Do Our Biases Inhibit Our Retirement Savings Efforts

Do Our Biases Inhibit Our Retirement Savings Efforts?

They may affect our attempts to build wealth.   

 

Provided by Mike Fassi

 

Picture an 18-wheeler, its 4,000-cubic-foot cargo trailer filled to capacity with stacks of $100 bills. The driver shuts and locks the trailer, closing the door on roughly $10 billion.

Now imagine that truck driving off to a landfill, where that $10 billion will be dumped, shredded and buried, rendered useless.

As the day goes on, 170 more 18-wheelers start up their engines and carry the exact same payload to the same destination. When the convoy finishes its work, $1.7 trillion is gone.

Unimaginable? Metaphorically speaking, perhaps not. The National Bureau of Economic Research, a respected non-profit think tank, says we are forfeiting $1.7 trillion in potential retirement savings. Why? Simply because of our biases.1

Two major biases can impact our saving & investment decisions. NBER identified them in a study published in its Bulletin on Aging & Health in April.1

Present bias occurs when we value the present over the future. To see how common this bias is, NBER’s research team asked people a simple question: “Would you rather receive $100 today or $120 in 12 months?” As a variation, they also offered a choice between having $100 now or having $144 after waiting 24 months. Fifty-five percent of the respondents turned out to be “present biased” – that is, they wanted to take the $100 right away rather than wait to get a greater sum.1,2

Patience, of course, is fundamental to investing and retirement saving. Present bias is one of its enemies. From another angle, it also rears its head when volatility rocks Wall Street and we see panic selling. That panic is partly fueled by present bias. The sellers feel the pain of the moment, and lose sight of the potential in the future.

Present bias may also influence participation in workplace retirement plans. If an employee has tight personal finances or little understanding of investment principles, dollars in hand today may seem much more tangible and important than dollars that might be earned years from now. That leads us straight to the second bias NBER says plagues us.      

Exponential-growth bias occurs when we misunderstand compounding. Illustrate the power of compounding to a young adult starting to save for retirement, and “it all becomes clear” – there is perhaps no better way to show the long-term savings potential of a tax-deferred retirement account.1

Sadly, this is a lesson some people never grasp – either because it is not shown to them or because they lack mathematical or financial literacy. Someone unfamiliar with compounding may reason that assets in a retirement account simply grow by a fixed amount each year. That kind of misconception may make a workplace retirement plan less attractive to an employee – or alternately, it may make them think of it as if it were a fixed-rate investment vehicle.

As part of its research, NBER asked retirement savers a simple compounding question. Seventy-five percent of the survey respondents answered it incorrectly, and about 70% of respondents underestimated how much the asset in question would grow in value over time.1,2

Even meager compounding can be impressive. The Rule of 72 is widely known, but the 2-20-50 Rule also deserves to be remembered: an asset that increases in value by just 2% annually for 20 years will be worth about 50% more at the end of that 20-year period.2

Present bias & exponential-growth bias can deter people from saving for the future. They are easy to harbor, and easy to fall back on. Even longtime investors and retirement savers may fall prey to them. Challenging these biases is not only wise, but potentially useful. NBER estimates that if Americans could rid themselves of these two biases, our nation’s total retirement savings would increase by 12%.1

     

Mike Fassi, CLU, CHFC  is a Representative with Centaurus Financial Inc. and may be reached at Fassi Financial, 970-416-0088 or mike@fassifinancialnetwork.com.

 

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

 

 

Citations.

1 – bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-27/how-americans-blow-1-7-trillion-in-retirement-savings [4/27/16]

2 – theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/07/two-biases/491576/ [7/6/16]

 

Why Roth IRA Conversions Can Make Sense in a Down Market

Why Roth IRA Conversions Can Make Sense in a Down Market

When stocks struggle or tread water, going Roth gains merit.

 

Provided by Mike Fassi

 

Converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA is no easy decision. After all, it is a taxable event. When the stock market is down or sluggish, however, a Roth conversion has more appeal.

