10 Amazing Retirement Locations, My Podcast Debut, and Living the Hallmark Christmas Movie Experience

Leaf covered path bridge

My mind is definitely wandering toward travel if these links are any indication. I think it’s the knowledge that winter is upon us up north and I will be seeing way more of the inside of my home. This dread coupled with the promise of a vaccine before too long has me thinking about the next trip. What I’ve been reading:


Retirement

Find out where you measure up when it comes to 401k savings – (U.S. News & World Report)

If you reach $1 million in your 401k by the time you retire, you’ll be ahead of the pack by many multiples. Start saving aggressively, and increase the amount every year. If you can meet the 401k max, you’ll be in good shape.

 

The top 10 countries to retire in – (Business Insider)

Have you ever dreamed about retiring overseas? It’s never too early to start scoping out potential locations.


Investments

I had the privilege of joining Kyle Hill, CFP®, on his podcast – Personal Finance from the Hill-Top. We talk about the basics of stocks, bonds, diversification, and more.


Travel

It’s going to be a long winter – embrace it! – (The Washington Post)

“Friluftsliv…translates to open-air living and exemplifies the tradition of making time outdoors part of daily life — whatever the season.” Take it from the Norwegians, because they know how to do cold. When you get tired of the indoors this winter, make the outdoors your friend.

19 hotels you’ll want to book just for the bathtub – (The Points Guy)

I haven’t take a bath in 40 years. Yes, I said it! I’m solidly in the shower camp, but I could change my mind if I had these views.

Towns to visit in Pennsylvania if you want to feel as if you’ve been dropped into a Hallmark Christmas Movie – (Travel Awaits)

This might not be the best year for a Hallmark Christmas Movie experience, but save this link somewhere special, and when travel conditions improve, you’ll have a Christmas destination mapped out.


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    Financial Advisor David Tuzzolino

    David Tuzzolino, CFA, CFP®, is the Founder and CEO of PathBridge Financial, a firm that specializes in providing comprehensive financial planning and investment management services for clients that are nearing retirement and love to travel.

    146 Minutes of Fame

    Personal Finance

    Some people get 15 minutes of fame, I got 146 of them! It was my pleasure to join Kyle Hill, CFP® on his podcast – Personal Finance from the Hill-Top. 

    I put on my CFA cap and we walk through the basics of stocks, bonds, diversification, and more. You even get to hear me try to pronounce foliage.

    Click on the link below to listen!

    Personal Finance from the Hill-Top Episode #6 – Diving a Layer Deeper into Investments


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    Financial Advisor David Tuzzolino

     

    David Tuzzolino, CFA, CFP®, is the Founder and CEO of PathBridge Financial, a firm that specializes in providing comprehensive financial planning and investment management services for clients that are nearing retirement and love to travel.

    How Much Do You Need to Retire (and Travel), What Makes You Happy in Retirement, and Soup – Links

    Path bridge through the woods with leaves turning colors

    Now that Halloween and Election Day have passed, is it too early to put up the Christmas tree? The old stand-by of waiting until Thanksgiving is over doesn’t seem to make sense in 2020. 

    The most common question I hear from people who reach out to my firm is – “How much do I need to retire?” I walk you through the process for do-it-yourselfers who want a quick answer. Also included below, the best of what I’ve been reading on retirement, travel, and, yes, soup. 


    Retirement

    How Much Do I Need to Retire (and Travel Like Royalty)? – (PBF)

    I walk you through a quick-and-dirty way of coming up with your number, using readily available online retirement calculators. If you’ve ever asked yourself – “How much do I need to retire?”, this is the article for you. If you enjoy traveling, I also discuss why it’s crucial to incorporate travel expenses into your budget before and after retirement.

    Over 55? Your retirement is more uncertain than ever before – (Forbes)

    It’s a warm and fuzzy feeling when you have a well-developed comprehensive financial plan. That is until your age 65 retirement suddenly, and without your consent, is forced upon you a decade early. Moral: always plan for retirement conservatively, erring on the side of an earlier than expected retirement. You may not have to retire at 55, but it’s nice to be prepared if it’s forced upon you.

    What makes you happy in retirement according to financial advisors? – (U.S. News & World Report)

    No earth-shattering surprises here, but a good reminder that it’s a mix of financial and social factors that will make you happy in retirement. If you ignore either side, your happiness will likely suffer.


    Travel

    Holiday Travel Report – (ThePointsGuy)

    Are you traveling for the holidays? Mix a little Mad Max with ER. Ok, it’s probably not going to be that bad, but I have to imagine stress will be elevated even more than usual, and everyone will be concerned about health.

    Financial Independence / Abbreviated Retirement – (New York Pilot)

    Think mini-retirement coupled with life-changing adventure. I believe we’re going to see a huge spike in this once the coronavirus is under control. We are all learning the valuable lesson of not waiting to do things you love. Do it now; you might not have a second chance.


    Soup

    26 soup ideas for the upcoming winter from around the world – (MSN)

    It’s that time of year! Are you ready to get your soup on! If you’re looking for ideas, here are 26 recipes to keep you warm.


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    Financial Advisor David Tuzzolino

    David Tuzzolino, CFA, CFP®, is the Founder and CEO of PathBridge Financial, a firm that specializes in providing comprehensive financial planning and investment management services for clients that are nearing retirement and love to travel.

    How Much Do I Need to Retire (and Travel Like Royalty)?

