Return on Retirement

Survey says: These investors are prepared to retire at 65

More anxiety for baby boomers: Pro

Many reports and studies have concluded that older Americans, for a variety of reasons, are delaying their retirement plans.

Not so fast, say financial advisors who took part in a recent CNBC Digital/Financial Planning Association survey.

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The poll of 1,019 advisors focused on what's on their clients' minds. The majority of those polled (69 percent) said their clients are still planning to retire at the traditional age of 65 rather than deferring retirement to a later date.

Additionally, most individuals will opt to wait to collect Social Security benefits. The advisors who were polled said clients better understand that deferring the start date of Social Security payments can benefit them financially in retirement.

If retirees start receiving benefits at the "full retirement age" of 66, they get 100 percent of their monthly benefits. If they delay receiving retirement benefits until after the full retirement age, their monthly benefit continues to increase. Of course, some people are not in a financial position to delay the benefits.

One reason that individuals are taking Social Security benefits at the traditional age of 65 is that they can get Medicare and no longer need to depend on their employer for coverage, said Richard Salmen, a certified financial planner and senior advisor at GTrust Financial Partners.

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And since they receive 93 percent of the full-retirement-age payout they'd get a year later, they're not sacrificing much, he said.

"If you do the math, you will have collected the same dollars at age 79 no matter when you start collecting," Salmen added.

However, those who wait until 70 to collect their Social Security benefits will have a bigger income if they live into their mid-80s and beyond.

"You can't boil these decisions down to rules of thumb," Salmen said. "This is where the value of advice and weighing different factors comes in."

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Janet Stanzak, a certified financial planner and current president of the FPA, said that "planning ahead for what [clients] will do in retirement is a big factor in their future happiness."

"We plan for this," added Stanzak, who is principal and owner of Financial Empowerment. "We explore hobbies and lifestyle and travel."

This type of long-term financial planning also paid off when clients stayed in the market despite the 2008 meltdown and ensuing recession.

"That made them more confident going forward," said Dan Moisand, a certified financial planner and principal at Moisand, Fitzgerald, Tamayo. "They had experienced one of the worst market environments and got through it by having a decent plan and being patient."

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Nonetheless, 63 percent of advisors polled in the survey said their clients are no savvier about investing than they were five or six years ago. Of the 32 percent who are smarter investors, most were better diversified and had a better understanding of the costs of investing.

Meanwhile, portfolio diversification is a sticking point for retirees, who want to rely on the income from "safe" cash and bonds, which won't generate enough total return for their longer lifespan, advisors explained.

"The benefit of going through the planning process is that clients know why the money is invested the way it is," Moisand said. "We're in the market because over long periods of times, it's an effective hedge against inflation."

Clients apparently continue to make the same mistakes in their 401(k) plans, according to the advisors who were polled.

In general, the biggest mistakes that clients persist in making are overweighting their company's stock, failing to rebalance their portfolios and not matching company contributions.

"The match is the easiest money on Earth," Moisand said. "There's no better return anywhere."

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Advisors said many clients face a variety of financial surprises as they enter retirement.

According to the survey, the biggest surprises new retirees were dealing with were the cost of post-retirement personal travel; the cost of supporting parents, adult children or grandchildren; higher medical expenses; and higher living expenses than anticipated.

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"Either one of those is extremely stressful and very time consuming," Stanzak said. "We all know people with aging parents who had to cut back to part-time or give up work altogether."

She added that the problem with adult children is trying to support them while they find work and a place to live as they graduate into a thin job market with levels of debt "that are basically like a 30-year mortgage."

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For his part, Salmen at GTrust said working with clients who are part of the "sandwich generation" requires some tough conversations. Many of his clients feel far more responsible for their 20-something children than parents did in the past.

"These kids are moving back home and staying for years, and parents think that's OK," he said. Although Salmen has what he calls a "change the lock" conversation with such clients, it is successful only 20 percent of the time.

Advisors who took the survey also reported that rising premiums on long-term care insurance and stricter terms to qualify for such coverage are affecting a majority of clients.

"This will be a major problem going forward because some people will be spending at least 20 percent of their money on health care," said certified financial planner Paul H. Auslander, director of financial planning at ProVise Management Group.

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Salmen explained that he had one client whose LTCI premium rose by 90 percent. However, increases of 20 percent to 40 percent are more common, despite many clients' belief that LTCI costs are fixed.

Most insurance policies offer the option of keeping the same premium and lowering the benefit instead of paying more, advisors explained.