Ep 36: 5 Things About Decumulation

On This Episode

So much focus in the financial world revolves around accumulating money. There’s all sorts of advice, how- to guides and guardrails in place when it comes to saving and investing, but a lot less resources out there to help retirees navigate the period of time after retirement. This is known as decumulation, the spending down and managing of the assets you’ve accumulated through your life.

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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:


Speaker 1: Hey, everybody. Welcome into the podcast. Thanks for hanging out with us here on Retirement Planning – Redefined with John and Nick and myself once again chatting about investing, finance and retirement. We’re going to talk about decumulation, five things you must know about decumulation to retire successfully. We’re going to get into that in just a second.


Speaker 1: Of course, if you’ve got some questions, need some help, reach out to John and Nick at PFG Private Wealth. That’s PFGprivatewealth.com. That’s the website you can stop by at, and gents, what’s going on? John, how are you buddy?


John: I’m good, I’m good. I know it’s been awhile since I think we’ve done one of these sessions here.


Speaker 1: Enjoying the summer, I guess, right?


John: Yeah. It’s been a busy summer for myself, and Nick can speak to what he’s been up to, but yeah, it’s definitely been busy. But my little one started kindergarten, so I’m adapting to that life of drop-off car line and pickup, which is fun.


Speaker 1: Yeah. I don’t know if you remember this movie or not, but do you remember this Michael Keaton movie, Mr. Mom? If you haven’t seen it, you should go watch it because you could probably relate to it. The whole car line drop-off thing is hysterical and that was from like the ’80s.


John: I’ll definitely go check it out.


Speaker 1: Yeah.


John: Yeah. Right now my wife’s, she’s studying for her boards, so I’ve been helping out with all that stuff and yeah, it’s been interesting.


Speaker 1: It’s a great movie. It’s a great old ’80s movie, but yeah, you could probably really relate to some of this stuff right this minute. Especially when you mentioned that car line thing, it made me think of that because he just, he has the hardest time understanding and getting his mind wrapped around the whole car line thing. It’s pretty hilarious. Yeah, definitely check it out.


Speaker 1: Nick, what’s going on with you, buddy? I know you’ve been traveling and running around.


Nick: Yeah. I was a recently up north hometown in Rochester, New York. I’ve got a lot of friends, family and clients up there, so did my yearly pilgrimage. Just kind of catching back up from being back and readjusting to the heat, so all good.


Speaker 1: Yeah. Got you. All right. Well, good. Well, I’m glad you guys are doing well and yeah, let’s get into the five things we need to know about decumulation.


Speaker 1: First of all, it’s a big fancy sounding word, but really it just is the spending of your assets, right? I mean, we’ve accumulated the money, now we’re going to decumulate it. It’s just kind of a fancy way of spending down what we have saved.


Speaker 1: On this episode, let’s point out a few items that people might want to think about to retire successfully. Let’s start with the first one. Nick, I’ll give this to you. Just a lack of support. I think if you go in, obviously if you type in any kind of a financial something or another, you’re going to get 18 billion hits on Google, and a lot of it is about how to accumulate money versus not too much necessarily about the decumulation side.


Speaker 1: But I think if you think if you’re working with a good financial professional or an advisor like you guys, obviously that’s where some of that support is going to come from, a lot of that support is going to come from. But there is a real lack of that it seems like if you’re just trying to do it yourself.


Nick: Yeah, it’s interesting. The perspective that people tend to have for this phase of their life, as far as whether you refer to it as decumulation or the distribution phase of life, is oftentimes kind of ingrained in them from their parents a little bit.


Nick: What we’ve seen a lot with people that are really entering or soon to enter into retirement, and I had this conversation recently with a client is, hey, we know what our expenses are. We have an idea what’s going to be coming in from social security, and we just want to protect our principal and go ahead and just take interest in dividends from our accounts, because that’s what we know from our parents, and that’s kind of… That just makes sense to us.


Nick: The conversation that we get into and we take them really have to force them to go and review the plan that we’ve put together because the plan will really lay out how this is going to be structured and the underlying components can be a little bit confusing.


Nick: As an example, when I explain to somebody that brings that up that that’s what they want to do and help them understand that, hey, on average your dividends on the stock side of your portfolio might be around 2%, if you want solid stocks. Then from an interest rate standpoint, maybe you’re looking at 2 or 3% as well. If we’re looking at a million bucks, we’re talking a total of 20 to $30,000 a year and that will often send them right into a panic attack.


Nick: Understanding how these things tie together, understanding that with the advent and the prevalence of things like exchange traded funds and mutual funds where we can do fractional shares and we can break accounts into a short-term, mid-term, long-term bucket to help us try to preserve some principle over time via growth, but also have a safe withdrawal rate and strategy is really important. It’s hands down the most misunderstood, but important thing when it comes to retirement planning.


John: Yeah. I think what we’ve seen a lot of advisors and client, or a lot of advisors individuals focus on just accumulation, so it’s really just kind of building, building it up and they never, as Nick mentioned here, there’s never a strategy for as far as how do you actually start taking that money out?


