Day: June 7, 2019

People are spending thousands on puppy concierge services to find the perfect dog

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It takes a lot of scratch to fetch a dog these days.

As consumers have turned away from puppy mills — and California has even banned selling non-rescue dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores — they are turning to breeders, animal rescues and shelters to buy or adopt a pup.

But even these sources can be questionable. The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota reported a spike in local puppy scams just this week. Ten people reported being ripped off or coming close to being scammed, including one victim who lost $1,800 trying to adopt a French bulldog. In fact, a joint BBB Scam Tracker and Federal Trade Commission report warns that at least 80% of the sponsored advertising links that pop up during an internet search for pets may be fraudulent.

So some aspiring pet parents are hiring concierge services to weed through the confusing breeder and shelter systems, and set them up with the dog of their dreams.

People are turning to puppy concierges to buy and adopt dogs.

The American Kennel Club announced its new AKC PuppyVisor last week, which it describes as a $249 “personalized dog concierge service” to help wannabe pet parents find pups. It did a soft launch in late March, and three clients have already been matched with dogs.

The PuppyVisor package includes a phone hotline that offers one-on-one services with experts (breeders, trainers and dog owners) who will help determine the best breed and age for a potential owner’s lifestyle, and then recommend verified breeders and rescues. The wannabe dog owner will still have to most of the legwork, however.

Related: Americans are willing to wreck their financial futures on behalf of their pets

“This is a guidance. We walk you through the process,” explained Penny Leigh, whose team runs the AKC service. Besides doing a consultation to determine the best dog breed and temperament for a family, the service also shares what questions to ask a breeder and a frame of reference for how much a dog should cost. (Purebred puppies often run more than $1,000 from a breeder, which is all part of the $75 billion U.S. pet industry, where Americans spent an estimated $2 billion on live animal purchases last year, according to the American Pet Products Association.)

Lauren K., who declined to give her last name, told MarketWatch that she and her family used PuppyVisor to find their golden retriever puppy, which they’ll pick up from a Maryland breeder next month when he’s eight weeks old.

“As much as we wanted a dog, we wanted to make sure the dog was right for us, too, so we thought it was probably best to go to the experts first,” said Lauren, 22, from Manhattan. “There is something so reassuring about being comforted by a professional, someone who is always there to help you. I think it’s like when you have a newborn, and you want to be able to call a doctor, or a parent who’s gone through this before.” PuppyVisor also includes a lifetime subscription to AKC GoodDog! Helpline and AKC Vetline for 24/7 phone support for training and health issues.

Related: 5 reasons seniors should consider getting a pet

The puppy cost $1,900, which includes his vaccinations, microchipping and a welcome kit with toys and a crate. “It is so much money,” said Lauren, “but we’re getting a good, healthy dog from a good breeder. You can’t just go to the store to pick out an animal that is going to be part of the family.”

Lexi Beerman, aka the Hollywood Pet Mom, caters to an even higher pedigree of clientele with full-service puppy concierge packages starting at $2,500. This includes: determining the right breed or rescue; going through her network of breeders and negotiating the best spot in line (waitlists for puppies can run a year or more); assisting in the interview process with breeders and rescues; and coordinating the logistics of bringing the dog home.

“Finding the right dog is cutthroat — like trying to get children into the right private school in certain cities,” Beerman told MarketWatch. (She also finds rescue dogs, but many of her clients are looking for a specific temperament or size, which is more predictable with a purebred dog.)

Jennifer Franklin hired Beerman when she was looking for a dog two years ago. “I was pregnant with my daughter, and I wanted to get a pug, but I didn’t want to get one from the wrong breeder and have something go wrong,” said Franklin, 41, who runs a couple of concierge and public relations firms in London. “Plus I have multiple companies to run, and I didn’t feel that I was equipped to go out myself and find a dog that I knew was going to be OK once the baby came around.”

So Beerman researched pug breeders near Franklin’s London home, and even flew across the pond to meet with different dogs and assess their temperaments before picking the best puppy for Franklin’s growing family: a pug named Hercules. “She did an amazing job. He is as much my baby as my baby is,” she said. “The two of them are best friends.”