    A white castle rises out of the forest, clouds in a blue sky

    A Simple Retirement Calculator

    One of the most common questions in planning for retirement is: “How Much Do I Need to Retire?” And since I specialize in working with travelers, travel always comes up. The question may be, how do I travel like royalty, a rock star, or just, well?

    The answer is incredibly simple: “It depends.”

    You can start with a quick-and-dirty analysis that won’t take you more than fifteen minutes. NerdWallet.com has a solid, basic retirement calculator here, but the following concepts will work with any calculator you use.

    The initial inputs are straightforward: age, income, current savings, and the amount you save every month. The retirement calculator then illustrates how much you will have at retirement compared to how much you will need to retire. Simple, and not a bad start, but there are ways to refine your results further.

    On the NerdWallet calculator, click “Optional.” Additional inputs appear.

    The first input, “Monthly retirement spending,” is automatically set to use 70% of your pre-retirement income. A common rule-of-thumb is you’ll spend approximately 70-80% of your pre-retirement income once you retire. However, I have found this number can be low, especially when working with clients who expect to travel extensively. Consider bumping this number up to 90-100% if you’re doing a quick calculation. If you’d like to refine this number, put together a detailed budget for retirement, keeping in mind the significant changes that can occur when you tackle your bucket list and medical expenses grow.

    The next input is “Other expected income.” This includes Social Security, pensions, annuities, and other income sources you may have in retirement.

    The default age of retirement is set to 67. Change this to your desired retirement age. Also, have some fun with it. Increase your age, lower it, and see how it affects the numbers. Your final number should be conservative, perhaps a few years before you’d like to retire. This will build in some extra cushion to your projections. Many people retire earlier than they expected due to layoffs, early retirement packages, or health issues.

    Life expectancy is automatically set to 95, a reasonable number. However, maybe you have a family where everyone sails past 100 in excellent health. You can always make adjustments, and the bigger the number, the more conservative your estimates will be.

    The “Investment rate of return” default is 6% pre-retirement and 5% after retirement. These rates of return assume your portfolio will become more conservative post-retirement. These are reasonable estimates, but you can adjust the pre-retirement return, either up or down, to see how your results change. Just be realistic and don’t stray too far to the upside.

    How does it look? Are you on track? If you are, fantastic!

    You’re not quite done, however. Play with the numbers and create some worst-case scenarios. What happens if you have to spend dramatically more than you anticipated? How do you look if your investment returns are lower than expected? If you are still on track to retire, try nudging down your retirement age. You may not want to retire early, but it’s nice to know the option exists.

    More Detail

    The quick-and-dirty option above is acceptable for some. However, if your life is a little more complicated or you want to get more granular, consider the information below.

    Expenses

    Let’s refine the “Monthly retirement spending” part of this model.

    Put together a detailed list of your expenditures. There are hundreds of budget spreadsheets online. Find one that does a good job of breaking out spending into categories that will help you organize your expenses. If you’d like the spreadsheet that I use with my clients, please send me an email at david@pathbridgefinancial.com. Double-check your spreadsheet with bank statements. Does the spreadsheet expense total equal what is coming out of your bank accounts? If not, figure out why and adjust.

    Next, focus on retirement. Make a copy of your spreadsheet and start reducing or eliminating expenses that might change once you’re retired. What commuting expenses will go away? Will you continue to need a second car? Will your mortgage be paid off? Do you have life insurance policies that you will no longer need?

    Unfortunately, not all expenses will decrease. Health care costs will grow as you age. Projections vary greatly, but a 65-year-old couple should expect to spend approximately $11,000 a year on health care in retirement. Fidelity Investments has a health care cost calculator that will take you about three minutes to fill out.

    Now, the good stuff. In retirement, travel and leisure often increases in frequency and duration. Dream vacations to exotic locations, the purchase of an RV or boat, a summer in Tuscany, the lake-cabin you’ve always dreamed about – let your mind wander. How much would you like to spend on travel? Go into as much detail as possible.

    How you like to travel will affect your travel budget. Do you prefer 5-star luxury resorts on the other side of the world and dining at Michelin-star restaurants?

    A chef uses tweezers to complete a fine dining meal

    Or do you find most of your vacations are within driving distance of your home where you stay with friends, and you pride yourself on scouring farmers’ markets to prepare home-cooked meals? Odds are you’re somewhere in the middle, but dive into your travel deeply and try to put together a realistic travel budget.

    It’s easy to get caught up in dreaming about once-in-a-lifetime trips, but there’s something that most people find even more important – family. You’re likely to have much more leisure time in retirement, which usually results in more family time. How many trips are you going to take to visit your loved ones? Grandchildren especially can be an irresistible draw. Don’t forget to add these trips to your retirement travel budget.

    Don’t hold back when estimating expenses. We’re talking about traveling like royalty here! Err on the high side, and don’t be afraid to include some extravagant extras. It’s better to reach, and save some extra money, then underestimate and not have enough. You can always reduce some expenses or eliminate some of those extras when the time comes. A key concept when planning for travel in retirement – be flexible.

    Income

    If you’re going to adjust the “Other expected income” amount in the calculator, keep in mind that this will increase income every year between retirement and death – a limitation of this model.

