The Pros and Cons of Early Retirement for Baby Boomers

The Baby Boomer generation has transformed every life stage they’ve entered, and retirement is no exception. As more Boomers approach retirement age, early retirement has become a frequent topic of discussion. During the pandemic alone, more than 3 million Baby Boomers went for the exit, choosing early retirement to protect themselves from the risks of infection. 

Does the thought of bidding farewell to long work hours and constant stress to enjoy a life of leisure in retirement sound appealing? Although it might, we know that early retirement isn’t necessarily the right move for everyone. Continue reading this article as we weigh the pros and cons of early retirement.

Pros of Early Retirement

For many, the biggest advantage of early retirement is the newfound freedom to pursue hobbies, travel, spend time with loved ones, or even start a new career or business. If you’ve worked hard throughout your life, now it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Here are some additional benefits of early retirement.

Health Benefits: Continuous work-related stress can take a toll on your health, and early retirement can provide you with time to focus on your well-being. Consider how you could use an early retirement to engage in activities that you enjoy and that contribute to better physical and mental health.

Travel As You’d Like: When your vacation time at work is limited to a week here, a week there, there simply is not enough time to get out and explore the world. With early retirement you have the opportunity to travel while your mobility is still intact, something older retirees who wait to travel can regret.

No More Negativity: Leaving behind office politics, deadlines, and long commutes can bring a sense of relief and awaken a new positive outlook in your life. Early retirement means the end of work-related negativity, providing you with more control over how you direct your energy in new ways.

Volunteer: With more free time, you can make it a priority to give back to your community or pursue a cause that’s important to you. Volunteering can be rewarding for many people, providing a sense of purpose that was previously fulfilled by your career.

Cons of Early Retirement

While retiring early can eliminate work-related stress, it can also bring about financial stress that you’ve never had before. If you choose a longer retirement, then you’ll need a larger nest egg to sustain your ideal lifestyle. If you run out of savings in the future, you may have to adjust your daily habits to fit a tighter budget. Here are some additional cons of early retirement.

Healthcare Costs: Most Baby Boomers can’t access Medicare until age 65, so if you retire early you’ll need to figure out how to cover your health insurance costs until Medicare kicks in. Unfortunately, healthcare costs often increase as you age and your health deteriorates, so this potential expense should be factored into your retirement planning.

Potential for Loneliness: Leaving a hustling and bustling workforce can mean fewer daily social interactions, which can lead to feelings of isolation. If your social circle is mostly from work today, you’ll need to be proactive in maintaining those connections or creating new ones during retirement.

Boredom: How do you like to spend your free time today? In retirement, if you don’t have activities or a purpose to occupy your time, you might find yourself more bored than you expected. The day-to-day stimulation that you experienced at work is gone, and it will be your responsibility to find daily tasks to keep your brain sharp. Plan ahead for how you want to spend your days to ensure they’re filled with activities that you enjoy and that give you a sense of purpose.

How to Decide if Early Retirement is For You

Whether or not you retire early is a significant decision that depends on several factors. Some of these factors include:

  • Do you have a financial strategy for living longer in retirement?
  • How could you impact your retirement finances?
  • What are your post-retirement plans?
  • Will you have a social network available to spend time with during retirement?

Continue reading to explore each of these factors in more detail.

Are You Financially Prepared?

While the assessment of your overall financial situation is considered the most important point in determining your readiness for early retirement, several other factors also deserve your attention. These include understanding your future tax obligations, developing a strategy to draw from different income sources, and budgeting for unexpected costs.

Having a strategy for when and how to withdraw from your retirement accounts is key. Decisions around required minimum distributions (RMDs) and the timing of taking Social Security benefits must be made carefully to minimize taxes and maximize income.

Also, remember that “unexpected” doesn’t mean “unlikely.” A leaky roof or a car that breaks down are possibilities that most homeowners and car owners face at some point. But, by having a dedicated fund for such unplanned expenses, you can save yourself from some financial stress in your retirement years.

Look Closer at Your Health

In the retirement planning business, health status can be a double-edged sword. Good health could lead to a longer and more active retirement. It also implies that you may have a longer lifespan for which you need to fund.

