Tuesday, February 12, 2008

How well does my nest egg measure up?

I read various blogs each day and Consumerism Commentary is one I visit frequently. This article had a link to a nest egg calculator so I thought I would follow it and find out how my nest egg measured up. There were fourteen questions like "Do you own your own home?" and "What is your net worth?", all questions I could answer easily.

The average U.S. score is 651; my score was 732 for a "Good" score, meaning I "had a respectable job of saving up to this point in my life". Above average is great but the number was followed by suggestions based my score.

1. Continue to manage debt.
The first suggestion was to minimize credit card debt. There were no questions about how much debt other than "How much equity do you have in your home?" and "How much of your monthly take-home pay do you spend?" The second part of the discussion was about mortgages. "If you have a mortgage and your mortgage rate is 1 1/2% to 2% more than the current rate, consider refinancing." and went on to advise to refinance to fixed rate if you had an adjustable rate.

None of this advice applied to me. I have no credit card debt and my 30-year fixed mortgage rate is not even 1% above the current rate. I wonder if this advice varies much among the score rankings.

2. Maximize your retirement contributions.
The advice was to contribute 10% of income in an employer-sponsored retirement plan. If not, saving an additional 1% each year to ease to it. If already at 10%, contribute to an IRA.

In contrast to my financial advisor, who told me to get my employer's match then maximize my Roth IRA contributions then make additional contributions to my 401k, this advice seems too "one-size fits all" with no reference as to why 10%. Why not 15% or 18%, other numbers I have heard would help ensure a more comfortable retirement. The advice to continually monitor progress toward retirement is a sound one.

3. Consider your other financial goals.
This covered saving for a child's education as well as for other short- and long-term goals.

Again, half the advice is wasted on me and the other goals are only touched on. Not much I can use.

4. Review your investment mix.
"Sit down with your financial consultant every year to review your asset allocation strategy and investment mix to confirm that your investments are diversified enough to help you meet your goals. When appropriate, adjust your asset allocation and/or rebalance your investments."

Sound advice regardless if you are starting out or are saving well for the future.

5. Create or review your estate plan.
Make sure your will and beneficiary designations are up-to-date, especially on your home, vehicle, real estate, investment accounts and life insurance policies. Review your coverage and make sure it accurately represents your needs. Consider how useful trusts are for estate planning.

This is important to consider but not sure how this helps me save money. This more directed at making sure whatever my estate is, it distributed how I wanted.

While I was glad to know how my nest egg savings measured up, I was disappointed in the advice given. Much of it was irrelevant and not really aimed at helping me save money. I only have mortgage debt, I am saving for retirement as well as I can on my income (right now 16% of gross income) and I monitor my mix of investments. I learned I was saving better than average, but the advice was too general for me to implement in any meaningful manner.

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