    In reality, there are ways to increase income for a portion of retirement, including part-time employment or renting out a home, but these are unlikely to last your entire lifetime. There are also one-time income sources that might make a huge difference, such as selling a house or an inheritance. If you are running into too many one-offs, consider consulting a financial advisor who has software that can accommodate any non-standard inputs. I discuss this later in the article.

    The Answer

    By now, you should have a reasonable answer to your question: “How Much Do I Need to Retire (and Travel Like Royalty)?”

    You should have a good idea of how much you need and how your current situation looks in comparison. Are you coming up short? The best way to address this is to save more if you can. Even a few hundred dollars each month can be meaningful if you adjust course early.

    If saving more is impossible, nudge your retirement age higher. Working an extra year or two might be the solution to your shortfall. Spending less in retirement will stretch your nest egg as well. Remember, being flexible is key.

    However, don’t be tempted to increase the investment rate of return just to meet your retirement goals. It’s conservative for a reason, and you should keep it that way. A balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds isn’t going to return 15% a year over the long-run, just because the calculator allows the input.

    retirement travel illustrated by a tablet and statements

    If you’re unsure of what rate of return to use, Vanguard has a website that illustrates the average investment return for stock/bond portfolios over 90+ years. There are no guarantees that the future will deliver the same results, but it’s an excellent place to start. Remember, it makes sense to be conservative.

    You May Need a Financial Advisor

    There are many reasons you may decide to contact a financial advisor. The most important reason – your question: “How Much Do I Need to Retire (and Travel Like Royalty)?” was not answered adequately using online resources. Also, consider the following:

    • Would you prefer more detail in your retirement projections?
    • Does your situation involve a level of complexity that an online calculator cannot handle?
    • Would you feel more comfortable talking through your important retirement decisions?

    If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might want to talk with a financial advisor. Where do you start? I recommend reading this article from the CFP Board: “Ten Questions to Ask Your Financial Advisor.” Or, if you’d prefer a little humor with your advisor search, please take a look at my article: “How to Spot a Terrible Financial Advisor You Can’t Trust.”

    Now that you’re armed with what to look for in a financial advisor, I recommend the following directories:

    Find a CFP® Professional

    The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) Find an Advisor

    Summary

    The answer to the question, “How Much Do I Need to Retire (and Travel Like Royalty)?” is – it depends. It depends on your wants, needs, and resources. Whether you tackle this question with an online calculator or with a financial advisor, make sure you’re comfortable with the results and have a clear understanding of what it will take to achieve success.


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    Financial Advisor David Tuzzolino

     

    David Tuzzolino, CFA, CFP®, is the Founder and CEO of PathBridge Financial, a firm that specializes in providing comprehensive financial planning and investment management services for clients that are nearing retirement and love to travel.

    A Haunted Hotel, How to Deal With an Unexpected Retirement, and 34 of the Best Travel Podcasts – Links

    The figure of death walks across a pathbridge

    The next week is going to be action-packed with Halloween and the election. Take some time this weekend, turn off the onslaught of political ads, and enjoy the first full moon in 76 years! Enjoy it while you can, because you’ll be waiting for nineteen years to see the next one. Happy Halloween!


    Retirement

    “Paying too much attention to politics can be harmful to your wealth.” – (Forbes)

    Elections can be stressful times, and the stock market has a history of volatility during times of perceived uncertainty. However, if you’re investing for the long haul, you have nothing to worry about.


    Unexpected Retirement – (Vanguard)

    Unfortunately, many people don’t work as long as they had planned – especially given today’s coronavirus-fueled layoffs. Vanguard has put together a solid list of steps to take if this happens to you.


    Early Retirement – Steps to Take – (Forbes)

    Planning is easier when it’s broken into two phases – pre and post-retirement.


    Travel

    Staying in a Haunted Hotel – The Terror and the Humor – (PBF)

    Happy Halloween! Ever stay in a haunted hotel all alone? This is my story.


    34 of the best travel podcasts – (Travel Massive)

    If you’re looking for a travel podcast, I got you covered!


    Would you fly if everyone on the plane is tested for COVID before takeoff? – (CNBC)

    A vaccine would be fantastic, but small things like rapid-results testing add up and might be just as important to getting life back to normal.


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    Financial Advisor David Tuzzolino

    David Tuzzolino, CFA, CFP®, is the Founder and CEO of PathBridge Financial, a firm that specializes in providing comprehensive financial planning and investment management services for clients that are nearing retirement and love to travel.

    The Problem with Living on Social Security Alone, Longevity and Retirement Savings Disconnect, and Missing the Airport – Links

    A wooden bridge spans a small brook with colorful trees in the background

    I know you have other things on your mind right now, but don’t forget about retirement planning. If your only income is from social security, it’s going to be a lean ride.

    Are you missing the airport? Yeah, me too. There’s something about the energy, the potential, the anticipation of the next adventure.


    Retirement

    Can you live on social security alone? – (USA Today)

    Of course, it depends. But if you do, don’t expect much extravagance in your life. How you can supplement your retirement savings.


    The retirement savings disconnect – (Barrons)

    “Americans’ optimism about their longevity comes at a time when planning for retirement has become more complex.”

    Along with this longevity comes a healthier and more active retirement. Make sure your savings keep up with this new reality.


    Travel

    A lifelong traveler takes a journey inward – (The Washington Post)

    I hope that we will be able to travel, interact with, and witness the world again shortly. When we do, it will certainly seem strange. But when has travel not been strange?


