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You know you need to save for retirement and you know how you need to do it.
But what happens when you get to your retirement years? Do you know how to turn your life savings into a steady, tax-efficient stream of income?
For many individuals, the answer is no.
And you're not alone. Most pre-retirees — 66 percent — have not calculated how much money they will need to cover their expenses in retirement, according to the Alliance for Lifetime Income.
At the same time, just 38 percent of households can count on pensions or annuities for a steady stream of cash, the Alliance's October 2018 survey found.
That leaves many confused as to how much they should spend — and from which accounts — to augment their monthly Social Security checks.
Even the 4% rule – whereby you withdraw at that rate during each year of retirement — can leave people confounded.
"If I went to you and said, 'Hey, take out 4%,' you're scratching your head like, 'OK, where do I withdraw from?'" said Bill Meyer, founder and managing principal of Social Security Solutions and founder and CEO of Income Strategy.
The good news is that technology platforms are emerging to help you answer that question.
A new platform called Kindur officially launched a feature last week that aims to help you create a check you can count on in retirement.
Kindur is led by founder and CEO Rhian Horgan, who started the company following a career that included almost two decades in asset management at J.P. Morgan.
Horgan was inspired by her personal experience in helping her father, now 69, decide how to draw down his assets. After spending hours poring over 300-page Social Security books, Horgan came to the conclusion that there had to be a better way.
In her career, she keep seeing technology user-interfaces that presented complex financial information in a simpler way.
"I just fell in love with how easy these companies are making it to access these financial products," Horgan said.
Kindur's goal is to take out that complexity for its users looking at retirement.
To sign up, individuals must fill out a short questionnaire. That initial process does not require access to specific accounts. To start, just indicating about how much is in pre-tax versus taxable accounts is enough.
Ultimately, once users have fully onboarded, the platform's goal is to help automate how much you take and from which accounts. Those checks, which the company sends to you directly, augment the income you receive from Social Security and annuities.
The company has also partnered with American Equity to provide a custom annuity that requires two decisions from users: If they want to buy it and when to start receiving income. Importantly, the company has eliminated the commissions or brokers involved in other annuity sales, Horgan noted.
On the investing side, Kindur also has a portfolio of exchange traded funds it is running itself as a registered investment adviser in collaboration with firms such as Schwab and Fidelity. The platform's goal is to help you decide how much risk to take on based on the guaranteed income you have.
Kindur charges its users 0.5% per year. While the company typically charges a fixed $149 fee for the advice it provides, right now they are providing some promotions for users to try it out for free.
So far, Kindur's users have an average age of 59 and average net worth of $1.2 million.
The company, which plans to delve deeper into Medicare and health care going forward, has ample backing from investors. It recently completed a $10-million Series A funding round from investors, including Inspired Capital Partners, which is led by former LearnVest executive Alexa von Tobel; Anthemis; Point72 Ventures and Clocktower.
When Meyer first came to the realization that there needed to be better coordination around retirement income 10 years ago, he first set out to develop a product around Social Security.
He teamed up with Dr. William Reichenstein, investment strategy chair at Baylor University, for what he thought would be a three-month project. Instead, it took years to sort through all of the rules.
The resulting product, SocialSecuritySolutions.com, helps individuals sort through claiming rules.
Now, Meyer is at it again with a new product, IncomeStrategy.com, which aims to help individuals decide from which accounts they should withdraw from when.
It might sound like a simple dilemma, but just one decision can have catastrophic consequences, Meyer said.
For example, one withdrawal from your individual retirement account could impact both your Social Security taxes and what you pay for Medicare.
"Just varying which account you draw down from can find tens of thousands of dollars more for someone," Meyer said.
On average, managing a withdrawal sequence correctly can make someone's money last for seven years longer, Meyer said.
That's different from the sequence traditional firms typically use, which go for taxable accounts first, followed by tax-deferred and then Roth accounts.
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Income Strategy, based in Leawood, Kansas, also aims to set its IncomeStrategy.com product apart from competitors that are developing similar platforms through the level of detail it considers.
Once a user has inputted all of their accounts, the site aims to make the process of withdrawals easy. A "Get Cash" button on the site allows you to input the amount you want to take out — say $40,000 for the next three months — and you will be presented with a list of what you should sell.
For a subscription fee of $20 per month, you execute those transactions yourself.
For $50 per month, you get access to a higher level of service, where those transactions are executed for you. There are also other perks, such as a mini call center with certified financial professionals available for advice or access to low-cost ETF models.
For $125, individuals can get a one-time advice session, which can be a general overview or just on Social Security claiming.
IncomeStrategy.com officially launched in January, but it has already managed to attract more than $1 billion in assets in nine months, Meyer said.
Part of that growth was helped by the financial advisors who used the engine and provided critical feedback in the year prior to the consumer launch.
IncomeStrategy.com is aimed specifically at consumers, who may be reluctant to pay a professional advisor a 1% fee. Those professionals often do not have the right tools to come up with the best drawdown strategies, Meyer said.
"I want it to be an alternative to advisors," Meyer said. "Advisors are great, but a lot of people don't have advisors."