“You’ve heard it before: Save, invest and repeat. But even if you do everything right, unexpected hurdles can still arise to threaten your financial security,” writes Bill Harris, founder and CEO of Personal Capital in an excellent piece for cnbc.com. “In a country facing a retirement-savings deficit of up to $14 trillion, Americans can’t afford to ignore any factor that could set back their financial plans. While no one can predict the future, I personally can offer a few words of wisdom around how to start planning today. And that means making concessions for the scenarios that are most likely to compromise decades of thoughtful saving.” Harris follows by listing “seven threats that can eat up your nest egg.”
“1. Not saving early enough. Pushing off saving for retirement is the biggest threat to maintaining your existing standard of living in the future. The sooner you invest in yourself, the more you’ll earn in compounded interest.
“For example, assume you max out your 401(k) plan, saving $17,000 every year starting at age 25. Assuming a 7 percent return, you’ll have about $3.4 million at age 65.
“If you wait until you’re 40 to save, the final amount tanks to $1.1 million. So if your company matches a 401(k), always contribute the full amount. And if it doesn’t, consider an individual retirement account instead.
“2. Paying high fees. Most people don’t know how much they’re paying in fees each year, and, over time investors can lose hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“The most common types of fees include expense ratio, as with mutual funds and exchange-traded funds; plan fees, for 401(k) accounts; advisory and management fees (going to financial advisors); and transaction fees (i.e, buying or selling). Not all fees are easily understood, and many are embedded deep within investment products.
“Have a conversation with your provider to understand where your money is going and eliminate any unnecessary costs.
“3. Unexpected job loss. Stable income is essential for retirement saving, but unexpected job loss can happen to anyone. If you’ve received a tax refund recently, start an emergency fund or replenish an existing one.
“Rule of thumb? Save enough cash to cover up to six months’ worth of living expenses. Emergency funds don’t just cover job loss; they can be used for sudden illness or other emergencies, too.
“4. Supporting boomerang kids. As you approach your 60s, you may feel close to retirement — but that doesn’t mean your kids are. Unfortunately, many parents spend upward of $5,000 annually on a post-grad child. And those years add up.
“You want to help your kids, but you need to keep your retirement needs at the forefront when deciding how long to support them. So determine how long your retirement can last, and identify how long you’ll support your children.
“It’s important to agree on boundaries, not only to help them grow up but also to prepare them for their own retirement.
“5. Long-term care expenses. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 70 percent of people age 65 and older will need long-term care services at some point in their lives. Ever realized that a nursing-home stay costs more than $70,000 a year, on average, these days?
“If paying for that could significantly dent your assets, you may want to think about insurance. Whether you’re caring for a loved one or yourself, plan early to be prepared.
“6. Aggressively managing assets. Any financial advisor will tell you that planning for the long term is important. You may think that shifting your investments around frequently will help accelerate the process, but buying and selling too often only hurts your retirement savings. Given low odds of outperformance for active funds, passive indexing is the more prudent approach.
“7. Outliving your money. A recent survey found that 58 percent of affluent Americans would like to live to age 100, yet 41 percent of baby boomers expect their standard of living to decrease in retirement.
“I’m not surprised by this at all. Always overestimate how much you’ll need to save to maintain the standard of living you want, just in case.
“The bottom line is that everyone should find what makes them happy and enjoy life. But it’s essential to actively plan for retirement. If you’re prepared to withstand realistic financial obstacles, you’re on your way to enjoying those golden years to the fullest.”