Traditional IRA owners “go Roth” for some very good reasons. A Roth IRA can be a resource for tax-free retirement money. When you are 59½ or older and have owned a Roth IRA for at least five tax years, you can make tax-free withdrawals from your account.1

Original owners of Roth IRAs never have to contend with Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs). They can also contribute to their IRA all their lives, provided they have earned income below a certain ceiling.2,3

In a sense, a Roth IRA functions as a tax management tool in retirement; you can put just about any investment subject to taxable income into a Roth IRA and forego paying taxes on that income in the future.3 

Many people retire to a lower tax bracket. That fact alone is a good argument for timing a Roth conversion to coincide with retirement.

For example, say you contribute to a traditional IRA while you are working, all while you are in the 25% federal income tax bracket. Those contributions come with a perk; you may be saving up to 25 cents on every dollar you put into that traditional IRA, because traditional IRA contributions are tax-deductible in many instances. In this scenario, as you retire, you drop into the 15% federal income tax bracket. Making a Roth conversion at this point also comes with a perk: the conversion now costs 15 cents on the dollar instead of 25 cents on the dollar.3

Why is a poor year for stocks an auspicious moment for a Roth conversion? In a beaten-down market, the cost of conversion can be lower for retirees and pre-retirees alike.

As a mock example, suppose you own a traditional IRA that had a balance of $180,000 at the end of last year. You had hoped the bull market would push its value higher this year, but then the market waned, and now your traditional IRA is worth $170,000. Bad news, yes; if you want to “go Roth” with that IRA, though, there is a silver lining. The lower value of your traditional IRA means the tax bill on the conversion (i.e., the tax owed on the distribution of assets out of the traditional IRA) will be slightly lower. Additionally, when the market rallies in the future, you get growth in a Roth IRA with the potential for tax-free withdrawals, rather than growth in a traditional IRA where withdrawals will be taxed as regular income.4

Other financial factors can make a Roth conversion opportune. If you are unemployed, have major health care expenses, or face a net operating loss (NOL), it may also be a good time for this move. Any of these circumstances could leave you in a lower income tax bracket. An NOL, in fact, can offset the taxable income resulting from the conversion.4

If you are retired and in a low income tax bracket and have not yet claimed Social Security, those three factors may put you in a nice position for a Roth conversion.

A Roth conversion need not be all-or-nothing. Some traditional IRA owners opt for partial conversions; they “go Roth” with just a portion of their traditional IRA funds. A Roth conversion can even be recharacterized; that is, undone. If you want to undo a Roth conversion, in most cases, you have until October 15 of the following tax year to do so.5

When is a Roth conversion a bad idea? A few scenarios come to mind. One, you lack the ability to pay the income tax resulting from the conversion. Two, you are positive that you will be in a lower tax bracket than you are now when you start taking RMDs from your traditional IRA. Three, you have plans to relocate to a state with minimal or no state income tax. Four, you think you might make a major charitable IRA gift either at or before your death. Five, you are in your peak earning years and, correspondingly, in the highest tax bracket of your lifetime.

A Roth conversion is not for everyone, but it could be for you. The short-term tax hit may be a small price to pay for the potential benefits ahead. If you want to explore this move, by all means, talk with a tax or financial professional first. That conversation is essential.

 

Mike Fassi, CLU, CHFC  is a Representative with Centaurus Financial Inc. and may be reached at Fassi Financial, 970-416-0088 or mike@fassifinancialnetwork.com.

 

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

  

Citations.

1 – nerdwallet.com/blog/investing/know-rules-before-you-dip-into-roth-ira/ [1/29/16]

2 – irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Roth-IRAs [12/17/15]

3 – time.com/money/4277306/how-to-contribute-to-a-roth-ira-if-youre-retired/ [4/4/16]

4 – usatoday.com/story/money/columnist/powell/2015/12/19/time-consider-roth-ira-conversion/75152514/ [12/19/15]

5 – irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Retirement-Plans-FAQs-regarding-IRAs-Recharacterization-of-Roth-Rollovers-and-Conversions [7/14/15]