Investor CAFÉ

Nobel Calling: A Painless Way to Triple Your Retirement Income

Do you live in fear that you haven’t saved enough for retirement? Join the crowd.

The clear majority of investors have not saved enough for retirement, and live in fear of running out of money before they die, leaving themselves too dependent on Social Security and their heirs for assistance, or significantly downsizing their lifestyle. According to the latest report by Fidelity Investments in Boston, the average combined IRA/401(k) balance is $273,600.

That’s the highest average combined account balance ever. It is not bad, but hardly enough to live on. Experts say you need 80% of your pre-retirement income to maintain your lifestyle. Use the 4% rule on the funds you have in your IRA/401(k) — that will be the amount you will have to live on for the next 30 years. Suppose that number is $500,000. That means you can expect to receive $20,000 a year for the next 30 years to supplement your Social Security payments.

If that’s not enough — and it probably isn’t — you need to save and invest more, much more, before you retire.

Chicago Economist to the Rescue

And that brings me to this year’s Nobel Prize-winning economist Richard Thaler. He teaches and writes books (“Nudge”) and academic articles on what is known as “behavioral economics.” He’s one of the few Nobel laureates who lives up to Alfred Nobel’s aim in giving out the Nobel Prize to individuals who have come up with ways that confer “the greatest benefit to mankind.” In the recent past, the prizes have been given for the most esoteric reasons, even in economics.

But Thaler’s contributions are in applied economics. Essentially, Thaler and other behavioral economists (such as Robert Shiller) argue that investors, consumers and business people don’t always act according to the standard “rational behavior” model in economics. Instead, people often suffer from overconfidence, overreaction, fear, greed, herding instincts and other “animal spirits,” to use a term from John Maynard Keynes.

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