Working through a range of retirement scenarios can help people worry less about whether they're financial preparations are adequate.
Steve Kessler, a certified financial planner and certified investment management analyst with S.R. Schill & Associates on Mercer Island, worked with Frank and Sherry Rutherford. He said he was struck by two lessons.
“Many people are financially independent but worry that they are not,” he said. “A stress testing of their situation can enable them to worry less and to realign their goals with confidence.
“The second lesson is for financial planners. Sometimes the best solution is to not mess with a situation that is already working well.”
Both Frank and Sherry were diligent savers and plan to continue working for several years before considering retirement. They have no debt.
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Their initial worry was how to plan withdrawals from their portfolios without running out of money. Working with Kessler, they realized that wasn’t a problem. He focused them on other areas, such as consolidating their far-flung accounts.
With the couple’s approximately $965,000 in investments, Kessler used Money Tree’s Golden Years software package to run a retirement analysis. He also used a Monte Carlo simulation, a mathematical model used in financial planning, to calculate the probability of a desired outcome.
The bottom line: The Rutherfords would run a surplus in retirement and an accumulated estate value of more than $12 million by the time Frank reaches age 99.
“A Monte Carlo analysis showed essentially a zero probability of running out of money,” Kessler said. He calculated the portfolio’s expected long-term return at 7.1 percent annually, modest but enough.
The couple preferred to plan on maximizing payouts from their pensions instead of establishing survivor benefits. Both have established trust wills, medical directives and durable powers of attorney.
Kessler worked through scenarios that ask, what if something goes wrong in retirement? He calls it “stress testing with different assumptions.”
The couple preferred to go without long-term-care insurance. Thus, Kessler’s analysis included $90,000 annually to cover nursing-home care. (So far, their medical costs are low and covered under their employer until they qualify for Medicare.)
Sherry has been concerned about her health. Her family has a history of heart trouble, and she worries a heart attack might force her into early retirement. The worst case is retirement now.
Yet even with reduced Social Security and pension benefits, their portfolio would grow to more than $7 million and they face little chance of running out of money.
If Sherry, the main breadwinner, were to die early, or if one or both spent a long period in assisted living, the money drain would be more severe.
Even so, Kessler said, “In both of the above scenarios, their ending net worth at Frank’s age 99 would still be above $6 million.”