Using Retirement Savings to Battle Life’s Struggles

a distraught man with his hands on his face, yelling at the sky

Did you know that a health crisis, job loss and other major life-changing events affect 96% of people during their working years, according to a recent NEFE report?1  It’s an unfortunate reality, but it’s true: unemployment, divorce, health problems and income disruptions affect even disciplined savers.

The report – commissioned by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), called “Untangling the Determinants of Retirement Savings Balances”1, went on to say that those life-changing events occur at least four times before age 70, which then causes the affected people to dip into retirement plans and have less money in retirement.  That leaves 401(k) retirement plan participants –  at all income levels – accumulating only a third or so of the amount they actually need to maintain their standard of living in retirement.

The good news is that you have a Money Coach who can help you ensure you’re armed with emergency savings for such an occasion, so your current financial situation remains stable, and your future isn’t at risk.  Get started with protecting your finances by understanding the potential problems and learning how to prepare for them.

Effects on Retirement Funds

Even with the taxes and penalties you get when you tap retirement accounts to pay for household income, using your retirement accounts as liquid savings during a severe hardship may be necessary after every other option has been explored.  Nevertheless, repeated withdrawals and a lack of savings contributions end with underfunded accounts in retirement.  Even if withdrawals are small, the long-term effects are substantial because you lose the opportunity to earn investment returns on the amount withdrawn.

Earnings Drop

Two types of income disruptions were examined in the NEFE study: workers losing income for a whole year, and workers whose earnings dropped 10% or more for a whole year.

Among working men, ages 25-70, 61% have lost their earnings for an entire year at least once, and a quarter of those who are 66-70 years old have lost their earnings for an entire year at least four different times.

Costs of Economic Shocks in Dollars

The study put a price tag on the economic shocks.  Here are a few examples:

Earnings:  An earnings drop of 10% or more in a year led to $2,722 less in retirement savings for ages 55-61, and a $6,218 drop for ages 66-70.  Retirement savings decreased as much as $10,000 when a decrease in earnings happened four or more times.

Health:  People who experienced poor health lost as much as $86,286 in retirement savings, depending on their income class, age, and the severity of their health deterioration.

Debt:  Every $10,000 increase in debt led to a $2,482 decrease in retirement savings, depending on age.

Good News

The study has a silver lining.  Even though financial setbacks can be difficult to avoid, there are some factors that individuals can control.

One of the most important things that you can do is take advantage of your employer-sponsored plan, if you have one available.  First and foremost, start saving, especially up to your employer’s match.  If you don’t have an employer-sponsored plan, consider contributing monthly to a Roth or Traditional IRA.

Even Better News

Financial setbacks can be scary and stressful.  Nobody wants that!  Lucky for you, a Money Coach can help you achieve and maintain great finances; in turn, you’ll feel better knowing your finances are ready to take on any of life’s challenges.

Whether you’ve already used retirement savings for a life-changing event and you’re trying to get back on track, or you’re trying to protect retirement savings while meeting current needs, your Money Coach can help.  Call 888-724-2326 today and gain some peace of mind.


1“Untangling the Determinants of Retirement Savings Balances.”  National Endowment for Financial Education, n.d.,  Accessed 7 Aug. 2017.