Beerman also helped puppy-proof the house, and spent two weeks in London getting Hercules started on his house training. “It’s a lot of money, but she saved me a lot of pain, because I know a lot of friends in the States who adopted dogs and then had to return them because of health issues, whether it was a dodgy breeder or a rescue,” said Franklin. “I think it avoids problems down the line if you find one this way.”

Jennifer Franklin says her pug and her daughter are BFFs.

Approximately 6.5 million animals enter U.S. shelter systems each year, according to the ASPCA, and approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized, including 670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats. “I believe one of the biggest reasons so many dogs end up in shelters is just people making the wrong choice,” said Leigh from the American Kennel Club. “People get carried away because they like the looks of a dog, and don’t really think about what that dog is like to live with 24/7.”

But there are also a number of free online concierge services for more budget-conscious dog lovers searching for their fur babies.

When Patrick Maloney and his wife recently moved from a small Hoboken, N.J. apartment to a Connecticut house with a yard, they streamlined their search by using Good Dog’s free service on a coworker’s recommendation. The canine matchmaker connects users with responsible breeders, shelters and rescues, and recently raised $6.7 million in funding this spring from top angel investors such as Warby Parker, Harry’s and Eventbrite EB, +4.16%

“It felt a little more safe, for lack of a better word,” Maloney, 34, told MarketWatch. “You don’t know what you’re getting with a lot of (pet) adoptions.”

The news of a puppy laundering ring illegally selling bred designer pups as rescue dogs in a New Jersey shelter this past spring made him wary about where his four-legged friend came from. “More than anything else, Good Dog was peace of mind. I didn’t realize how corrupt this world is,” he said.

The Maloneys bought Clifford, a 12-week-old cocker spaniel from a Jackson, Miss. breeder for $1,200, plus a $200 fee to fly him up to Connecticut. Clifford has been settling in with them for the past two weeks. “He’s been a wonderful pup,” said Mahoney. “It’s just worked out awesome.”

Austin Bradley didn’t think he could find his forever fur baby by visiting animal rescues and shelters on his own, either. “I was looking for an apartment-sized dog that didn’t bark a lot, that was already house-trained, and that wasn’t a puppy, because I didn’t think I had the time to commit to raising a puppy from a young age,” Bradley, 29, told MarketWatch. “I was looking for something very specific that would fit in with my lifestyle, and I didn’t feel like I would be able to find that on my own. There had to be a better way.”

Using Google GOOG, +2.08%  to find dog-matching services led to How I Met My Dog, a free service matching people with shelter dogs. Bradley filled out an online application in September 2017, which included 56 questions analyzing his personality, expectations and training style. He then spent the next nine months eyeing the potential matches that were sent his way. “It was kind of like the convenience of online dating,” he said.

And then last August, he spotted Andy — a border collie mix rescued from a meat truck in China.

Austin Bradley adopted Andy through How I Met My Dog.

“He had an adorable face, and when I heard the story of how he came from the dog meat trade, my heart just went out to him and I fell in love,” said Bradley. A couple of weeks and $500 later for travel and adoption fees through Tina & Friends K9 Rescue in Brooklyn, and Andy was settling into Bradley’s Manhattan apartment, and even coming to work with him at a real estate tech startup a couple of times a week.

“It’s been fantastic. He’s literally the perfect dog. He’s so well-mannered … he’s housebroken and stays off the furniture. He doesn’t beg for food,” said Bradley. “I couldn’t ask for a better dog.”

The GateHub Hack: More Than 100 XRP Ledger Wallets Affected

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GateHub hack

In the crypto space, it’s not uncommon to see a crypto wallet get hacked. It’s unfortunate, of course, but not unusual. And the latest crypto wallet hack came this week. On Thursday, GateHub said more than 100 customers have had their ledger wallets hacked, resulting in their funds being stolen.

Here’s everything we know.

GateHub Hack: What We Know

On Thursday, June 6, GateHub published a “preliminary statement” on its blog. In the post, the crypto wallet said more than 100 customers have had funds on their XRP Ledger wallets stolen.

