About the author: Lamar Watson, CFP®, is a Fee-Only Financial Advisor in the Washington, D.C. area, that works with clients virtually across the country. Lamar's work with his clients focuses on budgeting, employee benefits, paying down debt, buying their first home, and investing. Lamar is the Founder of Dream Financial Planning, a virtual financial planning firm specifically designed to help young professionals and minorities take control of their finances and fulfill their dreams. Feel free to schedule a complimentary consultation to learn how we use the The DREAM Financial Planning Process ™ to help our clients achieve their goals.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit hard in early 2020, and it continues to remain prevalent as we near the end of the year. Whether you’ve just recently retired, or it’s coming up in the next few years, it’s likely the virus has brought about some financial uncertainty regarding your readiness for retirement. Before making any sudden changes, it’s important to remain rational and avoid these five big retirement mistakes below.
Mistake #1: Neglecting Your Emergency Fund
No word describes 2020 better than “unexpected.” Therefore, it should come as no surprise that preparing for the unexpected sits at the top of our list. When times get tough, it can be tempting to forego or forget important financial habits - like padding your emergency fund. If your income has been affected by COVID-19, you may be struggling to make ends meet for the time being. But that doesn’t mean adding to your emergency fund should be the first thing to go. A little preparation now can go a long way when the unexpected does hit. From a health emergency to car repairs, you never know what surprises may come your way in retirement.
For individuals I recommend a minimum of 6-9 months worth of expenses put aside in a savings or money market account. If you're married or in an relationship with both partners employed, I recommend having a minimum of 3-6 months worth of expenses saved.
Mistake #2: Making Unnecessary Withdrawals
Withdrawing from any retirement accounts early could mean big tax penalties and less income in retirement. While the CARES Act has temporarily waived the 10 percent penalty for early 401(k) withdrawals (up to $100,000), utilizing this option before considering other alternatives is unwise.1
Read my blog post about how much taking 401k withdrawals at an early age really cost.
The money you withdraw from a traditional IRA will still be subject to income tax come 2021. And to avoid robbing your future retirement, you’ll want to develop a plan to replace that lost income in the coming years. If you’re struggling to cover your expenses amidst the pandemic, talk to your financial advisor about other options you may want to take first. Look into what relief programs your state or local government offers, tap into your emergency fund if necessary and reevaluate your budget.
Mistake #3: Making Emotionally-Driven Investment Decisions
Nobody can go a day without hearing the word “coronavirus.” From social media posts to advertisements and news outlets, there’s no escaping the pandemic. COVID-19 aside, other big news stories are hard to avoid as well - the upcoming election, the staggering rates of unemployment claims, the stock market rising and falling, etc.
After absorbing info day in and day out, it’s nearly impossible to not let it affect your decisions about money. Should you drain your portfolio and stuff it under the mattress? Do you need to look at rebalancing assets amidst this market volatility? Working with an investment advisor can bring an objective, scientific and education-based perspective to the question of what to do with your assets. Together you can focus less on the world around you and more on your individual goals as you head into retirement.
Learn more about our Investment Management Process. You can also check out this article from U.S. News and World Report where I discuss the benefit of avoiding emotional decision making when it comes to investing. I also mention how actively trading your portfolio can lead to long-term under performance.
Mistake #4: Forgetting to Reassess Your Current Budget
Have things changed since you last made your monthly budget? Maybe you used to commute to work, and now you’re working remotely. Or you used to spend every Friday at happy hour with friends, now you enjoy a quiet evening at home. It’s very likely that your daily habits, and what you spend money on, have been affected by the pandemic.
In many cases, this could be good news. You’re spending less on gas or commuter passes, travel and vacation, eating out, gyms and more. Reevaluate what your spending has been like over the past several months and determine if there are any opportunities to put more toward your retirement savings. Depending on your timeline towards retirement, an extra couple of thousand in savings this year could grow significantly over the coming years.
Mistake #5: Ignoring CARES Act & Other Legislative Changes
The CARES Act was passed on March 27, 2020, meaning you’ve likely heard of it by now. It’s possible you even received a stimulus check in April or May. But did you know that the CARES Act offers some significant changes for retirees and those about to retire?
As mentioned earlier, the CARES Act has waived the 10 percent tax penalty for coronavirus-related withdrawals from your 401(k) account up to $100,000.
Those who may qualify for this option include:
- Someone who has contracted the virus
- Those caring for an immediate family member who has the virus
- Anyone experiencing financial distress due to being furloughed or laid off during the pandemic
- Business owners who needed to cease operation or reduce hours
- Any additional circumstance in which the IRS deems acceptable1
In addition, required minimum distributions (RMDs) have been waived for the remainder of 2020.1 If you don’t need this money to make ends meet, leave it in the bank to accrue more interest. Plus, your tax obligation will be lower without this additional income.
If the pandemic has created some cause for concern when it comes to your retirement, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!. We work with retirees and pre-retirees to develop retirement strategies and determine if things need to be adjusted,
Dream Financial Planning Process ™
Whether you're managing student loan debt, starting a business, or considering buying your first home, the DREAM Financial Planning Process™ is tailored to the unique needs of busy professionals is their 30s and 40s. This process focuses more on short-term goals while you grow and evolve in your personal and professional life. If you're looking for guidance on: Financial Planning, optimizing employee benefits, budgeting, student loans, and managing your 401k or investments we can help.
With uncertainty surrounding the economic stability of our country, it's okay to have fears and anxieties surrounding your own savings and investments. The most productive course of action from here is to reach out to Dream Financial Planning (or whoever your trusted advisor might be) and discuss your options. It's easy to have knee-jerk reactions when it feels like the bottom is falling out, but it is imperative to make decisions using research-backed data and a level head. If you'd like a Complimentary Review and risk assessment of your investment portfolio feel free to send me an e-mail.
On the first Thursday of every month I send out a monthly newsletter with tips and tricks to help you manage your Finances. In the September Newsletter I discuss 9 common insurance mistakes to avoid. Before you buy Insurance, make sure you're working with a Fiduciary and ask about the agent's fees and commissions, which are often very high or hidden for Whole Life Insurance products and Annuities. How do you know if this is what they're trying to sell you? Look out for terms like cash value, guaranteed return, no risk, or tax-free growth.
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Disclaimer: Dream Financial Planning, LLC does not warrant that this information will be free from error. None of the information provided on this website is intended as investment, tax, accounting or legal advice, as an offer or solicitation of an offer to buy or sell, or as an endorsement of any company, security, fund, or other securities or non-securities offering. The information should not be relied upon for purposes of transacting securities or other investments. Your use of the information is at your sole risk. Under no circumstances shall Dream Financial Planning, LLC be liable for any direct, indirect, special or consequential damages that result from the use of, or the inability to use, the materials in this site, even if Dream Financial Planning, LLC or a Dream Financial Planning, LLC authorized representative has been advised of the possibility of such damages. Please consult with your own advisor before making any changes to your Financial Plan, Investments, or Insurance coverage.