    There’s a second wave of COVID-19, so be careful where you travel – (Chriselliotts.com)

    Use common sense and avoid crowds. The article contains some useful links if you’re researching a location. It’s going to be a long winter, folks.


    Missing the airport – (The Points Guy)

    I miss the buzz of an airport. I miss the mass of people in motion to see loved ones or going on vacation. I miss the anticipation of far-flung destinations. Now, if I could only get there without going through a metal detector.  


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  • *Privacy policy: your email address is safe, and you will never receive SPAM.

     

    Financial Advisor David Tuzzolino

    David Tuzzolino, CFA, CFP®, is the Founder and CEO of PathBridge Financial, a firm that specializes in providing comprehensive financial planning and investment management services for clients that are nearing retirement and love to travel.

    Is It Ever a Good Idea to Buy a New Car?

    Dark car park entrance exit

    I feel like I need to whisper this to you in a dark parking garage with my face obscured by shadows, but, “I’m a financial advisor who buys new cars.” And I will argue that, yes, sometimes buying a new car is a good idea despite the many financial pundits that will tell you purchasing a new car is one of the worst financial mistakes you can make. Here are the top five reasons you should consider buying a new car instead of one that is used.

    Getting Exactly What You Want

    Have you ever found yourself wandering the aisles of a used car lot or scouring a website searching for the perfect car? Rarely do you find exactly what you’re looking for. One car has every feature you could dream of, except it has a metallic-mustard paint job. Another vehicle is perfect in every way, except your history of backing into poles makes the absence of a backup camera a non-starter.

    Buying a used car is often filled with compromises. However, if you decide to buy a new car, you can have it delivered the exact color, and with the exact features, you desire. Some of these choices can also save you money. Buying a used car can result in being stuck with expensive options you don’t necessarily want.

    My last car-buying adventure was eight years ago. Three decisions I remember clearly were All Wheel Drive (AWD) or Rear Wheel Drive (RWD), standard or automatic transmission, and whether I needed a navigation system or not.

    I bought a new Lexus, and the experience is still fresh in my mind. One feature I was happy to skip was the navigation system. I remember staring at the price tag and then my phone. Price tag. Phone. I couldn’t justify the price versus the free navigation system in my hand. Thank you, Google! I’m not sure exactly how much I saved in 2012, but if you decide to skip the navigation system on a new Lexus IS today, you’ll save $1,670.

    Most of the cars on the dealer lot had AWD. Safer? Perhaps, but also more expensive. I could have saved approximately $2,000 by selecting a RWD car. For someone who has a short, or no (thank you coronavirus), commute, and rarely needs to drive in poor weather, this option could be attractive.

    My first car was a 1976 White Datsun B210, and it had a stick-shift. I still have an affinity for manual transmissions and only recently bought an automatic.

    Stick shifter in black and white

    You can save between $1,000-$2,000 by going old school. Unfortunately, the stick-shift is dying out, but it’s another example of a feature you can select in a new car to lower the price.

    There are dozens of places to save money on a new vehicle. Don’t like leather seats? Order cloth. Would you be happy with a 4-cylinder? Downgrade from the V6 engine to save money. Not everyone wants a moonroof. If you can do without, you might be able to save some money.

    All of these extras add up, and if you are buying a used car, you will be stuck with the features already decided for you. If you order a new car, you can drop unwanted options and potentially save thousands of dollars while getting exactly what you want inside and out.

    A caveat here is if you strip out options that everyone else wants, you’ll likely get a lower price when you sell your car. However, if you’re like me and you plan to drive your new car for a dozen years or more, this will matter less. And if your new car is perfect in every way, you’ll be less likely to begin eyeing up the new models after a few years.

    Technology

    The speed of technological advances is accelerating in society, and new cars are no exception. There may be advanced features on the latest model that are absent from older cars – technology that is important to you. One area of emphasis is safety. New technologies include lane-keep assist and automatic emergency braking. If this is a brand-new feature and you want it, buying a new car is the only way to go.  

    Is parallel parking the bane of your existence? Would you rather walk three blocks to pay a valet $30 to avoid parallel parking for free in front of a busy restaurant? Self-parking technology alone might be worth buying a new car if older models don’t have it. There are many features that may make purchasing a brand-new car attractive depending on the model you’re considering. 

    Low Interest Rates

    The average credit score in the U.S. has been around 690-700 over the last 15 years. And according to Bankrate, the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) people pay for a new car with a score in the range of 661-780 is 4.68%, versus 6.04% for a used car.

    As reported by Edmunds, the average length of new and used car loans have increased over the last decade to 72 months. Let’s take a look at the overall cost difference of buying a new versus a used car.

    The best-selling, non-pickup truck for 2020 is the Toyota RAV4. Using pricing and depreciation data from Caredge, I calculate the total cost with a 72-month loan to be $34,094 for a new RAV4 and $30,998 for a one-year-old model. That’s a difference of just over $3,000 for the six-year length of the loan.

    White Toyota Rav 4

    The loan’s overall cost for the used RAV4 was lower due to a lower purchase price, but the used car owner paid over $600 more in interest charges due to a higher rate. Always keep in mind that the APR difference between new and used has a cost.

    If you have excellent credit, there are often opportunities throughout the year to get an even lower rate. For example, Toyota is offering 0% APR, as I write this article, for 60 months and 2.9% APR for 72 months. You won’t often see rates this low on used cars. Just remember to always check the fine print on any loan.