Taking the opportunity to apologize for this issue, GateHub also said it has “not identified any action or omission by GateHub that may have facilitated or allowed this apparent theft to occur.” More specifically, GateHub does not know how it was hacked, as it has not detected suspicious logins or anything of that kind.

GateHub has contacted users who had their wallets compromised. According to the post, GateHub told these users that it would be wise for them to transfer their existing balances in their XRP wallets to another hosted wallet. While it’s good the crypto wallet is providing customers with a resolution, the hack itself will likely cause the service to see some backlash.

Even before GateHub acknowledged the security breach, members of the GateHub community had come forward about a GateHub hack. According to Thomas Silkjær, around 23.2 million XRP coins had been stolen from between 80 to 90 GateHub accounts.

>> Bitcoin Miners Diversifying from China to the US over Regulatory Concerns

Now What?

This is, of course, bad news for GateHub customers. But the crypto wallet service is trying its best to resolve the issue, saying on Thursday that it has notified law enforcement about the breach.

As an investigation plays out, GateHub users and other members of the crypto space should watch out for new, emerging details.

What do you think about the GateHub hack? Let us know in the comments below!

Featured image: DepositPhotos © BrianAJackson

Domestic violence shelters challenge law allowing guns in shelter parking lots

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West Virginia domestic violence shelters are asking a judge to strike down a state law that forbids businesses from inquiring if workers, customers or visitors have a gun in their parked car.

Coming a week after a lethal incident of workplace gun violence in nearby Virginia, the lawsuit says West Virginia’s laws are an unconstitutional block on free speech — and dangerous too, especially for domestic violence shelter staff and clients.

The West Virginia federal lawsuit targets 2018 state laws saying property owners and managers cannot prohibit “any customer, employee, or invitee” from having a legally-owned firearm that’s out of view, inside a parked and locked car. Another provision says property owners and managers cannot ask about the presence or absence of a gun in the locked car. The law doesn’t apply to people’s houses and primary residences.

The provisions “override the rights of property owners to assess and decide for themselves how best to ensure safety on their own property,” said Thursday’s lawsuit, noting the state attorney general can fine up to $5,000 for every violation of the law.

Last week, a Virginia Beach, Va., public employee put in his resignation and then arrived at the city’s municipal center and fatally shot 12 people and injured four. It was the country’s second deadliest episode of workplace violence since 2000, behind a 2015 rampage in San Bernadino, Calif. where 14 people were murdered and 22 others were injured at an office party.

In the newly-filed West Virginia case, shelter workers argued the new laws make their jobs even more dangerous.

They say they commonly need to talk to drivers in cars they don’t recognize in order to learn their intentions. Sometimes it’s a lost driver, but other times it’s an abuser. Workers say it’s crucial for them to ask about guns.

Everytown Law, the legal arm of Everytown for Gun Safety — a gun control advocacy group founded by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg — represents the domestic violence shelter coalition.

Don’t miss: Michael Bloomberg pledges $500 million to shut all coal plants, shift to clean energy

More than 20 states have similar laws saying businesses, under certain circumstances, cannot forbid gun possession in their parking lots, Everytown Law said. Many of the other states have exceptions letting churches and religious organizations forbid guns on parking lot premises. West Virginia’s law is allegedly much more expansive and with fewer exceptions compared to the rest, the organization contends.

Virginia and California, the site of the two deadliest workplace gun sprees, are not included in the states that bar property owners from forbidding guns on parking lots.

This is the first lawsuit to challenge a state law on parking lot gun rules in more than 10 years, according to an Everytown announcement.

The lawsuit was filed a day ahead of Gun Violence Awareness Day.

There were 500 workplace homicides in 2016, which included 394 shooting deaths, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There were 417 homicides the year before and 354 came from shootings, the agency said. In 2017, there were 458 workplace homicides, consisting of 351 shootings. When the Society for Human Resource Management recently ran a poll on workplace safety, one in seven people said they do not feel safe at work.

Joyce Yedlosky, team coordinator for the shelters challenging the West Virginia law, said workers at domestic violence shelters must “be able to make their own decisions about how best to keep their clients and staff safe. By threatening them with liability, this law deprives shelters of an important tool they use to keep survivors of domestic violence safe from firearm-related violence and intimidation.”

