Those nearing retirement are faced with a high-stakes decision. In the event you have a company pension, should you take it in monthly payments for life or in a lump sum? If you take the lump sum, how do you invest those assets? (Those who have assets built up in a 401(k) account and move them into an IRA Rollover face the same challenge.)
This article from Money.com warns that "those big sums are catnip to financial pros of all stripes — including advisers peddling misleading or just plain awful advice that could tank your retirement savings." Money lists several potential problems facing those who are making this important decision. Here are the intros to those four dilemmas.
1. High Fees Chip Away at Your Savings
Lured by a promise of higher earnings or guaranteed returns, you could roll your money into an investment that’s far more expensive than what you already own. Financial advisers gunning for IRA rollover dollars like to pitch variable annuities, insurance products that allow you to invest in stock and bond funds, tax-deferred, and later convert your balance into regular income....
2. You Needlessly Give Up a Sure Thing
When given the chance, 56% of workers take a pension as a lump sum, according to a study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.... Cashing out, though, is definitely in an adviser’s interest, since your pension becomes a pool of money he can earn a commission on.... Cashing out can backfire over time. With a pension, those who die early subsidize folks who live a long life. If you take a lump sum and buy a (variable) annuity or invest on your own, you have to be more conservative to make sure your money lasts, says Garrett. You simply can’t match a pension check....
3. You Go Through Your Money Too Fast
Another pitch is the tantalizing prospect of early retirement. The danger is that it’s based on sloppy or misleading math, says Gerri Walsh, head of investor education at FINRA. Verizon retiree Cindy Rogers says her adviser told her that her annuity would produce ample income to cover her expenses, while the principal would last her lifetime, according to her FINRA complaint. But Rogers’ $3,700 monthly payouts mean she’s withdrawing 8% a year — twice what’s typically suggested for a retiree who’s 65, let alone 49. Including fees, she’s depleting her savings at a rate of 11% a year....
4. You Make Bets That Are Foolhardy
Chasing high returns can get you in trouble. Rolling money into what’s known as a self-directed IRA so that you can shoot for the stars is especially perilous. The SEC estimates that in 2011 investors had $94 billion in this type of IRA, which lets you invest in pretty much anything, from real estate to tax liens.
Since many of the pitfalls mentioned in the article concern variable annuities, it might be useful to review our cover article on Making Sense of the Annuity Puzzle. In it, we try to help you sort out the pros and cons of annuities. and explain in layman's terms what annuities are, their different forms, their trade-offs, and more. It'll help you decide whether you should seriously consider including an annuity as part of your retirement income portfolio, and if so, what to look for when you go shopping.