    Negotiations

    This may be the best reason of all to buy a new car. It’s not a monetary win, but there is a tremendous value gained by not having to haggle with a used-car salesperson. I have accompanied several friends to buy a used car and my experiences, unfortunately, matched the used-car salesperson stereotype. I sat through high-pressure sales, a focus on payment and not price, and frequent huddles with the manager.

    The difficulty of negotiating the price of a used car is – no two are alike. Options, condition, and mileage differ between every vehicle. These differences put you at a negotiating disadvantage.

    The beauty of negotiating for a new car is each one is identical. Yes, options can vary, but each car you purchase should be in showroom-floor condition with a handful of miles. And if you can’t find a vehicle with the exact options you want, you can order a new one from the factory. This uniformity allows you to more easily negotiate the price of your new car with several dealers.

    Not a fan of the negotiation process at all? Let me introduce you to the Internet Sales Manager. Without even stepping into the dealership, you can get the price for the car you want simply by sending an email. Contact several firms that each have the same car (or can get you the car), and lower your price by having them bid against each other. Only when a price is finalized will you have to stroll into the dealership – your negotiations complete.

    Admittedly, you can also negotiate used-cars by email. However, negotiations tend to be more difficult when you’re not comparing apples to apples.

    Private Sellers

    If you plan to buy a used car from a dealer, this won’t apply to you. However, to get the best price on a used car, you’re going to have to buy it from a private seller.

    Safety is always a concern when buying a car from a private seller. A dealership may have its faults, but worrying about your security isn’t one of them. There is no telling who is on the other end of a private sale.

    A man in a gray suit menacingly points a banana

    You’re also going to have to take care of the transfer of ownership paperwork and complete it yourself. The details for each state will vary, but most involve some legwork. In Pennsylvania, you will need to take a trip to the Department of Transportation as an agent will have to witness the transfer.

    When you’re buying a used car from a private seller, you have little recourse if it turns out to be a lemon. You want to have it inspected by a mechanic you trust and ask a lot of questions about its history. Obviously, this involves time and money.

    Is a new car from a dealer looking better to you now? You can avoid most of the private seller headaches by purchasing a used car from a dealer, but you’ll pay extra for the privilege, and the spread between new and used car pricing will narrow.

    Summary

    Don’t immediately assume a used car will be the right choice for your next car purchase because that’s what you’ve heard from the experts. Investigate the used-car inventory in your area. Compare new and used-car pricing. Then compare these options with ordering a car from the factory with precisely the features you desire. Weigh the differences in pricing, interest rates, technology, and your comfort level with negotiations to make your final decision. You may find that by cutting a feature you don’t want, sticking with a car that depreciates slowly, and scoring a low interest rate, a new car will be just as, or more, attractive than a used car.


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    Financial Advisor David Tuzzolino

     

    David Tuzzolino, CFA, CFP®, is the Founder and CEO of PathBridge Financial, a firm that specializes in providing comprehensive financial planning and investment management services for clients that are nearing retirement and love to travel.

    Why Start an Emergency Fund?

    A man with a crazy gray wig and red glasses yelling representing the life of the party

    There is nothing less sexy in personal finance than the emergency fund.

    Yes, I realize that contemplating death while diving into a life insurance policy is no fun either, but I’ll save that for another day. While the emergency fund may not be the overindulgent life of the party, it is definitely the dependable friend who will get you home and safely into bed.

    The hierarchy of savings is a popular topic in personal finance. Search for the phrase in Google, and you’ll see what I mean. I like to think of an emergency fund as the foundation of the saving’s pyramid. It should be the first place you save money. Yes, even before you jump on Robinhood to start trading options.

    Michael Kitces included a fantastic version of the pyramid you can find in his article – “The Hierarchy Of Tax-Preferenced Savings Vehicles For High-Income Earners.” It appears below.

    A colorful pyramid illustrating the hierarchy of savings

    How much should I save?

    The most common recommendation is to save enough to cover 3 to 6 months of expenses. Solid advice. But how do you know which number is right for you? Ask yourself the following questions.

    • How many sources of income does my family or I have?
    • How stable is my job?
    • How quickly would I be able to get another job?
    • Do I have substantial investments that are reasonably liquid outside of my emergency fund?
    • What percentage of my monthly spending is discretionary, and can it be cut in an emergency?

    It can be difficult to answer some of these questions accurately but err on the side of adding an extra month or two in savings if you’re in doubt.

    What makes an emergency fund so important?

    There’s no better way to derail your retirement plans than to pile on some high-interest debt because you lost your job. Your emergency fund is there to provide funds when life throws an unfortunate surprise at you. 

    A brown shoe about to step on a banana peel

    An emergency fund also gives you options. Panic over a lost job, a medical emergency, or a car accident can result in rushed, poor decision making. If you find yourself unemployed, would you rather calmly look for a new position that fits your career goals with a company you admire or grab the first job that comes along because you’re desperate for income?

    Do I have to worry about this? I make some serious coin!

    Given the importance of establishing an emergency fund, it’s sad to see only 28% of people in the U.S. have savings equal to six months of expenses, according to the Federal Reserve. And before you dismiss this as a problem for Generation Z, the same survey shows that only 39% of people over 55 have savings to cover six months. But high-income earners are rock-sold, no? Not really. Only 54% of earners in the top quartile could cover expenses for half a year using emergency savings.  

