Saturday, July 16, 2016

3 Things Retirement Savers Can Learn from Pokémon Go

If you’re a Millennial (or know one), you’ve surely heard about (or seen in action) the recent outbreak of Pokémon Go.

It’s not even a week old, but it’s quickly dominating social media. If you’ve managed to avoid the media barrage, it’s a new (free) interactive online game that builds on the basics of the Pokémon card and video games past – catching Pokémon, battling at Gyms, using items, evolving your creatures. These creatures (151 unique ones at present) have even been spotted hanging out with a certain renowned ERISA attorney (see below)!

The object of the game is to find these Pokémon (they’re fictional animals – the name is said to be from a contracted Romanization of the Japanese Poketto Monsuta, a.k.a. “pocket monsters”), and then catch them, by throwing a sphere called a Pokéball in their general direction, after which they can grow via battles with other Pokémon in Gyms, and then do battles with still yet more Pokémon in Gyms, etc. All of which is to the benefit of their trainer – you. With Pokémon Go, players can download the free app, then head outdoors using a GPS map in search of Pokémon, using their camera to view creatures “in the wild” and capture them.

Now that we’ve gotten you up to speed on the basics, here are some things that will help you in Pokémon Go and saving for retirement.

Your odds improve if you take action.

Pokémon Go character (left) and human ERISA attorney (right)Though video games have long been criticized for keeping young players indoors, Pokémon Go draws players out into the real world. You can find “wild” Pokémon by physically walking around your area, and looking near what are called “PokéStops,” which tend to be tourist spots, malls or even churches. If you’re looking to hatch some Pokémon eggs, you have to walk to do that as well! You can play it without going outside, but you won’t do nearly as well.
Pokémon character (left) and human ERISA attorney (right)

Lots of workplace retirement plans still rely on voluntary enrollment, which is to say you have to fill out a form to join the plan. Unfortunately, in those plans, if you don’t sign up, you don’t participate.

A growing number of plans do provide for automatic enrollment, which means that you get signed up for the plan unless you fill out a form to opt out. That’s a good thing for folks who are busy, lazy, or are simply befuddled by the choices that you have to make with a voluntary plan (how much to save, how to invest it, who you’d like your beneficiary to be). However, there is a catch: Most of the automatic enrollment plans assume that a 3% contribution from your pay. And, regardless of your pay level or age, that’s almost certainly not going to be “enough” to provide a financially secure retirement.

Said another way, it’s not very “evolved” thinking…

Contributing more can get you to the finish line faster.

Pokémon Go is free – and you don’t need to spend a cent to pick up Pokémon, battle them, accumulate points, and even hatch the new ones. That said, we lead busy lives (yes, even those who find time to play Pokémon Go), and for those who want to get “there” faster, there are ways to do so by spending a little money.

There is, as you might expect, a shop where you can purchase all manner of coin bundles for real-world cash, which can then be traded for Pokémon-luring Incense, more Pokéballs and a few other things. If you’re in a hurry to “catch ‘em all!” And would rather spend money than time.

Saving for retirement doesn’t have to be a big financial commitment (depending on how much you need, and how long you have to save), though it can be if you put it off, or don’t establish a goal that suitable for the amount you need and the time you have to set it aside. Those who would like to get to that point sooner can, of course, “spend” more on retirement by setting aside larger contributions, sooner.

Every so often you need to look where you’re going.

Apparently one of the dangers of the new Pokémon Go is that game players have been spotted looking at nothing but their smartphone screens while they walk around looking for new Pokémons. This even when they are crossing highways, walking over bridges, travelling near bodies of water or – in at least one case – frequently empty parking lots where individuals looking to separate them from their money have been lurking. The bottom line – players are advised to be aware of their surroundings as they search for Pokémon.

When it comes to saving for retirement, whether you’re in an automatic enrollment plan (where the initial investment decision is likely made for you, and directed to a target-date fund), or a voluntary enrollment plan (where you may have made the initial decision, perhaps with some help, but probably haven’t looked at it in a while), those initial investment decisions – however ably made – should be revisited from time to time, at least once a year. The markets are always moving, after all – and that perfect choice of investments has likely shifted over time.

More importantly, you need to keep an eye on how your total savings is adding up to your retirement savings goals, and perhaps make adjustments to the amount you are saving.

After all, even if you get off to a good start, if you don’t look where you’re going, it’s easy to wander off the path and find yourself in trouble.

- Nevin E. Adams, JD

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