Take the Right Steps to Protect Your Retirement Income

Dean Fox's picture

Saving for retirement: It used to be something you could count on your employer to do for you. But not anymore. Thanks to the increasing use of 401(k) and other types of contributory retirement plans over the past 30 years, the percentage of private-sector workers who qualify for the guaranteed retirement income provided by an employer-sponsored pension plan has dropped dramatically.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011, only 10 percent of all private-sector workers establishments provided a traditional pension plan (defined benefit plan).1 Rather, a far greater percentage of workers (58%) had access to a 401(k) or other similar type of retirement plan.1 Unfortunately, 401(k) plans shift the burden of saving for retirement from the employer to the employee. Furthermore, the money invested in a 401(k) is not ordinarily guaranteed – meaning that the investment risk also falls on the employee’s shoulders.

Taking “Stock” of Your Retirement Investments

One of the most popular types of investment choices for those saving for retirement is a stock fund. During the 1980s and 1990s, selecting this type of investment option did not pose major problems for most retirement investors. That’s because the stock market was generally increasing in value, meaning most workers were accustomed to seeing their retirement account balances increase – due to both their ongoing contributions, and their account’s investment earnings.

But things started to change in the early 2000’s, when the stock market started to experience a great deal of volatility. Most recently, during the Great Recession (2007-2009), many retirement investors – including those who were approaching retirement – experienced dramatic drops in the value of their 401(k) plan accounts, due to major losses in the stock market.

Keep in mind…

Most financial professionals believe that investors planning for retirement typically need the growth potential of stocks (often referred to as “equities”) to help them accumulate assets potentially at a greater rate – but of course, there’s a greater risk with stocks than with many other types of investments.

Why Stock Market Volatility Can Cause Problems for Retirees

Even if you have accumulated substantial assets in your retirement account, when you begin withdrawing money during retirement, you may encounter problems if your withdrawals are occurring during a time when the stock market is generally losing value. This is because the combination of your withdrawals and investment volatility – which both cause your account value to drop – along with inflation, which requires you to spend more on goods and services, can put you at risk that your account could run out of money during your retirement lifetime.

Annuities: One Approach That May Help

If you are striving for a financially secure retirement, an annuity can play an important role in your retirement planning strategy. An annuity is a long-term financial product for retirement purposes. Some annuities allow you to accumulate tax-deferred savings (during the accumulation period) or period a fixed rate of return and then during the annuity payout period, provides you with the option to start receiving guaranteed regular payments year after year for the rest of your life or for a specific period of time.  Other annuities can provide immediate annuity payments to you either for a set period of time or for the rest of your life.  

Having a guaranteed source of lifetime income may give you the confidence and ability to enjoy retirement the way that it should be enjoyed — doing the things you love without the worry of outliving your money. So, be sure to speak with your financial professional about the role an annuity can play in giving you greater financial security in retirement.

1 Wiatrowski, William. “The last private industry pension plans: a visual essay,” Bureau of Labor Statistics; Monthly Labor Review, December, 2012. Web.. http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2012/12/art1full.pdf

Prepared by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. The information contained in this article is for general, informational purposes only. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents or employees do not give tax or legal advice.  You should consult your tax or legal advisor regarding your individual situation.