With 15 Years to Go, It's Time for a Retirement Reality Check

Only a careful analysis of your needs, and your risks, will show whether your savings are on track.

Investors who reach midlife with substantial assets have a good reason to feel proud. That money represents decades of hard work, careful stewardship of wealth, and the potential for a secure retirement 15 or 20 years down the road.

Yet a single number simply showing how much you’ve saved can be misleading. Without a clear understanding of what your retirement costs will be, and of the potential risks that could set you back, that number, however sizable, could fall short of providing for your retirement needs.

The routine failure to examine retirement costs is revealed in findings from the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Most of those surveyed (67%) are confident they’ll have enough money for retirement, the findings show. But confidence can only go so far. And when it comes to knowing if they’ll actually have enough, less than half (42%) have truly looked closely at their needs.

“Midlife is the time to get specific on retirement,” says Larry Jones, senior wealth strategist at Huntington Private Bank®. “Where do you want to live, what will you spend, and what could set you back?

Midlife is the time to get specific on retirement.
Larry Jones
Senior Wealth Strategist, Huntington Private Bank
Understanding the risks

One crucial step is to ask whether you’ve accounted for potential pitfalls that could disrupt your plans for retirement, such as caring for aging parents, an unexpected illness, a risky investment strategy, or even job loss. Any of these situations could compromise your future. In a 2018 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, more than 55% of the surveyed people aged 60 to 79 said they had endured at least one “negative shock” that affected their wealth§.

For instance, a 50-year-old business executive, facing the dual challenge of supporting her aging parents and putting her kids through college, might decide to take a temporary break from retirement saving. Yet doing so would risk losing momentum and growth potential during her highest-earning years.

Or a couple could, like 81% of working Americans surveyed, fail to fully consider how much they’d need to cover retirement health costs. Retirement health costs could shrink what might have seemed like a substantial nest egg and jeopardize their retirement plans.

Jones recalls working with a Midwestern husband and wife, aged 49 and 50, who had a net worth of $4 million. They assumed they would have plenty during retirement to pay for a second home in a warmer climate, extensive travel, and educating every future grandchild. But a look at their portfolio by Jones, their Huntington Private Bank advisor, revealed an overconcentration of stocks in the small, publicly traded technology firm where the husband worked. If that single company were to falter or fail, all or most of their retirement dreams might be in jeopardy.

These or other potential obstacles may appear as you prepare for your own perfect retirement. While there’s no telling what challenges lie ahead, careful planning and the insights of an experienced advisor may help put you on a path to a retirement backed by solid numbers, a careful assessment of risks, and a balanced plan for the future.

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† Employee Benefit Research Institute. “2019 Retirement Confidence Survey Summary Report,” ebri.org. April 23, 2019.

Interview with Larry Jones, Huntington Private Bank. (June 17, 2019).

§ Axel H. Borsch-Supan et alia. “Saving Regret,” nber.org. November 2018.

Employee Benefit Research Institute. “2019 Retirement Confidence Survey Summary Report,” ebri.org. April 23, 2019.

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