John: It all comes back to you don’t want to start planning for that once you retire, that really needs to be as soon as you can, but in reality when you hit that red zone of 5 to 10 years from retirement, I would say more towards 10, you should really start considering, “Hey, what is my distribution strategy?”


Speaker 1: Got you. Okay. Yeah, and I think a lot of times we do kind of get wrapped up in the accumulation thing and we tend to forget about these other stages and it leads me really into the second topic guys on this, which is it’s funny, maybe not funny, but it is interesting how the fear of spending is really real.


Speaker 1: At first, when I first started, I’ve been doing this now for a number of years, talking with advisors all across the country and you think, hey, you get to retirement. You’re looking forward to finally spending your and having a good time and so on and so forth and enjoying your golden years. But many, many, many people are truly afraid of actually spending what they’ve saved.


Speaker 1: I think a lot of it probably comes down to just confidence, but it’s a real thing getting over that hump and getting comfortable saying, “Okay, it’s okay to spend this money we’ve saved for the last 40 years now.” What do you guys see?


John: Yeah, no, we see the same thing. It really is, again, back to the accumulation phase or savings phase in this scenario. They’re just so used to getting a paycheck, saving it, and then they live off of their paycheck. Well, now your nest egg is now retirement that providing that paycheck for you, and the biggest fear for retirees is not running out of money. With that comes, can I spend this much? What will my assets, or what does my plan look like if I continue this spending or if I go buy this?


John: It’s important, and we’ve had scenarios where the plan really does give clients confidence of when they look at it and say, “Okay, if I continue my current spending rate, I have X amount at the end of the plan.” The cool thing about some of the stuff that we do when we get to see our clients see it is we’ll show, “Hey, what if you spend an extra 10 to 15 grand over the next 10 years for a vacation?” And we’ll model it out and they get to see how does that affect their overall plan, and is there still money left at the end? Is there enough money left where you feel comfortable?


John: We find that when people see that and there’s two versions of it. One’s a very detailed kind of actuarial cashflow number, which is kind of boring to look at. But then we also have a chart form, which just makes it easy to understand and it’s, “Okay. You know what? I can go spend that money,” and it just provides a nice peace of mind.


John: We’ve had scenarios where people see that and then they go do some of their goal, whether it’s buy an RV, do this vacation, spend time with family. It’s the fear is definitely real, and it’s important to have a plan to give you some peace of mind, to see if you… That you’re not going to outlive your money.


Speaker 1: Yeah, and I think definitely it’s that confidence factor, right? Because oftentimes people that are in good shape, they just don’t really feel comfortable that they can go through that transition period. I think that’s a lot of the value that you guys bring to the table by saying, “Okay, now we’ve built a plan. I’ve showed you this is going to work, and then you’re there as that kind of coaching sounding board to say, “No, it’s okay. We can get over this hump together. You’re going to be able to enjoy this because that’s what you’ve built up and worked towards.”


Speaker 1: Now we know obviously we’re living longer and there’s more things to be… There’s more risky stuff out there, and not even talking about the crazy kooky world we find ourselves in right now, but just risks in general. If we’re talking about the de cumulation phase, which is when we’re into retirement, the risks in general become more numerous, especially financially speaking.


Nick: Yeah, so one of the things that can impact a retirement plan or this phase of somebody’s life, this decumulation phase, is what’s called the sequence of returns. Essentially, what that means is that on a typical case, people think in terms of average rates of return, and that’s understandable because that’s how most people are taught.


Nick: But there can be an average over a 10 year period, a 15 year period of, you can call it 6, 7, 8%. But if the… Even though it averages that number, if the losses are incurred early on and they’re significant, that has a much greater impact on how long the money will last than if those losses come further on down the road.


Nick: That’s why it’s important to really have a strategy, to understand that the plan should be consistently updated. And what ends up happening, especially in one of the things that we’re starting to see a little bit is, the markets have been up for the last 6, 7, 8, 9 years, so there’s a little bit of, I don’t know if you euphoria is the right term, but a little bit of a sense of invincibility for some people. Where it’s like, “Hey, I keep taking money out and it keeps going up and that’s great,” and that is good, but it doesn’t always happen like that.


Nick: When we have these risks of AC goes out, child loses their job and you help them financially, you get grandkids, there’s a change of social security, you have a health issue, all these different things. We’re trying to prepare for all uncertainties, and so making sure that your investment strategy is really lining up with your overall plan is important even in good times, which is what we’ve had for quite a while.


Speaker 1: Yeah, no, I definitely would agree with that statement for sure. You know, and John, listen, hey, they’ve passed another trillion dollars just a few weeks ago at the time we’re taping this podcast, now they’re talking about another $3 trillion. So focusing on tax consequences has probably never been more important than what it’s going to be over the next couple of years. Whether they sunset, they do nothing and leave them alone, and they sunset back to the old means here in a couple of years, or they make some changes, you got to have some focus on taxes.


