“I no longer have the luxury of being a dove when it comes to my financial security. I have to become a hawk and protect my nest egg – my future – with everything I’ve got.”
I’d been waiting for the last 8 to 10 years for the repercussions, but up until now I’d been practically unaffected by the whole matter.
I’ve never owned a home, I’ve always rented.
Never owned a car and I don’t drive.
I’m single, with no children, so no worries there.
I’ve been at, what one would call a good job, for the last 18 years and have a fair amount of indispensability.
I pay my taxes and receive average returns each year.
I’ve had no major hospital visits for the last 18 years and I’m rarely sick (knock-on-wood), with most of my doctor visits slotted for yearly physical exams and dental check-ups.
And then it happened.
THE RECESSION suddenly got up close and personal.
On Monday the HR department at my company sent out an all-staff email stating, among other things, that due to the increased cost of the 401(k) pension plan by 25%, the company will no longer be able to contribute matching funds towards its employee’s deductions. This, no doubt is happening across the country:
“The proposed agreement would suspend the employer match on the 401(k) plan for all participating institutions for the next two years, and use the funds that would normally pay for the match to pay for the increase in the pension cost. This does not affect the match of July 2013. That was paid in its entirety, but the matches for July 2014 and 2015 would not be made under this tentative agreement. The match for July 2016 is not yet determined and would be subject to the same or a similar multi-party process to reach agreement about two years from now. Under the tentative agreement employee contributions to the 401k during the two years would continue to be made on a pre-tax basis up to the IRS limits.”
Suddenly I saw my beautiful but modest dream home nestled alongside the red clay mountains in Sedona, Arizona, going up in smoke!
The 1/4 acre backyard with the modest swimming pool (in which I personally install an original mosaic design); my brick enclosed BBQ pit; my little garden spot in the back of the yard where I try to grow a few tomatoes; the recreation center I hope to open and give art therapy classes in; my junkets to Africa, Japan, Egypt and England — still on my ‘bucket list’; my as-of-yet-to-be-born faithful companions, Lil Roddy and Piccachu, a pair of cute, sable French Bulldogs who I treat like the children I never had; my favorite gentlemen caller and I skinny-dipping in the pool under the stars in my cozy backyard, as we sip on our favorite wine while listening to an endless stream of jazz ballads from all the legends – Dexter, Coltrane, Miles, Mingus – playing in the background as we…well, you get the picture. All fading fast.
The memo says the break in coverage will continue up to 2016, when matters will then be renegotiated, but I and my fellow employees are severely skeptical on this turning out favorably anytime soon.
So this was my wakeup call. I no longer have the luxury of being a dove when it comes to my financial security. I have to become a hawk and protect my nest egg – my future – with everything I’ve got. My pension is still intact but I still have to boost my retirement-plan contributions if I want to make up for the loss of the employer match and keep my retirement dreams alive.
Some financial advisors recommend continued investment in your company’s 401(k) plan if there are good investment choices and low fees there. If you’re in your twenties, you’ll want to put the majority of your investment into a high-risk high growth fund. You’ll make money by leaving your money in these funds for the long haul even though they may go down at times. Move to more conservative investments as you get closer to your retirement.
Also consider contributing to a Roth IRA. A Roth IRA (named for its legislative sponsor, William V. Roth Jr., a Republican senator from Delaware) allows you to contribute and save after-tax money as opposed to the traditional 401(k) contributions made with pretax dollars. As long as you own the Roth IRA for at least five years, you can take tax-free distributions beginning at age 59.
Another way to supplement your overall retirement package may be an investment in an annuity of which there are two general kinds. The first is the annuity with period certain, which is an annuity that specifies a certain period for the payments. The second and most common kind of annuity for retirement savings is the life annuity. How this works is that you agree to pay some lump sum to a company and they promise to pay you a certain rate of return on that money each year for the rest of your life.
However there are certain risks associated with annuities. For instance, what happens if the organization you bought the annuity from goes under? Most likely, you’re out of luck. To put it simply, advisors again say never buy an annuity without the backing of a very reputable organization, especially if you’re putting a great deal of your savings into it.
There’s also the possibility that you buy a lifetime annuity and you pass away earlier than you expected to. The balance of that investment is gone, since it can’t be passed down as an inheritance. For this reason it may be preferable to buy an annuity associated with a charitable group you believe in, both for the tax advantages and for the support to that organization. Then at least if you die before you could cash in at your planned retirement age, the money would go to a worthy cause.
Afterall, you can’t take it with you (thank God!).