On the flip side, poor health might necessitate your early retirement and add to healthcare costs, especially if you retire before becoming eligible for Medicare. It’s necessary to plan for the rising cost of healthcare as you age, including the possibility of needing long-term care. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, someone turning 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care services in their remaining years. 

Consider Post-Retirement Plans

Retirement is a significant life transition, and its success depends largely on how well you’ve prepared for it – not just financially, but also in terms of envisioning your post-retirement life.

During your golden years you may want to explore new hobbies or deepen existing ones; perhaps traveling is on your wish list. Or, you might want to continue working part-time in your current field or train for a second career. Retirement is also an excellent time to learn new skills, go back to school, or write a book like you’ve always dreamed of doing.

Retirement is also your chance to give back to the community, something many retirees find to be very rewarding. Volunteering at local organizations or providing mentorship in your area of expertise can be fulfilling and help you maintain a sense of purpose as you age.

Lastly, but most importantly, remember to include some downtime in your post-retirement plans. The beauty of retirement lies in its leisurely pace, a significant shift from the rushed days of working life. Embrace this change and don’t let it pass you by.

Build and Nurture a Social Network

Social connections play a vital role in our mental and emotional well-being, and work often provides a social network that retires along with us. Because of this, it’s crucial that you build and nurture new relationships outside of work circles as you approach retirement. Reports have shown that retirees with limited socialization often experience faster declines in mental health and mobility.

Ways to do this include joining clubs or organizations related to your hobbies, volunteering, becoming more active in your community, or even getting a part-time job that aligns with your interests. Not only will these activities help you establish a new routine, but they can also help build a new social network that works well with your new laid-back pace of living.

For retirees with a partner, it’s essential to understand that retirement will change the dynamics of your relationship, as you’ll likely be spending more time together. Open discussions and mutual understanding about expectations for this new phase can help smoothen this transition. Have talks together planning future trips, considering home renovations, or scheduling social gatherings. 

Are You Ready to Retire Early?

Early retirement is a big decision that requires careful thought and planning, and while it offers the enticing prospect of a long and fulfilling life beyond work, it also can come with its own set of challenges. Rest assured that with diligent planning and professional guidance, you can make the transition into your golden years smoothly, no matter what age you decide to make the move.

At Suzuki & Associates, we’re committed to helping our clients chart a path toward their ideal retirement scenarios. Let us join you on this journey, and assist you in making informed financial decisions that align with your goals and aspirations. Contact us today, and we’ll begin crafting your personalized retirement plan.

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Retirement Planning for Millennials: Why You Should Start Now

Retirement Planning for Millennials: Why You Should Start Now

 

THIS ISN’T YOUR PARENT’S RETIREMENT PLAN

How are you feeling about the work ahead to save for a long and prosperous retirement? Many Millennials seem not to feel too optimistic about their abilities to save. In fact, 72% of Millennials are significantly pessimistic about it. Where does this pessimism come from? The idea of saving for retirement certainly didn’t plague our parents like this. But, of course, those were different times. Most parents of Millennials are part of the Baby Boomer and X generations, which were much more confident in their retirement plans. They relied on their employers to do most of the work of saving for them through employer-sponsored pension programs, which are not commonly found today. The evolution of independent retirement accounts resulted in more pressure to save by the individual versus the company. Here are some other factors working against Millennials saving for retirement that parents simply didn’t face:

  • Higher student debts to pay off
  • Raising interest rates on loans
  • The Great Recession
  • COVID-19 and mass job losses

Millennials

Let’s face it, some Millennials today are not thinking about what will happen to them when they retire at age 65. Especially in the current economy, with inflation eating up our extra cash, there’s little left to put aside for something so far off into the future. Financial hardships from the past few years have taken a toll on retirement accounts, with over one-third of Millennials feeling behind in their retirement savings goals. Thankfully, there’s still time to think about, plan, and save for your later years. However, the sooner Millennials start saving for retirement, the more likely they will have a nice nest egg to live from with little financial worry later in life. In this blog, we’ll explore the realities of Millennials planning for retirement and tips for strategizing and taking action that will pay off in the years to come.