John: Yeah. Taxes are definitely an eroding factor on your money, especially going into retirement. Because that for the majority of people, that’s their… The IRA pre-tax money is typically their biggest part of their nest egg and they’re pulling it out. Every time you pull out a hundred grand, you’re getting whacked with taxes on that. It’s important, again kind of that red zone area, even before that you want to start planning for what you think your tax situation is going to be. But also you want to start planning to have the flexibility to adapt to any type of tax environment so you can basically limit how much taxes you’re actually paying.


John: So example, Nick mentioned some risks where let’s say you have a health event, you need to pull out 30, 40 grand. It might be nice to have some tax free money, AKA kind of some Roth money that you can pull from so you don’t really jump into a higher tax bracket and just start paying enormous amount of taxes that you could ultimately have avoided.


Speaker 1: Yeah. I mean, again, it’s not what you make, it’s what you keep. It’s all those kinds of things we know, we hear about it, but if you’re not talking about taxes as you’re preparing for retirement, I mean, I’ll go out on a limb and just say you’re doing it wrong. Right? You’ve got to make sure that you’re factoring that in there and having those conversations, and if you’re not, well, then that needs to be a red flag as well.


Speaker 1: So that at the end of the day, we’ve got these five things I mentioned. Here’s the fifth one, guys, just leveraging the lifetime income. We got to replace a paycheck, whether it’s for 1 year, 5 years, 15 years, 25 years, 40 years. It’d be easy if we knew exactly how long we’re going to live, but we don’t, so you’ve got to have that thing ready and you’ve got to leverage that income for life.


Nick: Yeah. It’s one of the things that we try to emphasize with people and one of the keys to planning is that everybody’s situation is different. When you talk to your brother, your sister, your friend, your neighbor, whatever, and when I was just up north, I’m reminded about, I was reminded about how much people love to talk about just everything. Being down in Florida, people tend to be a little bit more private from what I’ve seen. People are, “Oh yeah, I did this, I did that. I did this.”


Nick: One of the things that I try to emphasize to people on a consistent basis is that sure, your sister may be doing X, Y, and Z, but maybe your sister has a pension. Maybe your sister’s mortgage is paid off. Maybe your sister didn’t have kids, and so her situation and all of the decisions that line up with that are very different from yours. Because you don’t have a pension, your house isn’t paid off, you did have children that cost you more money, and let alone the risk tolerance from the standpoint of the market, that’s a whole different ball game.


Nick: When we evaluate things, one of the things that when we go through a plan, one of the things that we typically go through with people is just looking at options from the standpoint of a guaranteed income. In reality, the only way to get guaranteed income is through annuities, and a lot of people have a certain perception of annuities or they don’t like them. We always try to remind people that, hey, our job is to make sure you understand what options are out there and available for you. Make sure how you know that they work or would work for you in your situation. Then if it’s something that you don’t like, then we just don’t do it, and we move on.


Nick: But when we factor in social security, whether or not somebody has a pension and/or whether or not they want to have some form of guaranteed income in the future, it can really make a significant difference. Not only from just a pure planning standpoint, but also from a peace of mind standpoint.


Nick: One of the things that is probably underestimated are how people emotionally respond to different things that happen in the market, and how that can impact their decision-making. No matter how many times somebody, says, “Hey, I know I need to invest longterm. I know I need not to be reactionary,” when it hits the fan, it’s really hard not to be.


John: Nick, I’m going to stop you for a second. A perfect example of that was actually when Coronavirus hit. I think we had a true indication of how much risk some people were willing to take.


Nick: A hundred percent, and so this is that whole… I referred to it a little bit earlier, this level of euphoria over the last year is that, “Hey, everything’s going well.” Or we’ve had conversations with clients where maybe they’ve used some sort of annuity or some sort of guaranteed income product. It’s like, “Well, hey, if I would’ve kept it in the market, it would have done this, this and that.” It’s like, “Yes, but what we did was we separated that money and we gave it a certain job, and as long as that does its job, then we have a lot less pressure on everything else, including your brain and your emotions, and that cannot be underestimated.”


Speaker 1: Yeah, absolutely. Well, those are five things, folks, that happen or can happen during the decumulation phase, which again is a fancy word for the spending of the assets that you’ve accumulated through the years to get to retirement. Hopefully, that helped you a little bit, gave you a couple of useful things to think about.


Speaker 1: As always, if you’ve got some questions, we talk in generalities here on the podcast, make sure you’re checking with your advisor or reach out to qualified professionals like John and Nick before you take any action. You can find them online at PFGprivatewealth.com, that’s PFGprivatewealth.com.


Speaker 1: Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast while you’re there on Apple, Google, Spotify, whatever platform you like to use. We put these out quite often here, so you’ve got definitely a lot of content. You can go back and listen to some past episodes and, of course, get notified when new episodes come out as well.


Speaker 1: So guys, thanks for hanging out with me. I appreciate it. Glad to have you back in and chatting with me and I’ll see you guys in a couple of weeks. We’ll be getting ready for football season.


Nick: Yes, sir.


John: Right.


Speaker 1: We’ll catch you next time here on Retirement Planning – Redefined with John and Nick from PFG Private Wealth.