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Are Americans overly optimistic about retirement?

DailyBird Life 2023-10-07 3 0


For over a decade, Dave Goodsell has been taking stock of investors' retirement issues. As the executive director of Natixis Center for Investor Insight at the French Foreign Trade Bank, he led research that revealed the complex and seemingly contradictory attitudes of Americans towards retirement life.

His research shows that Americans are optimistic about their retirement prospects - at least on the surface. But behind it lies concerns and evasion, which is not without a reason: according to Fidelity's data, the average balance of 401 (k) accounts in the second quarter of this year was $112400.

Although this is far from enough to sustain a life stage for decades, there are also some encouraging trends: according to research by the French Foreign Trade Bank, millennials deposit 16.3% of their income into retirement, which is still a healthy proportion, while baby boomers and X-generations only deposit less than 10% of their income into banks. Fidelity has found that since 2008, baby boomers have been saving money into their 401 (k) plan, with an average savings balance of slightly less than $500000.

Barron Weekly recently discussed with Goodsell how Americans can better prepare for retirement. The following is an edited dialogue.

Barron Weekly: Last year was a bad year for the market and also a bad year for retirement. What have we learned from it?

Dave Goodsell: Last year was a reminder that the market may fall. Perhaps the biggest lesson is that things do change quickly. Since 2009, the S&P 500 has only been unable to achieve positive returns for four years, with another year showing zero returns. In the nine years of the index's rise, only one year saw an increase of less than 10%. Last year was an unusual year, with both stocks and bonds experiencing a simultaneous decline.

Barron Weekly: Bond prices fell 13% last year, which shocked many investors. What happened to fixed income investments this year?

Dave Goodsell: Financial advisors have told us that this is the best opportunity for years to invest in fixed income and bonds, especially for retirees where low interest rates have always been a resistance, but now the situation has changed.

If you invest for retirement, bonds will once again become the ballast of your investment portfolio, providing traditional diversified returns that have always existed. The classic 60/40 investment portfolio (60% stocks, 40% bonds) is starting to work again.

Barron Weekly: Your research shows that most investors are not familiar with bonds. Please explain what this means.

Dave Goodsell: We have released a survey questionnaire as a test. Choose the correct option: Will the present value of my bond increase or decrease when interest rates rise; Will my future income potential increase or will it increase now.

The answer is that the present value of bonds generally decreases, while future income potential increases. Only 2% of respondents understand this. Even more surprising is that only 2% of retirees understand this. More than 40% of retirees answered, "I don't know

Stocks are stories. This is about a company doing something, achieving something, and it is successful. And bonds are mathematics, which is difficult for most people.

Barron Weekly: Social security should be able to replace 35% to 40% of average pre retirement income. Should people be prepared to make up for the remaining 60% to 65% on their own?

Dave Goodsell: The data we see shows that their financial situation often fails to fulfill this responsibility well. We have seen some interesting trends from generation after generation. For example, the baby boomers are overconfident and lack sufficient financial reserves.

According to our survey, the median retirement demand of this generation is $1.1 million, while their median savings are only $170000. But if you ask in the survey, is your retirement life guaranteed? Most people would say yes.

For investors, maintaining optimism is important, but we still need to neutralize it with realism.

Barron Weekly: What about other generations?

Dave Goodsell: Generation X still has more time. According to our survey, the median retirement requirement for this generation is $1.2 million, but currently only $81000 has been deposited in various accounts combined.

The millennials are overconfident and underestimate the cost of retirement. They told us that they want to retire at the age of 60, and they realistically believe they will live 25 years after retirement, but at the same time, they also told us that they only need $891000 to retire. They grew up in their parents' basement and may end up seeing off in their children's garage.

Barron Weekly: This is a terrifying idea. What is the biggest mistake people make when preparing for retirement?

Dave Goodsell: The first is to underestimate your lifespan. I built an "in law apartment" for my parents around 2006. My mother is still with us now. She is already 91 years old and can take care of herself. This is a reminder that we may live longer.

Barron Weekly: Most people believe that market volatility is the biggest retirement risk. So, were they wrong?

Dave Goodsell: Investors tell us that their definition of risk ranking first is market volatility, and second is losing their wealth. In a survey last year, only 10% or 11% of people ranked 'not meeting my (savings) goal' as the top priority.

When we ask this question to our financial advisors, they are three times more likely to say that not achieving your savings goal is a significant risk for you, and market volatility is constantly occurring.

Barron Weekly: Retirement life is full of gloom and bad luck, what makes you full of hope?

Dave Goodsell: I was born an optimist. Markets and global events fluctuate, and when I see companies able to create what people need and want, I feel full of hope.

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