Curtis Johnson, press secretary for West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morisey, said, “At this time, the Office has not been served with the complaint. Once the Office has been served, we will carefully review and analyze the matter.”

More From MarketWatch

Nike becomes latest retailer to add plus-size mannequins

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Nike NKE, +1.42%  is making strides on inclusion efforts.

The athletic wear giant debuted curvy mannequins this week on the new women’s floor at its flagship store in London to showcase figures of all shapes and sizes.

The women’s floor in its Oxford Street store features a plus-size mannequin front and center dressed in a black sports bra and matching leggings with her hands stretching above her head.

“Highlighting a full range of athlete figures, the space shows multiple plus-sized and para-sport mannequins, a first for the city’s store,” Nike said in a statement to USA Today.

The launch comes two years after Nike debuted a plus-size collection that includes sizes ranging from 1X to 3X.

(Nike did not immediately return a request for comment. It’s unclear if there are plus-size mannequins on the store’s men’s floor as well).

Though a plus-sized mannequin may seem unusual, most American women qualify as “plus-size” in the eyes of the fashion industry. More than half of adult American women (67%) wear a size 14 or larger, according to research firm Plunkett Research.

See also: This new clothing app is the Poshmark for plus-size women

And more mainstream retailers are breaking into the $20-billion plus-size fashion market.

Target TGT, +1.59% Forever 21, American Eagle’s AEO, +0.20%  underwear label Aerie and Reformation, which sells at some Nordstrom JWN, +2.16%   stores, introduced plus-size collections in the past year. Target drew praise last year for teaming up with Victoria Beckham for its Ava & Viv plus-size line, and continued its body positivity push this year with a new line of plus-size swimwear. Reformation launched a high-end plus-size line last year, telling customers, “Sorry it took us so long” while introducing The Reformation x Ali Tate Cutler Collection in response to comments and requests for “more inclusive sizing.”

Last year, Walmart WMT, +1.15%   announced it purchased Eloquii, a fashion brand with on-trend plus-size clothing for women aimed at providing inventive looks as opposed to the standard basics traditionally found among plus-size options.

Nike is hardly the first major brand to display full figured mannequins. Old Navy GPS, +1.36%   and Nordstrom have displayed curvy models in stores over the past year.

Shares of Nike have been up 12% this year compared to an 11% increase for the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +1.21%  and a 14% gain for the S&P 500 Index SPX, +1.25%

Retirement Weekly: Is there really a retirement ‘crisis’?

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Is there a retirement “crisis,” or isn’t there?

Though this is hardly a new question, it has been brought to the forefront recently by a vigorous debate at the excellent Advisor Perspectives website. While most who posted comments in that debate supported the conventional wisdom that there is such a crisis, a few voiced a vigorous dissent.

Josh Scandlen, a Certified Financial Planner based in Alpharetta, Ga., was one such dissenter: “The purported ‘Retirement Crisis’ is nothing more than a way for the industry to scare people into staying working for longer and longer instead of enjoying the remaining years of their lives.”

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Retirement Weekly: Is your new grad also your new roommate?

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College graduation is upon us, which means many empty-nesters will suddenly find themselves with not-so-empty nests…and, if they’re not careful, empty wallets.

Analysis of census data from 2014 shows that for the first time ever, adults aged 18-34 are more likely to be living with their parents than in any other living arrangement, with nearly 20% of college graduates returning home. This trend can have crippling financial consequences for both parents and their adult children.

Moving back in with parents after graduation can cause fully capable adult children to fall into old habits of their childhood; these habits can be exacerbated by the expectation that mom and dad cover all living expenses.

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Retirement Weekly: News and analysis for those planning for or living in retirement

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From MarketWatch:

These early retirees bought their ‘disgusting’ house in Montana with cash and budget less than $1 a pound for food: Not everyone can live the frugal lifestyle, but this woman has and she said she and her family have reaped the benefits. The couple’s home is small (by some standards, not all) but perfect for them, and they take weekslong vacations with their five children.

Here’s how long you’ll live — and how much of that will be healthy years: Americans are living longer than ever before, but they’re also healthier for much more of their lives than they used to be. Try to calculate your lifestyle, and then plan ahead for it.