The Power of Compounding

The sooner Millennials start saving for retirement, the greater their savings will be in the future. This statement is true because of the power of compound interest. Savings and investment accounts pay interest, and when that interest is reinvested into the account, it can also earn interest in the future. This ongoing process creates a snowball effect called compounding. For example, if Jenny invests $10,000 in a savings account that pays 2% interest each month, here is how her account will grow.

Month Balance Interest Earned 1 $10,000 $200 2 $10,200 $204 3 $10,404 $208.08

Each month, Jenny earns more interest because her account has grown in size. And so, the earlier you start saving for retirement, the faster your money will build.

The Reality of Social Security

When you receive a monthly paycheck, a portion is taken from your earnings as a tax paid to the government’s Social Security program. This money is then paid to people no longer working due to retirement, disability, or survivors of deceased workers. Most workers understand that the money you pay into Social Security will someday pay you back when you retire. While Social Security is nice to have during retirement, Millennials should plan that they won’t be able to live off of Social Security alone. The amount you earn through Social Security will vary and could be anywhere from 27%-75% of your pre-retirement income. Suppose you need around 70% of your pre-retirement income to live a similar lifestyle you were accustomed to before retirement. In that case, you can see that Social Security alone isn’t going to fulfill your needs. It will be essential to have additional retirement savings or income to support activities throughout your golden years.

START WITH GOALS

Some people accumulate more than $1 million in savings for their retirement years – how much will you need? Setting realistic savings goals based on your imagined retirement lifestyle is an excellent place to start.

What Do You Imagine?

Start by envisioning yourself in retirement. Where are you living? Do you have hobbies, travel plans, or family to care for? Understanding how you will live helps to know how much you need financially to maintain a particular lifestyle.

Financial Obligations

Next, make a list of all of your planned expenses and financial obligations. These expenses include housing, food, healthcare, taxes, and travel costs. Remember to factor in inflation as you calculate totals – we know firsthand how this can impact daily living.

Set Specific Goals and Prioritize

We often hear clients who have planned vacations of a lifetime, such as traveling around Europe for a year or taking weeks-long cruises to explore places they’ve never been. These types of excursions take some planning… and saving. If you have a goal for retirement that will be financially impactful, write it down; if you have several, prioritize them.

Set Savings Milestones

Track progress toward your savings goals by structuring them in more achievable milestones. What will your first savings milestone be – $100,000? How long do you anticipate it will take you to save that much? You’ll ultimately feel better about your progress by giving yourself small victories along the way, which is why we recommend the milestone method.

The three most common retirement savings options available to Millennials are 401(k)s, IRAs, and Roth IRAs. Let’s explore each of these.

401(k)

The 401(k) is your employer-sponsored retirement savings plan. The benefit of this type of plan is that contributions are made pre-tax, which means the money is taken out of your paycheck before it is taxed. Many employers will offer to match employee contributions into a 401(k) plan to help you build your retirement savings more quickly. This type of plan will grow tax-free until it’s time for you to withdraw.

Traditional IRAs

A traditional IRA is an individual retirement account that can be set up with a provider of your choice. Your contributions to a traditional IRA are tax-deductible and will grow tax-free until withdrawal. Unlike 401(k)s that usually have a limited number of investment options, IRAs offer a broader spectrum of investment possibilities, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and more.

Roth IRAs

Roth IRAs are similar to Traditional IRAs in that they are individual retirement accounts that can be set up with a provider of your choice. They also have a wide variety of investment options to diversify your earnings. Where they differ, however, is that Roth IRAs are funded by after-tax dollars, which then allows you to withdraw tax-free when the time comes to do so.

With all retirement plan options, it’s important to understand their rules, contribution limits, and withdrawal eligibility. We recommend consulting with a financial advisor for these finer details.

MAKE SAVING EASIER

If you’re not currently in the habit of setting money aside each month for retirement, then it could take some time to adapt. Here are some tips to help you make saving for retirement a little easier.

Now’s Your Time, Millennials

We know that it’s hard to think about saving for years into the future when you may feel financially strained today. We get it. But, the feeling of financial strain will hopefully pass and we want you to enjoy your retirement because you’ll have earned a break. Financial challenges are always going to be around, but choosing to look past them toward the future is the best way to release yourself from lifelong worry.