    What’s even worse? This survey was completed well before COVID-19. I’ll take a wild guess that savings levels are even lower now for many Americans.

    Even with a high income and substantial retirement savings, an emergency fund is a good idea. Retirement savings are great – for retirement. If you have to access retirement accounts in an emergency, there may be penalties, taxes, and fees. You will also miss out on the growth those investments would have delivered, potentially setting back your retirement goals.

    When should I access my emergency fund?

    Uh, in an emergency? True, but try to define what this means beforehand. An emergency should be a serious, unexpected financial event that must be addressed. Medical bills, car repair, a job loss are all reasons to tap your fund.

    A toy ambulance

    I work with travelers, and I know the pandemic lockdown has been difficult. You might believe that a trip to Paris after you’ve received a COVID-19 vaccine is an emergency of mental health. But, no, while possibly an emergency, it’s not a good reason to tap your fund.

    How to build it?

    Put your emergency savings into a separate account. Setting up an automatic withdrawal from either your paycheck or a checking account is the best way to fund it. I emphasize automatic, so it happens without effort on your part. It may take time to meet your emergency fund goal, but religiously making a deposit on a set schedule works well.

    Where should I put it?

    Liquidity is the key. Emergency money should be saved in a place that can be accessed quickly. A high-yield savings account or a money market account is ideal, and both are insured by the FDIC up to $250,000. Don’t get cute and reach for a higher yield by putting your emergency fund into an investment product that might lose value, is not insured, or is not readily available when you need it. Also, there are many financial institutions that are competing for your business, so look for accounts that will not charge you a fee of any kind. Bankrate is an excellent resource to find the best yielding money market accounts.

    How else will an emergency fund benefit me?

    An exciting part of having an emergency fund, yes, I said exciting, is it gives you financial flexibility. You can use this flexibility to save some serious money. How, you ask?

    Do you have a low deductible on your auto or home insurance? An emergency fund can allow you to raise the deductible and save money over the long term, assuming you’re not accident-prone.

    A common question asked by travelers – Do I need travel insurance during COVID? The answer may be no if you have a hefty emergency fund, and your only possible loss is financial, measurable, and manageable.

    If the possible loss can be strictly defined and equal to 10% of your emergency fund or less, I’d recommend passing on the insurance. On average, you will come out ahead financially in the long run. However, if you have a history of making claims, you have a habit of losing things, or you can’t sleep thinking about being uninsured, then buying travel insurance is a good idea.

    If you do need to access your emergency fund, replenish it as soon as you can. It won’t help you much if you drained it last year and forgot to fill it back up.

    Summary

    Fully funding a liquid account that is to be used only for emergencies is an essential first step in financial planning. The account can reduce stress, present you with options, and save you money. Unforeseen events will happen in your life, and it’s always better to be operating from a position of financial strength and security than having to scramble around to see which long-lost relative will float you a loan. Get this foundation of financial savings right, and you’ll be on your way to retirement glory.


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    Financial Advisor David Tuzzolino

     

    David Tuzzolino, CFA, CFP®, is the Founder and CEO of PathBridge Financial, a firm that specializes in providing comprehensive financial planning and investment management services for clients that are nearing retirement and love to travel.

    Retirement Planning for Travelers – Beware the Bucket List

    Beware the Bucket List - People run with the bulls, photo from above

    Failing to Plan for Travel Spending Later in Life Can Sink Your Retirement Plans

    The rule-of-thumb for spending in retirement is your expenses will drop to 80% of what they were pre-retirement. This number may be adequate for some retirees, but for travelers – it’s unacceptable.

    The Botswanan safari you’ve always dreamed of is expensive. The RV you’re going to use to explore the country will set you back a fair amount too. Plane tickets to visit the Cup of Noodles Museum in Japan – not cheap, and a little odd, but no one is judging you here. That bucket-list of travel experiences and destinations you want to conquer can significantly affect your budget. And according to Merrill Lynch, 67% of retirees age 50 and older have not budgeted for travel in retirement.  

    bucket list travel - safari where a giraffe stretches upward to eat leaves from a lone tree in the savanna

    As a traveler, you should expect an increase in travel-related expenses for at least the first several years of retirement as you work through your bucket list. You’ve been dreaming about the moment for many years, you’re feeling healthy, and the jump in leisure-time all will contribute to a jump in travel spending.

    How do you prepare for this new chapter in life? Create a retirement budget that includes all of these new, travel-related expenses. The earlier, the better, so you can make the necessary adjustments in your spending and saving habits along the way.

    Expenses That Will Decline

    Let’s start with the good news first. You have expenses during your working life that will likely go away or drop substantially when you retire.

    Your daily commute can include gasoline, parking, wear and tear on your car, and the cost of public transportation. These will disappear except as they relate to leisure.

    Your wardrobe will likely change, as well. Goodbye work clothes, hello loungewear! Yes, this may be an oversimplification, but you should be able to retire enough clothing to the point of actually being able to find something in your walk-in closet.

    College tuition for children and mortgage payments are additional expenses that can go away. Taxes should decrease given the drop in work-related income. In addition, there’s no need to save for retirement anymore, because you’re living it!

    Expenses That Will Increase

    Yes, spending will increase in certain areas of your life during retirement. Some of these expenditures you will welcome with open arms, and some you will grudgingly pay wearing a look of disgust.