Deaths from falls are soaring — here’s how to prevent them: Falling can be detrimental to a person’s health, especially the older that person is. Not only will someone suffer cuts and bruises, but they can also be debilitated and confined to a chair or bed the rest of their lives. Sometimes, the risks are even worse.

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Bitcoin Miners Diversifying from China to the US over Regulatory Concerns

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Bitcoin miners

Bitcoin miners in China are increasingly looking for diversification out of the country because of the anticipated crypto mining ban, the Chinese government’s thoughtful position regarding cryptocurrency, and the increasing pressure from the ongoing trade war with the US.

Squire Mining to Host 41,000 ASICs

Canadian-based blockchain firm Squire Mining, a leading miner in the world in terms of hashpower, has signed a letter of intent seeking to host more than 41,000 Bitcoin ASICs in the US. This move is part of an agreement with Kevin Turner-led Core Scientific, which is a blockchain and AI company.

Already, Squire has committed about $6.37 million to the deal to host prepayments while Core Scientific plans to spend at least $12 million in development of infrastructure to cater for the relocated equipment. The Canadian Bitcoin mining firm has close ties with the creators of Bitcoin SV Jimmy Nguyen and Craig Wright, who are currently Chain executives and they also double as advisors to Squire Mining.

>> India’s Proposed Crypto Bill Puts Crypto Owners in Jail for 10 Years

Bitcoin Mining: Centralization of ASICs

This is seen as an indication of a significant change in the PoW ecosystem. Squire’s move is a benefit for the decentralization of Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin, as well as Bitcoin SV networks. Research in the past has pointed out that more than 70% of crypto mining is located in China with multiple sources indicating that most of the mining happens in the Guangdong province. This is a major concern because the concentration of hashpower in one region increases the vulnerability of manipulation, censorship, and even seizure by government authorities.

The largest bitcoin mining firms, as well as ASIC designers, are considering hedging their operations from China and moving their supply chains away to other countries to reduce the effect of regulations from authorities in China.

Core Scientific CTO stated that the firm could compete with Bitcoin mining firms in China. Although the costs are higher because ASICs are developed in China, they nonetheless enjoy regulatory protection in the US.

Featured image: DepositPhotos © urban_light

India’s Proposed Crypto Bill Puts Crypto Owners in Jail for 10 years

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Crypto bill

Lawmakers in India have proposed a crypto bill that is considered by many to be ludicrous. The country is clamping down on cryptocurrency with an extreme proposal that would make Bitcoin and crypto ownership completely illegal. Those caught holding, mining, owning, or trading any digital asset could face a prison sentence of 10 years.

The bill coincides with the country’s plan to launch its own state-backed cryptocurrency—the Digital Rupee. The message is clear; people will have to engage with crypto the government’s way or not at all.

India’s Proposed Crypto Bill

The bill proposes that anyone involved in the crypto ecosystem should face criminal punishment. Any persons who “mine, generate, hold, sell, transfer, dispose of, issue or deal in cryptocurrencies, directly or indirectly” would face a 10-year prison sentence.

So severe is the punishment that those caught committing the crimes would face “non-bailable” sentences.

The draft crypto bill was first sourced by BloombergQuint. The source goes on to say that the courts will use four criteria when sentencing someone. They are as follows:

  • Culpability of the accused
  • Actual and intended gain made, and loss caused
  • Repetitive nature of the offense
  • Harm caused to the system

The lawmakers are even going as far as using the accused’s crypto profits against them. Any incurred fines from the criminal act will be three times as much as the profit made in the first place.

According to BloombergQuint:

“The penalty imposed on the accused, according to the bill, shall be either thrice the loss caused to the system, or three-fold the gains made by him/her, whichever is higher. If the loss or gain can’t be reasonably determined, the maximum fine that can be imposed may be notified by the government.”

Should the bill be passed, anyone with Bitcoin or cryptocurrency will have to declare it and then get rid of it in 90 days. Further, the bill seeks to amend the Prevention of Money Laundering Act of 2002, to include all cryptocurrency and blockchain related activities.

