People hear that they have to accumulate a lot of money for retirement. As time goes on and their 401(k) balances increase, they become overconfident that they have enough money to retire. But, they need to begin asking themselves: "What would it produce in income down the road?”
TIAA provided an example of what someone around age 39 might see on his or her statement. Let’s say as of June 2019 the worker had $87,851 saved. Based on a monthly contribution of $420 that increases each year with inflation, and a number of other assumptions such as rate of return, at 65 the person is estimated to have a balance of $829,150 (or $382,585 in today’s dollars).
The hypothetical annuity payment would be $4,586 (or $2,116 in today’s dollars). This assumes a single life annuity with a 10-year guarantee period and 4 percent interest rate.
But what if your 401(k) account has just $200,000 when you retire?
If such a person annuitizes $200,000 at 65 this might produce a hypothetical payment of $13,274 a year, or $1,106 per month based on a 6.6 percent payout rate (including interest rate and return of principal based on life expectancy). Although, the actual annuity payment will depend on current interest rates when annuitized.
The 6.6 percent income rate means that for every $100,000 annuitized, the annualized income will be $6,600. The 4 percent interest rate is used in the calculation of the annuity factor to come up with the payment amount. With a lifetime immediate annuity, which is what would be used for the illustrations under the Secure Act, the payout rate is different from the rate of return. The actual realized return depends on how long a person lives, beyond the guarantee period.
The Secure Act also dictates that there would be disclosure within the example to make sure workers understand that the calculations depend on numerous factors that can affect the estimates they are given.
The Labor Department is required to issue rules instructing plan administrators on the assumptions that will be used to estimate a lifetime income stream. The illustrations would estimate retirement benefits that might be paid as a life annuity to a retirement account holder and a survivor annuity over the life of the participant’s surviving spouse, child or dependent. The plan administrators would assume the plan participant and a spouse were the same age, and a single-life annuity would also be shown.
Done right, this new requirement could be a useful reality check. Rather than focusing just on your total balance, which could give you a false sense of financial security, this lifetime income illustration could bring clarity to how you view retirement savings. Keep in mind your money may have to last you several decades in retirement.
This might shift people’s behavior and help them realize they need to save more for retirement.