Can Your Retirement Plan Withstand These 5 Potential Threats?

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By Brett Gottlieb and John Mc Kean

Do you ever lose sleep worrying about not having enough money in retirement? If so, you’re in good company. Planning for retirement is a monumental task with too many variables to name. By arming yourself with information about little-known and often ignored threats that could cause you to lose the nest egg you have diligently worked for, you can sleep a little easier knowing you’ve done your due diligence to prepare for your golden years.

Here are some ways you could run into retirement trouble and how to help prevent these potential threats from derailing your retirement finances.

1. The Headache of Healthcare Costs

If you’ve ever held a hefty medical bill in your hand, you aren’t alone. American healthcare is more expensive than in any other developed country. (1) And as you age, you will likely require more healthcare services. According to the Employee Benefits Research Institute, the average couple at age 65 will require anywhere from $144,000 to $363,000 in healthcare costs. (2) Most people don’t even have that much in their retirement accounts to live on, let alone to cover medical costs. Without your employer’s health insurance, adequate coverage is typically more expensive and harder to find. Even with Medicare, there could be significant out-of-pocket expenses and many conditions and treatments that are not covered.

When choosing your health insurance for retirement, make sure you understand all Medicare options and supplements and work with an experienced professional to help you evaluate your options.

2. Withdrawing Money Without A Plan

Just because you’ve worked hard to save for retirement and build up a nest egg doesn’t mean you can rest easy. Once you start tapping into your savings, you need to develop a strategy to withdraw your funds so they last the rest of your life, however long that may be. 

From 1957-2018, the S&P 500 performed at an average of 8% a year, which may lead you to assume that you can afford to withdraw 8% of the initial portfolio value (plus a little more for inflation each year). (3) But in reality, to protect against the uncertainty of the market, you may have to limit your withdrawals to 4% or less. (4) From the end of 1999 to the end of 2017, the S&P 500 only generated an average of 3.4% per year, annualized. (5) Since there is no simple, one-size-fits-all plan, you need to figure out what will work for you and your unique situation, taking various factors into account, such as time horizon, risk tolerance, asset allocation, and unexpected living expenses.

3. Ignoring Your Investments

Did you just set and forget your retirement accounts, or are you keeping an eye on how your investments are allocated as you draw closer to retirement and your risk tolerance changes? Sequence of returns, or the risk of receiving lower or negative returns early in a period when you’re making withdrawals from your investments, can impact your portfolio’s value over time. If your retirement date correlates with the onset of a bear market, your savings can be depleted quickly as you withdraw from your portfolio. With a smaller investment base, you’ll have less wealth remaining to benefit from a future market upswing.

To mitigate the risk of sequence of returns negatively impacting your retirement portfolio, we suggest you work with your advisor to take the appropriate steps, such as reducing volatility, examining your withdrawal strategy, and finding different market options to help protect your money.

4. Forced Early Retirement

It’s no secret that life can throw unexpected curveballs at any time and derail your plans. The same can happen to your retirement. More than 4 in 10 retirees end up retiring earlier than planned, for reasons stemming from disability to company changes to caring for a family member. (6)

No one likes to think about it, but the reality is there’s always the chance you could lose your job or fall ill. Therefore, even if you want to work longer and save more, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to. Early retirement can strain even well-laid retirement plans. The loss of income during the final years of your career can spell financial disaster, and this is especially true for high earners. 

To help protect against this risk, plan for the unanticipated. Make sure you have adequate disability insurance to protect your income in the event of an illness or disability. You can also work with an advisor to create scenarios and see what your savings and income would look like if you were forced to retire early.

5. Premature Loss Of A Spouse

Losing your spouse is devastating, regardless of when it happens. But losing a spouse during the final years of their career can be dangerous for the surviving spouse’s financial plan. Furthermore, retirement and long-term care costs may increase without a spouse to share costs and provide care. Depending on pension benefits selected, a spouse’s pension may not pay out to the surviving spouse in the event of his or her death. An early death may also decrease the spousal Social Security benefits the surviving spouse receives, leaving him or her with little income. 

Both spouses must be actively involved in the planning process to avoid a setback if this tragedy occurs. Take the time to consider benefits for the surviving spouse, such as life insurance. Wills, trusts, and beneficiary designations should be reviewed to ensure both spouses are protected financially. You should also create a pension and Social Security strategy to optimize the benefit for the surviving spouse. Examine multiple scenarios and make sure that you are taken care of no matter what happens. 

Prepare For These Threats

When it comes to retirement, it’s hard to plan for every possibility. The good news is that by partnering with a professional who can help you understand some of the risks and common roadblocks you may experience, you can successfully plan ahead for the unexpected and reduce the chances that your retirement plan will fail. 

At Comprehensive Advisor our personalized planning process can help you prepare for life’s expected and unexpected circumstances. If you’re not feeling as confident as you’d like and you think your retirement plan may need a second look, schedule a complimentary consultation by emailing us at or calling (760) 813-2125.

About Brett and John

Brett Gottlieb is the founder of Comprehensive Advisor and a financial advisor with nearly two decades of industry experience. He graduated from California State University-Chico with two bachelor’s degrees in Business Administration and Economics. Brett is Life Insurance licensed in several states.

John Mc Kean, financial advisor, joined Comprehensive Advisor in 2016. He has been in the financial services and retirement planning industry for over six years. John is Life Insurance licensed in California.

Brett and John previously worked as Registered Representatives with Securities America, one of the largest independent broker/dealers in the country, and currently offer advisory services through AE Wealth Management, LLC. Both are passionate about educating clients on retirement planning. They take a common-sense approach to the planning process and work with clients to create a retirement road map to help ensure their assets are protected and they receive the income needed to enjoy their future. Based in Carlsbad, California, they work with clients throughout San Diego County. Learn more by connecting with Brett on LinkedIn or email them at

Investment advisory services offered only by duly registered individuals through AE Wealth Management, LLC (AEWM). AEWM and Comprehensive Advisor are not affiliated companies.  C.A. Financial & Insurance Services #6000262. Neither the firm nor its representatives may give tax or legal advice. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal.

This material is intended to provide general information and is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed.  382341








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