>> Ripple to Enhance Transparency in XRP Volume Reporting

Where Does the Crypto Bill Leave the Digital Rupee?

In a rather hypocritical move, the government’s own cryptocurrency, the Digital Rupee, is exempt from such stringent laws.

The reason is the close ties to the country’s leading bank, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), that this cryptocurrency would have. Both the central government and RBI will consult over the launch of the Digital Rupee.

Until now, RBI has been anti-cryptocurrency and blockchain. In 2018 it prohibited any RBI-regulated institutions from processing cryptocurrency purchases.

The proposed crypto bill puts to bed any hopes that India may adopt and regularize cryptocurrency.

Featured Image: DepositPhotos ©

Mark Hulbert: Millennials need help with retirement math

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I don’t know whether to laugh or cry reading about millennials’ attitudes toward retirement.

Millennials, of course, are those who were born between 1979 and 2000, who therefore currently are between 19 and 41 years old. The Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies recently surveyed a large sample of them (2,156, to be exact) to gauge how they are planning for retirement.

The fascinating results reveal how much these millennials have so far saved for retirement, how they are investing their retirement portfolios, and whether they expect their standard of living to increase when they do retire.

Read: Young people blame climate change for their small 401(k) balances

Here are the specifics which made me question the millennials’ grasp of retirement math:

•The median millennial has saved $23,000 to support his retirement and is investing 10% of his annual salary in his 401(k) or similar retirement account.

•53% of millennials expect that their retirement savings accounts will be their primary source of retirement income, with 80% of them agreeing with the statement: “I am concerned that when I am ready to retire, Social Security will not be there for me.”

•39% of millennials have fairly equally divided their retirement portfolios between stocks and fixed income. 22% of them have more invested in fixed income than stocks.

•31% of millennials expect their retirement standard of living to improve when they retire. This percentage is higher than for other generations: Only 18% of Gen-Xers think their standard of living will go up after they retire; the comparable percentage among baby boomers is just 9%.

See if you can detect the internal contradictions in these responses. If you’re not sure, perhaps you too are kidding yourself about how much you need to save and invest for retirement.

Read: Where’s the best place for me to retire?

Let’s review the forbidding math. Let’s assume that our median millennial is 30 years old, having been born exactly half way through the date range that defines the generation, and that he intends to work until age 70. Let’s furthermore assume that his current salary also is at the median, which, according to the Pew Research Center, currently is $69,000. We will also assume that his salary grows each year by 1% more than inflation, and that he continues each year to save and invest 10% of his salary.

Let’s also assume that his 401(k) appreciates at an annualized rate of 4% above inflation. That reflects a portfolio that is divided equally between stocks and bonds and these two asset classes’ historical returns over the last century.

Given these assumptions, his portfolio at retirement will be worth $879,838 in today’s dollars. Assuming he adheres to the 4% spending rule, that means his 401(k) will produce annual income of $35,194. That’s just 34% of what his salary will be in his final year of employment.

How, then, can this hypothetical millennial possibly believe that his standard of living will increase when he retires?

Be my guest playing around with these assumptions. You still will not come anywhere close to justifying this median millennial’s expectations.

You could, for example, assume that the millennial’s portfolio is 100% invested in equities rather than divided equally between stocks and bonds. That is the conventional advice for investors who are several decades away from retiring. Nevertheless, assuming the future is like the past, his annual retirement income, though higher, will still be only 57% of his final working year’s salary.

What if you assume that the millennial saves and invests 15% of his annual salary in all his retirement accounts rather than 10%? Closer, but still no cigar. Now his portfolio will generate annual retirement income that is 81% of his salary the final year of his employment.

Many retirement planners assume that Social Security will make up the shortfall. But notice that 80% of millennials aren’t counting on Social Security being there for them.

The bottom line? Maintaining your standard of living as you transition into retirement is not easy. Millennials either need to scale back their expectations about their retirement income or aggressively save and invest in their retirement portfolios.

Don’t make the same mistake yourself.

Mark Hulbert is a regular contributor to MarketWatch. His Hulbert Ratings tracks investment newsletters that pay a flat fee to be audited. He can be reached at