A financial advisor like Suzuki & Associates has your back. We’re trained and trusted to help our clients make the best financial decisions for today and the future. We can help you plan, strategize, and research investment options that make the most sense for you. We’ll never advise you to do something you’re uncomfortable with just so we can make a commission – that’s not in our DNA. So, don’t be a stranger – reach out and schedule a consultation today!”

Your Guide to Benefits Enrollment: Annual vs. Open

Your Guide to Benefits Enrollment: Annual vs. Open

Your Guide to Benefits Enrollment: Annual vs. Open

Your Guide to Benefits Enrollment: Annual vs. Open

Navigating the complexities of benefits and insurance can be overwhelming, especially when on a strict timeline. Decoding jargon alone can cause many to lose interest in the process altogether. However, take heart — the team at Suzuki & Associates is here to help guide you through the benefits process.

Among the glossary of terms we often see misunderstood, two stand out prominently: “annual enrollment” and “open enrollment.” Understanding how these two terms are similar, yet different can be critical to making benefit planning decisions on time. Missing these time-sensitive deadlines could significantly impact your well-being and financial picture.

Continue reading as we explore the nuances of Annual Enrollment vs. Open Enrollment.

ANNUAL ENROLLMENT VS. OPEN ENROLLMENT

Annual Enrollment is the yearly “check-in” on your benefits plans as provided by employers. During this specific window, employees can revisit current benefits, make any necessary modifications, or enroll in new offerings. Things to consider during annual enrollment include your portion of the cost (did it increase or decrease), will your current plans adequately cover any known issues on the horizon, and whether you would benefit from making any changes.

When we consider Open Enrollment, we think about a broader audience. This is the designated time when individuals, no matter their employment status, can join the healthcare marketplace. You can either enroll in a new health insurance plan, re-enroll in your current one, or make modifications. In the open enrollment marketplace, you’ll have a wider variety of plans to choose from than what your employer may offer. In 2023, approximately 18.2 million Americans have enrolled in coverage through the health insurance marketplace, increasing from a low of 14 million over the past five years. Open enrollment for 2024 healthcare plans will run from November 1, 2023 – January 15, 2024.

A PEEK INTO HISTORY — HOW WE GOT HERE

Understanding the historical background of the health insurance market can help us understand why we have such options today. Prior to World War II, most Americans paid for healthcare expenses out of pocket. The plans that were available at this time only covered expenses like hospitalizations, which the average person couldn’t afford.

As businesses evolved and competition for talent grew, employer-sponsored benefits became a more significant perk to offer. As the private insurance market grew, so did the cost. Small business owners especially faced difficulty choosing whether or not to offer employer-sponsored healthcare plans.

Open enrollment is a byproduct of healthcare reforms that became a political focus in the early 2000s. Too many Americans simply went without healthcare coverage because the cost had become too much. Then, a new option emerged through Congress’ passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010. The goal of the ACA was to offer more people access to healthcare, ensuring everyone had a fair chance to secure insurance without being tied to potentially more expensive employer-offered benefits.

The ACA’s Transformational Impact on Open Enrollment

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), often called “Obamacare,” marked a shift in the U.S. healthcare environment. One of its primary objectives was to enhance the quality and affordability of health insurance and, in turn, reduce the number of uninsured Americans.

A key component of the ACA was the introduction of healthcare marketplaces or “exchanges.” These marketplaces were platforms that allowed individuals to shop for, compare, and purchase insurance plans. But for these marketplaces to function effectively and prevent only those expecting high medical costs from signing up, a structured enrollment period was needed. This was how the concept of “open enrollment,” as we know it today, was born.

