New Year financial resolutions are like investor complaint filings with regulators: they typically wane during positive stock markets. In good times, the thinking must go, why do anything differently?
Take it from these retirement experts — from top advisers to a recent retiree himself — there is still plenty of room to improve your retirement picture in 2018:
Play mind games. With the latest “Star Wars” film fresh in mind, author Jan Cullinane (“The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement”) is channeling her inner Jedi. She’s using tricks from the world of behavioral economics to improve financial habits.
“Trick your mind into being more money savvy by doing simple things,” she said, including paying cash whenever possible because it makes us feel the loss of money more acutely. Another trick: Reframe your thoughts on spending by calculating how many hours or days you need to work to afford whatever you are thinking of buying.
Cut the cord. Catherine Collinson, CEO and president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, is cutting the cord on cable television in 2018. It’s part of a personal tradition of setting savings goals each January and tracking the progress.
“The minimum savings rate I strive for now is 20 percent, so as I go through my expenses from the previous year I really look for things I don’t need.”
Redirect a payment. With their youngest child heading into her final semester of college, retirement consultant Marcia Mantell and her husband, Dan, are resolving to save the equivalent of those college tuition payments in their retirement accounts. Mantell said she figures that the added contributions will help “purchase” a couple of years of retirement, meaning the couple (now in their mid-50s) will be able to retire a little sooner.
Be more strategic about charity. Veteran financial adviser Jonathan Guyton is waiving some of his advisory fees on assets pegged for clients’ charitable causes and is helping clients think more strategically about their donor-advised funds given the recently signed federal tax law. The funds allow donors to collect a tax deduction for the gift for the year it is given, but lets them accrue the money over time and designate it to specific charities later.
Avoid bitcoin. York University finance Professor Moshe Milevsky, who has written extensively about annuities, is urging savers to take some stock-market profits from recent years and put them into annuities that pay income for life in 2018. And, “stay away from bitcoin, etherium and other cryptocurrencies,” he said.
Spend more. Most retirement books and articles boil down to “spend less, save more.” James Bourdeau, 69, a retired physician in Satellite Beach, Fla., resolves to do the opposite now that retirement is here.
Bourdeau and his wife, Teri (who is still working), have taken big foreign trips in recent years and in 2017 he created what he called a personal sabbatical, spending nearly six months in Quebec City, polishing his French. For 2018, he’s working on a novel about the baby boom generation.
“While we are healthy we want to explore the world as much as we can,” he said.
Take smaller steps. Dana Anspach, a financial planner and founder of Sensible Money LLC, is tired of unkept resolutions, so she’s urging clients to think about smaller goals.
“If you never work out, it’s unrealistic to set a New Year’s resolution to go to the gym every day,” she said. By the same token, she’s urging clients to find $100 a month in their current spending to save instead, or boost their 401(k) accounts by 1 percent.
Speak up at work. Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, suggests workers communicate their desire for a long career path.
“If they let it be known that they want to work well into their 60s, they improve their attractiveness to their employer,” she said.
Get a housing game plan. Susan Collins, executive director of the Transition Network, is planning to downsize sooner rather than later.
“Housing is a hot issue for our members and being a single woman, as many of our members are, I need to ensure my own long-term sustainability by moving my housing plan forward,” she said. “It has two goals: Downsizing and moving closer to my siblings. At some point, either I’m taking care of them or they’re taking care of me.”
Forget retirement. Finally, Michael Kitces, a partner with Pinnacle Advisory Group and publisher of the blog Nerd’s Eye View, is trying to forget the word retirement.
“It’s because retirement implies you’re supposed to literally retire and not be engaged in any kind of work,” he said. “Most people actually enjoy being engaged in some way. Instead, think of your coming transition as ‘financial independence,’ the ability to choose to do whatever you want to do to stay active, regardless of any need for income.”
Janet Kidd Stewart writes for the Tribune Content Agency.