    Travel expenses can jump dramatically in the first few years of retirement. However, there can be a considerable difference depending on your travel style. Flying in first-class while hop-scotching around the Pacific, staying in 5-star

    5 Star Resort in the South Pacific on many people's bucket list

    resorts, and dining at 3-star Michelin restaurants is one end of the spectrum. Driving a few states away to attend a barbecue with your family who put you up for the weekend will be less expensive.

    The cost of health care in retirement is what every red-blooded American fears. But preparing for these expenses ahead of time can ease the sting.

    Budgeting

    If you don’t currently have a budget, I highly recommend you put one together. It’s retirement planning 101 and is key to projecting when you’ll be able to retire.

    Your budget is likely to change dramatically, however, at retirement, especially if you’re a traveler. I recommend you put together a second budget, which will begin once you retire.

    Many expenses in your life will not change at all. However, for those that will, do your best to estimate the change, especially for items that will significantly affect your budget.  

    One expense that can drastically move up or down is housing. Paying off a mortgage or downsizing can bring down the cost substantially.

    Is relocation a consideration? What does the cost of living look like in the new location? Do you want to buy a vacation home, but keep your original home? Adjust your budget for the potentially significant changes. 

    Budgeting for Travel

    If you love to travel, this part should be fun. Let your mind run wild and think of all the adventures you’d like to have in retirement. Create a travel bucket-list that contains all of the events you’d like to attend, destinations you’d like to visit, and experiences you’d like to…well, experience.

    Do your best to estimate your travel costs accurately.  How many trips will you take per year? How long will they be? Will spending be extravagant or constrained?

    Also, ask yourself how your travel might change. As people age, they tend to value service, comfort, and safety more, and they are willing to pay extra for it. Staying in nicer hotels and traveling with higher-end tour groups can be the result. For all but the most intrepid retirees, gone are the days of solo backpacking through Europe and sleeping 10 to a room in hostel bunk beds.

    Travel in Style - a hostel room filled with bunk beds

    However, there are also changes in retirement that can reduce the cost of travel. The time-freedom that comes with retirement allows travelers to vacation during the off-season, book last-minute deals, and travel in a more deliberate way, such as taking a bus or train instead of an expensive flight.

    If you’re like me, you weren’t in a very good mood the day your first invitation to join AARP arrived in the mail. However, a benefit of being over 50 is discount offers start piling up. By the time you turn 65, discounts on airlines, hotels, restaurants, etc. are prevalent.

    Now that you’ve put some thought into retirement travel, include it in your budget. Be as accurate as you can, but don’t be afraid to err on the high side. It’s better to budget for a bucket-list trip and decide not to take it than the other way around.

    Here are some websites that will help you put together a budget and assist you with finding discounts:

    TripAdvisor – an excellent resource for trip planning and pricing flights, hotels, tours, and more.

    Kayak – another fantastic resource for pricing the major components of travel, includes one of the most flexible, user-friendly airfare search engines available.

    The Senior List – an extensive list of discounts on transportation, lodging, and dining for people 50+.

    Numbeo – if you’re trying to determine how expensive/inexpensive a city or country is, this website is includes the local cost of living index and the prices of everyday items.

    Winding Down

    A difficult part of budgeting far into the future is the many unknowns. One of the most important factors is health. I want to think I’ll still be the healthy, adventurous soul I am now when I’m 90. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to be the case.

    Travel spending tends to decline with health. Ask yourself – how healthy and active are/were your parents later in life? How about your grandparents?

    Studies show, on average, travel spending starts to decline as travelers enter their 80’s, so this is a good time to start lowering the travel component of your budget. Just don’t do it too rapidly, as many older retirees are still actively traveling. If you want to be conservative, don’t drop it at all.

    Summary

    Don’t be part of the two-thirds of Americans who fail to budget for travel in retirement. Instead, take a pro-active approach to plan your future and start saving early. The 80% rule-of-thumb may leave you ill-prepared for the active retirement many travelers desire, so try and budget for the large expenses later in life as accurately as possible and be conservative when making estimates. A little planning should ensure you’ll end up crossing off your bucket list in style.  


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    Financial Advisor David Tuzzolino

     

    David Tuzzolino, CFA, CFP®, is the Founder and CEO of PathBridge Financial, a firm that specializes in providing comprehensive financial planning and investment management services for clients that are nearing retirement and love to travel.

    The 5 Biggest Mistakes Made by Travelers Planning for Retirement

    Three pictures of travel destinations lay on a map next to a old film camera

    Do you like to travel? Are you looking forward to a future when your leisure time will be measured in months, not seconds gained by cutting your 30-minute lunch “hour” short?

    A man checks his watch and is pressed for time

    There are pitfalls particular to travelers when planning for retirement. This article will help you avoid them so you’ll be ready to retire and tackle the next chapter of your life with confidence.

    Not Budgeting for Travel in Retirement

    A retirement study published by Merrill Lynch reveals that 84% of retirees over the age of 50 have done “hardly any” planning for leisure activities for the next ten years. And 67% have not budgeted for travel in retirement.

    The best retirement plan in the world is useless if it doesn’t include spending on travel in retirement. For the first several years, retirement-bliss is often filled with bucket list travel, which can be extremely expensive. Your new RV, a trip to the Galapagos Islands, and the two-week African safari won’t be cheap. Sure, your travel spending may decline after this initial period, but it tends to stay elevated for people who love to travel.

