it make sense for him to start doing conversions to convert his traditional money to a Roth account, which can be a much more effective tool to be able to leave? What sort of income bracket is his son in? If he leaves pre-tax money, is that going to be a tax bomb for him? Those sorts of things. So on the surface, it looks like a very kind of basic question, but in reality, we’re going to have to peel back and look at kind of the other factors and then really strategize to figure out ultimately what’s the goal and can we find more efficient ways to accomplish that goal?


Marc: Yeah, exactly. I think the first thing that I thought when I read that was 5,000 now, what is it going to be in 10 years? So with inflation, I mean that 5,000 might be 10, so who knows? So some good thoughts there for Bo to consider. Thanks so much for the question. We certainly appreciate it. Nick, thanks for handling that one. And that’s going to do it this week here on the podcast. Again, if you’ve got questions or concerns before you take any action, you should always check with a qualified professional like John and Nick at PFG Private Wealth. Give them a call at (813) 286-7776 or stop by the website, pfgprivatewealth.com. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast, Retirement Planning Redefined. You can find all that information at the website. Of course, you can also just search it out on Apple, Google, Spotify, or whatever platform you like to use. And for John, Nick, I’m your host Mark. We’ll see you next time here on the show. And this has been Retirement Planning Redefined.