What Millionaires Want in 2016
By STACY RAPACON
Jan. 8, 2016 10:00 AM ET
What have millionaires resolved to do financially in 2016? Probably the same thing as you. Saving more is the top financial New Year’s resolution among people with more than $1.5 million in investable assets, according to international financial firm deVere Group.
Forty-one percent of millionaires said their No. 1 priority for 2016 was to build up their retirement savings. Reviewing their investments more regularly was the main goal for 27 percent of those surveyed and 23 percent said they’d focus on saving more to leave to their loved ones.
Those goals might sound familiar even for people in lower-income brackets. After all, being a millionaire isn’t the same as it used to be. “Once upon a time, when you achieved millionaire status, you were made,” said Benjamin Alderson, senior area manager for deVere USA.
“Increasingly that’s not the case. You need to be pushing up that retirement income more and more for a number of factors,” Alderson said.
A major reason for needing a plumper retirement kitty, whatever your net worth, is longer life expectancies. On average, a 65-year-old man will live until age 84, and a 65-year-old woman will typically reach age 86, according to the Social Security Administration. Furthermore, a quarter of today’s 65-year-olds will make it past age 90; 1 out of 10 will go beyond 95 years.
“That creeps up every year, so you’ve actually got a long time you have to pay yourself during retirement,” said Alderson. “It’s a big concern for a lot of people.”
Along with extended longevity, advances in medical technology and health care are changing what retirement looks like. While the picture of retired folks may have once been more about puttering around and doing nothing, retirees of today and tomorrow have a lot more going on.
“A lot of our clients in their 70s are in extremely good health, and they want to be active, traveling, doing a lot of things,” said Alderson. “Age 70 is the new 50.” And wanting all those things requires greater retirement savings to pay for them.
On the flip side, naturally degrading health can also be a costly concern for retirees, pushing up the need for expensive long-term care. The average cost for a private room at a nursing home is a whopping $91,250 a year — and that is expected to rise 4 percent annually for the next five years, according to Genworth’s 2015 cost of care survey.
Even healthy people can expect to spend a lot on health care in retirement. According to health-care-cost research firm HealthView Services, the average healthy 65-year-old couple that retired in 2015 and is covered by Medicare parts B, D and a supplemental insurance policy will pay $394,954 for premiums, dental, vision, copays and all out-of-pocket costs over the course of their retirement.
With all these financial pressures, it’s no wonder people were thinking of raising their savings as they watched the ball drop. But how can they be sure to stick to their resolutions?
“The most important piece is to make it as easy possible,” said New York City-based financial planner Stacy Francis. “Automatic savings is really the key.”
She recommends the first stop for retirement savings be your company’s 401(k), to which your contributions can be automatically deducted from your paycheck. Next, consider saving in an individual retirement account and setting up regular payments to it from your checking account.
In 2016, the maximum you can contribute to a 401(k) is $18,000, plus an extra $6,000 if you’re age 50 or older, and you can contribute up to $5,500 to an IRA, or $6,500 if you’re age 50 or older.
If you can save more than those maximums, Francis recommends next saving for retirement in a taxable account that is not easy to access, like a general brokerage account, for example, so you don’t get tempted to spend those funds before you retire.
Another way to ensure you follow through on your resolutions to save more all year long is to regularly review your finances—which is the second-most popular resolution, anyway.
Both Francis and Alderson meet with their clients on a quarterly basis. Francis likes to go over her clients’ financials with a custom map. “They can visually see their goals and progress, which makes [their finances] much more tangible,” she said. “Most of our clients like to be able to check things off and get that rush of accomplishment.”
Regardless of whether you work with a professional, Francis suggests scheduling when you’ll go over your finances ahead of time and teaming up with a friend to help motivate you. If you’re married, you can make financial dates with your partner. If you’re single, she recommends finding a “finance buddy.”
“Having that accountability partner, you’re going to show up. You may not do that for yourself,” she said. “It’s the same as running buddies.”
Just be sure not to go overboard with your reviews. Obsessively checking your portfolio and following market movements may cause you to trade hyperactively and overreact to the news of the day. “This unhealthy behavior will do nothing for you in the long run except lead you to make really dangerous decisions with your portfolio,” Francis said.
“You’re no longer looking down the line at your long-term horizon and only looking at what’s going on today. If you sell when the market goes down, you lock in your losses for life, and it’s very hard to recover.”
Also, be specific with your goals. Instead of resolving generally that you’re going to save more, plot out how much you plan to save for the year and work out the dollar amount that you need to put away each month to meet that target.
“Keep it simple; keep it attainable,” said Francis. “That is what’s really important to make that long-lasting commitment really happen.”
DeVere surveyed 655 clients, between age 25 and 70, over the last two months of 2015 in the United States, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Hong Kong, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.