This article was published on the Orange Times on June 21, 2018.
If you’re a corporate executive, congratulations – your salary is well above average, and you likely enjoy some financial perks related to retirement such as stock options.
However, creating a comfortable retirement does not happen automatically. Having more assets and opportunities makes retirement planning more complex, not simpler. A financial advisor can help you decide when and how to use the company benefits you enjoy in order to maximize your retirement income.
First, recognize that your status as a highly compensated executive means you likely lead a lifestyle with higher-than-average expenses for housing, vehicles and daily living. That means you need to save more money if you hope to maintain the lifestyle you and your family have become accustomed to. In addition, be aware that your status as a top manager could end abruptly should your company suffer a downturn or should office politics result in an unexpected exit from the C-suite.
Those two factors make it imperative for executives to put aside as much as they can when their earnings are high. As the old saying has it, “Make hay while the sun shines.” To be specific, put as much money as possible into your 401(k) plan, and any supplementary retirement plans, and start following a financial planning strategy today.
A common problem among executives is to allow too much of their net worth to become tied to the fortunes of the company they work for. Many executives feel more confident about the future performance of their own company than they do about the overall stock market. This can lead to faulty decisions based more on emotions than on the logic of portfolio diversification.
If your portfolio has appreciated rapidly with the aid of an incentive-based equity compensation plan, you may hesitate to make any changes. But restricted stock units (RSU’s) and stock option grants can be volatile, as many executives have learned the hard way when their company’s fortune falls.
Stock options and RSU’s can be a great way to boost your retirement assets, but they can also present a complex set of problems. In addition to the challenge of having oversized holdings in a single company, stock options also trigger tax obligations, and so it’s important to time the sale of these shares carefully for tax planning purposes.
A comprehensive wealth management plan will help you avoid these pitfalls by laying out a long-term strategy to trim exposure to company stock, taking tax and estate planning into account. There are several ways to accomplish this goal, and a financial planner working in conjunction with your accountant can help you make proactive and informed decisions.