Most of the work advisors do with their clients focuses on helping people achieve their life goals, above all, retiring comfortably and with enough assets.
To do that, many factors need to be considered during clients’ working lives, and plans require adjustments as their circumstances change. Yet, the last few years of people’s careers and retirement itself are when clients need the most guidance in income, lifestyle and wealth planning.
While retirement planning strategies are complex enough on their own, the COVID-19 pandemic added various wrinkles that continue to affect retirees and those approaching retirement.
Here are 10 articles on retirement planning strategies and related issues that Globe Advisor readers were particularly interested in 2021:
Investors are told throughout the course of their lives to spend less and save more if they want a comfortable retirement. For some, those frugal habits can be hard to break once they stop working – even if they’ve saved more than they could hope to spend for the rest of their lives. Underspending in retirement may not sound like a problem unless it means depriving your happiness or compromising your health, according to some advisors.
When it comes to retirement costs, most people think about food, shelter, travel, and entertainment. Yet, there’s a more common expense that requires some very detailed planning: taxes. “We need to recognize [taxes] are often life’s single greatest expense,” says Doug Nelson, president and senior financial planner at Nelson Financial Planning Corp. in Winnipeg and author of Master Your Retirement. As such, advisors are increasingly helping investors navigate the tricky world of taxes and build a sustainable, tax-efficient income stream in retirement.
Advisors say the eagerness among snowbirds to travel to warmer climates in the winter is evident among their clients – but there’s an element of this population that’s taking a “wait-and-see” approach as well as some who are planning actively for a more uncertain future. “The biggest issue right now is that everybody’s uncertain as to what to do,” says Russ Keil, senior wealth advisor with the Keil Financial Advisory Group at ScotiaMcLeod in Comox, B.C.
The gender pension gap in Canada is well documented, although less headline-grabbing than lower pay and the likelihood of women taking time off to raise children, which are at its roots. In fact, Canadian women with workplace pensions enter retirement with about 30 per cent less money in those plans than their male peers, according to a study Mercer Canada released earlier this year. Women also generally live longer than men, so the money must stretch out. Still, there are several ways advisors can help female clients make the best of their pensions.
For almost three decades, many investors and financial professionals have looked to the “4-per-cent rule” as a rough guide for how much money they would need to withdraw from portfolios annually to retire comfortably. The strategy was born from research based on historical returns for stocks and bonds from 1926 to 1976, but it has become one of the most talked about, scrutinized, and misunderstood investing rules of thumb around, even as many experts argue it’s increasingly irrelevant amid volatile markets, a wider variety of retirement income sources and longer lifespans.
Denise Gallant, a veteran certified financial planner with Applied Wealth Strategies in Sydney, N.S., is finally visiting her three-year-old granddaughter in Edmonton for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. If the past 20 fraught months have taught her anything, it’s that spending time with family should never be taken for granted. Life’s too short. Many of her clients who are close to retirement are feeling the same way, she says. After months of uncertainty, some are re-evaluating their priorities and taking the plunge to leave work earlier than planned. The pandemic, and its emotional fallout, has been a catalyst to spark “the Great Resignation.”
Before the pandemic shutdowns, many pre-retirees dreamed of carefree days spent in the garden, golfing, or reading a book with little on the to-do list. At least that’s the stereotype – and one many Canadians are rethinking after more than a year living with lockdowns, says Susan Latremoille, co-founder and partner of Next Chapter Lifestyle Advisors in Toronto. She points out that many of her clients have figured out that spending long hours at home, with little to do, doesn’t offer the contentment they imagined. Many are rethinking what retirement life looks like.
Retirement planning can be more complex for small business owners, and it has been especially so amid the pandemic. Many businesses have struggled to survive during the lockdowns and some owners have made the difficult decision to close permanently, putting their retirement dreams in jeopardy. That’s especially concerning as most small business owners see their businesses as their main source of retirement funding, says Heather Holjevac, a financial planner at the Holjevac Financial Group in Mississauga.
Even the best-laid plans will likely need some fine-tuning as the retirement date approaches. In cases in which not enough money has been put aside, advisors will need to press clients to make some tough decisions about their finances and lifestyle in retirement. In other cases, advisors may need to assure clients they’re in good shape. “[Many] people underestimate how financially healthy they are,” says Jordan Damiani, senior wealth advisor at Meridian Credit Union in St. Catharines, Ont. “They haven’t factored in things like government benefits and they’re surprised to see they’re on the right track, financially, when we go through the numbers.”
More Canadians are rethinking where they want to live in their old age after seeing the devastating impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on seniors’ living facilities across the country. “Considering we had to send in the armed forces into long-term care homes in Canada and … the highest reported COVID-19 deaths took place in these facilities, that prompted a lot of, ‘Where am I going to go, and what can I afford?’ discussions with advisors,” says Tiffany Harding, vice-president and head of wealth planning at Gluskin Sheff + Associates Inc. in Toronto.
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