American Savers?

By Johnny Gottstein

If you’ve followed the news lately, you may have noticed that the US economy isn’t exactly cooking along at a break neck speed, actually growing at an anemic rate of only 1%. The causes are many and varied and to litigate the issues is not the purpose of this brief discussion. But what caught my eye was a recent survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or NFCC showing that the vast majority (64%) of Americans would not have sufficient funds on hand to resolve a $1,000 emergency.

Even more surprisingly, it didn’t just apply to the lower income earners but included those making from $75,000 and even over $100,000 per year. Gail Cunningham, a spokeswoman for NFCC said “It’s alarming. For consumers who live paycheck to paycheck– having spent tomorrow’s money — an unplanned expense can truly put them in financial stress.”

The conclusion made from the survey was that Americans as a whole spend more than they make and are fueling the need for immediate gratification with debt. For those of us who counsel federal employees on retirement and their benefits, this is of deep concern. With over 10,000 baby boomers going on Social Security every day and over 50% of them relying entirely upon that source and other government resources, we all know it’s not sustainable.

Our group of certified professional federal retirement counselors at GPIS have met one-on-one with thousands of you over the years and have witnessed a wide range of savings for retirement. For instance, one of our retirement specialists met with a 62 year old government worker who had taken a one-time in-service withdrawal to remodel his kitchen and only had $37,000 left. He hadn’t been aware of the 20% tax reduction before he even got his check from the TSP. He now believes he will have to work “forever” because he won’t have enough money to retire on.

Another couple, who both are 63 and work for the government withdrew between them about $143,000 from their TSPs to pay off a 4% mortgage, not realizing that the check would be $28,600 less than expected. So now they have what’s left parked in a money market fund until they determine what they would owe for their 2016 taxes. They make together about $115,000 so now they had to add that to the remaining $114,000 from their TSP account or around $229,000 taxable income. Of course that pushed them to a higher tax bracket.

So what’s the point?

  1. Your TSP account was intended as part of your three legged retirement stool (Pension, TSP turned to income and Social Security) These folks now basically will be sitting on two legged stools while Social Security is anything but secure.
  2. Save more and spend less. Only you can work on spending less through budgeting and planning with the long view in mind. What I’d like to address here is the savings side of retirement planning. Most of you are taking advantage of the 5% matching contributions which range from around $67.00 per pay period to over $250.00 depending upon your base pay. Can’t beat free money right? You basically double your money every time you contribute.

Many of you are putting in extra, say from 8% to as high as 18% which is great!  We suggest to everyone we meet with to save a minimum of at least 10%. You’ve probably heard that number your whole life. What’s cool is that once you bump it up before long you don’t notice it out of your budget because it’s straight from payroll. Out of sight, out of mind!

The thing is, there are smarter ways for investing that extra money and a professional at GPIS can explain some pretty exciting options that can be even safer than putting all into your TSP account.

Give us a call at 1-866-201-7829 or visit our website for information. Happy Savings, Happy Life