“Knowing what you don’t know is more useful than being brilliant.”
— Charlie Munger, Berkshire Hathaway’s vice chairman.
In my column on Sunday, I revealed my pick for this month’s Color of Money Book Club, which is “The Tao of Charlie Munger,” a book of quotes from the longtime business partner of Warren Buffett. Some of my favorite quotes in the book reflect Munger’s philosophy that you can never stop learning. This is particularly true about retirement.
“Acknowledging what you don’t know is the dawning of wisdom,” Munger says.
I thought about that quote when I read the results of a retirement IQ survey from Fidelity Investments.
A large majority of respondents got the answers to the questions wrong, including many who are 55 or older, whose retirement is less than ten years away, according to Ted Mitchell, Fidelity’s director of public relations for Personal, Workplace and Institutional Services.
The average was 30 percent (or an F) and nobody got all the questions correct, although 1 percent got all the questions wrong, Mitchell said. The highest grade was a 79.
“Although retirement may seem far off for many, there are retirement concepts everyone should know to ensure you’re able to fulfill the goals you have for yourself and your family,” said Ken Hevert, senior vice president of retirement at Fidelity.
Test your retirement IQ. (Select one answer for each question.)
1. Roughly how much do many financial experts recommend people save by the time they retire?
a. About 2-3 times the amount of your last full year income
b. About 4-5 times the amount of your last full year income
c. About 6-7 times the amount of your last full year income
d. About 8-9 times the amount of your last full year income
e. About 10-12 times the amount of your last full year income
2. Stock markets go up and down. How often over the past 35 years do you think the market has had a positive annual return?
a. The annual return was positive fewer than 12 out of 35 years
b. The annual return was positive about 12 out of 35 years
c. The annual return was positive about 18 out of 35 years
d. The annual return was positive about 26 out of 35 years
e. The annual return was positive more than 26 out of 35 years
3. If you were able to set aside $50 each month for retirement, how much would that end up becoming 25 years from now, including interest if it grew at the historical stock market average?
a. About $15,000
b. About $30,000
c. About $40,000
d. About $60,000
e. More than $60,000
4. Given the current average life expectancy, if you were to retire at age 65, about how long would you need your retirement savings to last?
a. 12 years (or until you are 77)
b. 17 years (or until you are 82)
c. 22 years (or until you are 87)
d. 27 years (or until you are 92)
e. 35 years (or until you are 100)
5. Approximately how much was the average monthly Social Security benefit paid in 2016 to a retired worker?
a. About $500
b. About $900
c. About $1,300
d. About $1,700
e. About $2,100
6. About what percentage of your savings do many financial experts recommend you withdraw annually in retirement?
7. Which of the following do you think is the single biggest expense for most people in retirement?
b. Health care
e. Discretionary expenses
8. About how much will a couple retiring at age 65 spend on out-of-pocket costs for health care over the course of retirement?
Score yourself. And then click here to find out you did on the test.
I would love to hear how you feel about your test results.
Live chat this week
Join me on Thursday, March 9 at noon (ET) for a live discussion about your money. If you can’t make it live, send in your questions early. To participate in the discussion click this link.
Retirement rants & raves
I want to hear from you. It’s your chance to rant and rave (or both) about any retirement issue. I would love to hear from people who are retired and what you would say to your younger self.
Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Retirement Rants & Raves.”
Fred Shaw of Laurel, Md., had a rant about the advice that employees investing in workplace retirement plans such as a 401(k) can’t take out their money until 59½ without incurring a 10 percent penalty, on top of taxes on earnings.
“My personal peeve is that amateurs and professionals do not know that for 401(k), the age which one can withdraw money with out penalty is 55,” Shaw wrote.
Here’s the thing, while it’s true you can withdraw the money at 55 there’s an important caveat. As Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, president of Charles Schwab Foundation, points out in a Q&A about early 401(k) withdrawal options, “if you leave or lose your job in the year you turn 55 (or later), you can take a lump sum 401(k) distribution.”
There are several options to get to your retirement money, but read Schwab-Pomerantz’s cautions about those choices: Thinking of taking an early 401(k) withdrawal? Consider the ultimate cost.
Read more about the 55 rule in this Forbes article: Did you know you can access your 401(k) penalty-free at age 55?
You may be wondering how the rule impacts an IRA.
Newsletter comments policy
Please note it is my personal policy to identify readers who respond to questions I ask in my newsletters. I find it encourages thoughtful and civil conversation. I want my newsletters to be a safe place to express your opinion. On sensitive matters or upon request, I’m happy to include a first name and last initial. But I prefer not to post anonymous comments (I do make exceptions when I’m asking questions that might reveal sensitive information or cause conflict.)
Have a question about your finances? Michelle Singletary has a weekly live chat every Thursday at noon where she discusses financial dilemmas with readers. You can also write to Michelle directly by sending an email to email@example.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more Color of Money columns, go here.