I'm not talking about the usual question of whether or not you have enough money to retire. This discussion is about the proper use of that money. I work with clients from all over the country to map out their own financial strategies, and the first step is educating them about four phases of wealth.
The accumulation phase usually begins about age 25 or when you begin your full-time profession. This is when you start putting money away in retirement vehicles, such as 401(k) plans, Individual Retirement Accounts and other alternatives.
During this phase, you can take losses more easily since you have time to recover. Dollar cost averaging is your friend. You can take reasonable risks and might consider more aggressive funds, stocks and bonds. You should also consider solid real estate investments. You can use a self-directed IRA to own real estate and other non-traditional assets inside your retirement accounts. This phase will last until 10 years before your desired retirement age.
Pre-Retirement (aka Retirement Danger Zone)
Pre-retirement is when you begin to reassess your risk tolerance and start to realize that any losses you take now might dramatically affect your ability to retire at your scheduled age. Its when you begin to shift the bulk of your retirement money to very safe, stable, low-risk assets. No more than 30 percent of your portfolio should be left in the market, and that should be in low-risk, blue chip stocks. You also might consider selling off your real estate holdings or paying off mortgages and loans, giving you great cash flow and removing most of your downside risk. If real estate values drop dramatically, it hurts much more if you are leveraged with big mortgages. When you own properties free and clear, they are still great cash-flow machines even if the values drop. You should also consider using a portion of your cash to purchase a solid, low-fee, fixed-indexed annuity.
Once you leave your profession -- and your paycheck -- risk and loss are your most dangerous enemy. At this point, most of your funds should be in guaranteed products. There is a myth that guarantees and low risk mean lousy rates of return. Seek out low- or no-risk alternatives to mutual funds. If you keep most of your money in mutual funds now, you are subject to the ravages of reverse dollar cost averaging, which that can gobble up retirement money in a hurry.
Retirement is all about hands-off income that you should be able to draw from several sources. These can include Social Security, pensions, 401(k)s, IRAs, cash value life insurance, free and clear real estate, fixed indexed annuities with lifetime income riders attached, certificates of deposit and standard savings. You could also be receiving payments from businesses or assets you sold when you retired. Creating income from these assets will make sure you can live in style for the next 30 years and beyond. During this time, you should also plan a long-term care or home health care strategy.
The legacy phase represents what you would like to leave behind for family, charities, foundations and other causes near and dear to your heart. Ask yourself this question: What do I want to accomplish after I am gone? Then set up a legacy plan with an estate attorney to make sure your wishes are carried out with your money.
If you master these four wealth stages, you will be assured a life of financial abundance.
John Jamieson is the best-selling author of "The Perpetual Wealth System." Check out this week's featured video.