Capital Value Equivalency – Three Words That Should Scare You

Joseph A. Davis, CDFA®

August 25, 2016

Every week, as clients walk in and out of our office, one statement stands out more than others: “I’m sure glad I have my pension!” Truth is, I am too. Because without it, almost every single one of our clients would not be able to meet their retirement goals.

As the vast majority of our clients are Utah Retirement System participants, we have the fortune of working with a large group of people that benefit from one of the country’s best pension plans.   You see, because of this pension, our client’s retirement benefits are “back-end” loaded. Meaning that these highly educated & hardworking individuals have sacrificed high-pay for a rich pension plan.

How rich is that pension? In short, it’s guaranteed income for life. Often spread out over the lives of both spouses. A good example would be this:

Today an educator walked into my office who is planning on retiring after 30 years of service. She is 65 and her 3 highest salaries averaged over 36 months equal $5,417. For a Utah non-contributory employee – this means she will draw a pension of approximately $3,215 per month. When we combine this along with her social security – these two benefits alone make up 83% of her pre-retirement income!

“Often, highly educated & hardworking individuals have sacrificed high-pay for a rich pension plan.”

For a typical 65-year-old, this pension payment, in my mind, has a capital value equivalency of approximately $964,500!! In other words, she would have had to accumulate at least this much to create a similar income stream. Frankly, due to their pay structure, most teachers are simply unable to accumulate this kind of capital.

To understand this concept more fully, you must understand the impact withdrawals have on your investment account. I will only lightly review this topic here as it really deserves a much deeper conversation.

Basically, before an individual starts taking distributions from her retirement account – the million-dollar question should be, “How much can I take without running out of money or leaving too much in my account when I die?”

“Serious consideration needs to be made as to how you will build your assets to create a future or current income streams.”

In short, a 2% withdrawal rate is considered “bullet-proof,” 3% could be considered safe, 4% is where most planners start & anything above 5% starts to create short-fall risks. The capital value equivalency mentioned above is based on a 4% withdrawal. If you consider a 2% withdrawal the number shoots up to $1,929,000!!

So what happens when you don’t have a pension? What happens if you do have a pension, but it has been watered-down? What happens when you don’t have a 401k? Or, if you do have a 401k or a 403b but you aren’t saving enough? Are you saving enough? What is your Capital Equivalency Number?

Serious consideration needs to be made as to how you will build your assets to create a future or current income streams. Whether it’s a 401k, 403b, Roth IRAs, real estate or a business – a good financial plan should be created to address this issue.

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