Now, prior to the ACA, individuals could purchase insurance at any time, but there were often more restrictions, less transparency, and higher chances of being denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions. The ACA’s open enrollment brought about these key changes in the process:

  • Defined Timeframes: Open enrollment periods were established, usually spanning a few months towards the end of the year. During this time, individuals could sign up for or change their health insurance plans.
  • Health Coverage for Pre-existing Conditions: Before the ACA, those with pre-existing health conditions struggled to get coverage. After the ACA, insurers could no longer deny coverage based on these criteria, making the open enrollment period even more essential for many Americans. This rule change, which took effect in 2014, helped nearly 25 million Americans with pre-existing conditions.
  • Awareness & Accessibility: The ACA led to widespread communication campaigns to educate the public about their health insurance options. These efforts helped to launch an era in which choosing an insurance plan became a more informed and transparent process.
  • Financial Assistance: The ACA introduced subsidies for eligible individuals, making insurance more affordable for millions. In 2020, 87% of people who bought insurance through the marketplace received a subsidy. This factor added a layer of consideration during the open enrollment period as individuals weren’t just assessing coverage options, but also potential financial aid.
  • Penalties & Mandates: The ACA initially imposed a mandate that penalized those without insurance coverage to ensure a balanced and functional insurance market. This made the open enrollment period even more crucial as individuals scrambled to secure coverage and avoid penalties. The mandate was eventually repealed in 2019; however, several states, including California, have since created their own healthcare mandates.

The ACA’s introduction of the open enrollment period and its other transformational changes have truly reshaped how Americans approach, evaluate, and secure health insurance.

THE PROS AND CONS OF ANNUAL ENROLLMENT

Every coin has two sides, and so does each enrollment type. While there are pros and cons to each type of health insurance coverage, populations are very split as to which they choose. In California, for example, approximately 47% of the population enrolls in an employer-sponsored health plan through annual enrollment; this is more than 18 million people. However, in states like New Mexico, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Florida, it’s closer to one-third of the population choosing employer-sponsored plans.

With annual enrollment, you gain the advantage of having more customized options. For instance, a tech company might want to offer benefits like ergonomic office equipment or access to mental health apps in its plans in order to cater to its specific workforce’s needs. These types of tailored additions are typically not found in a broader marketplace plan.

Also, annual enrollment plans have the allure of employer contributions that can drastically lower the cost of health insurance. Imagine if your employer offered to cover 70% of your plan cost — that’s a subsidy many would not turn down.

However, the downside of employer-sponsored is that you’re typically limited in choices. If your employer doesn’t offer a PPO plan, for example, you may be stuck choosing a plan with a strict in-network requirement that could make finding care when you need it more challenging.

Yes, open enrollment in the healthcare marketplace does provide an individual with many more options; however, the cost could be higher without the employer kicking in for a portion of the premium.

GUIDANCE FOR THE ROAD AHEAD

It’s critical for individuals to actively participate in these healthcare enrollment periods. Don’t be complacent and simply let your employer plan rollover from the year before. Always take time to compare plans during annual enrollment.

In 2024, here are some of the changes we can expect to see in healthcare offerings:

  • Increased premium costs — mostly due to rising inflation but also reflective of the addition of more expensive gene therapies that help treat cancers and musculoskeletal issues.
  • Expanding behavioral healthcare access — this can include expanding access to virtual behavioral healthcare options and expanding EAP services.
  • Offering “point solutions” — these services include a virtual care component for ongoing treatment of chronic conditions like diabetes.
  • Navigation and advocacy services — helping employees consider options for complex surgeries, cancer treatments, and more.

If you’re eyeing the marketplace during open enrollment, remember to look beyond just the premiums. Consider co-pays, network restrictions, and covered services.

If you’re considering an employer-sponsored plan, pay close attention to communications, ask questions, and attend any informational sessions. Helping the HR team understand your needs can lead to better communications and more relevant benefits in the future.

While the lines between these enrollments might blur from time to time, the American healthcare insurance industry has gone through a transformational shift that was meant to assist more people with access to affordable care. This shift could continue well into the future, so it is essential to reflect on your plan options and research what’s available to choose the option that best meets your needs.

IN CONCLUSION

Whether you’re gearing up for annual or open enrollment, the key is staying informed. The choices made during these windows have lasting impacts, affecting your access to healthcare and your finances.

At Suzuki & Associates, we champion your power to make informed decisions. Remember, whether you participate in open enrollment or annual enrollment, it’s not just about ticking boxes on a form; it’s about charting a course for a secure and healthy future.