    Failing to plan for travel will present you with two difficult choices. Either come up with the money from other places in your budget or miss out on the travel you love.

    Why not build travel into your retirement budget in the first place? Your future self will thank you for it.

    Not Acquiring the Right Health Care Insurance

    Medicare will not cover you in an emergency when you’re traveling internationally, except for very limited circumstances. If you’re a traveler who plans on leaving the U.S. in retirement, you need to make sure you’re insured in another way.

    Some Medigap policies and Medicare Advantage plans will cover you outside of the country, but not all. There are also time constraints to this coverage. For example, Medigap policies will only cover you for the first 60 days when traveling.

    There is also travel insurance that can be purchased on a one-time or annual basis. A year-long policy may be less expensive, depending on how often you are traveling.

    Some credit cards will also pay your emergency medical bills when traveling. Read the fine print carefully, but for travelers without an ongoing plan, this can be a good way to cover yourself without having to shop for a new policy each time you leave home.

    As a traveler, it’s important to objectively analyze your needs and make an informed decision as you approach 65. How much is each insurance option? How much of your medical bills will each alternative pay? What is your exposure if you have a severe medical emergency? Are there time limits when traveling?

    There are enrollment periods when signing up for the government plans, so if you decide to make a change, you might have to wait a while. This is another reason to prepare for the critical decision concerning health care well ahead of time.

    Another concern is early retirement. Travelers that retire before 65 must find health care insurance before Medicare kicks in. Alternatives include the Health Insurance Marketplace, a spouse’s insurance, or a part-time job that provides the benefit.

    Not Using the Right Credit Card

    Finding the right credit card as a traveler can be a warm fuzzy feeling. You will earn miles or points, you will not have to pay foreign transaction fees, you will have access to airport lounges, and sign up bonuses can be tremendous – equivalent to a free flight or more.

    Remember the medical insurance we discussed earlier? Some higher-end cards will not only cover you in case of a medical emergency when traveling, but also include rental car coverage, trip cancellation insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, and medical evacuation coverage.

    Two credit cards with stellar benefits are the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card and the American Express Platinum Card. The Points Guy does an excellent job of explaining the benefits of each. Don’t be shell-shocked by the $500 plus annual fees, as most semi-frequent travelers will easily recoup the cost via attractive benefits such as a $300 annual travel credit and reimbursement of TSA pre-check fees.

    If you’re using the wrong card, you could be missing out on thousands of dollars. That’s money you could spend on another trip!

    Paying Too Much in Taxes

    Raise your hand if you’d like to pay more in taxes. I didn’t think so.

    A woman raises her handMaxing out your retirement accounts is one of the best long-term, tax-saving moves you can make. If you work for a company that matches your contributions to a retirement plan, such as a 401k or 403b, make sure you’re at least investing enough money to capture the entire match. There are many additional tax-advantaged plans you may be eligible for, including an IRA, Roth IRA, SIMPLE, SEP IRA, etc. Use them to save aggressively.

    Do you have access to a Health Savings Account (HSA)? Max it out, and try not to touch the funds until retirement. An HSA presents the opportunity for you to deposit money before tax and withdraw it tax-free. Pay for your current health care needs with after-tax cash instead.

    People who love to travel don’t have to worry about what they are going to do in retirement, because…well, they love to travel. This can lead to early retirement and a prolonged period between a high-income career and the required minimum distributions that must be taken from retirement plans.

    During this stretch, you may find yourself in a lower tax bracket when you retire, which presents the perfect opportunity to convert an IRA or a Rollover IRA into a Roth IRA. You’ll be taxed on the conversion, but this can be your chance to take advantage of a lower tax bracket. This money will grow and be distributed tax-free. It’s better to be taxed early, while in a low tax bracket, then wait until you are forced to take money when you may be pushed into a higher tax bracket. This maneuver can be complicated, so I recommend checking with a financial advisor to see if it’s a good fit for your situation. For do-it-yourselfers who want to dig into this topic, Kitces.com has detailed information on the conversion here.   

    Waiting Until Retirement to Travel

    Waiting to travel can be the biggest mistake you make as a traveler when planning for retirement. If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s – don’t wait until retirement to travel!

    Few quotes hit home now, during our coronavirus-hellscape, more the one from motivational speaker Wayne Dyer – “Do it now. The future is promised to no one.”

    (David Tuzzolino caveat: “You might want to wait until the pandemic dies down before “doing it now,” but I’m sure you get my point.”)

    Don’t make the mistake of waiting until retirement to start checking items off your bucket list. Things change; you might not get the chance if you wait.

    Your health can deteriorate rapidly, or new responsibilities can come along that make traveling problematic. Money issues may crop up.

    If you love to travel, plan diligently, and create an extra-long list of retirement destinations, events, and experiences. However, the worst thing you can do is sacrifice the present by delaying your travel dreams for a tomorrow that may never come.


    If you’d like to subscribe to my newsletter, you can do so below. You’ll also get a PDF that shows you exactly what a comprehensive retirement plan for travelers looks like. Thanks for reading!

     

     
     
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    Financial Advisor David Tuzzolino

     

    David Tuzzolino, CFA, CFP®, is the Founder and CEO of PathBridge Financial, a firm that specializes in providing comprehensive financial planning and investment management services for clients that are nearing retirement and love to travel.