8 Tips on Saving for Retirement
Key Points – 8 Tips on Saving for Retirement
- The Earlier You Start Saving for Retirement, the Better
- Understanding Where You’re Saving for Retirement
- Planning for Your Retirement Isn’t Just About Saving … What Are Your Retirement Goals?
- How Does Claiming Social Security Factor in with Saving for Retirement?
- 21 Minutes to Read | 32 Minutes to Watch
Saving for retirement can feel like a daunting task. It doesn’t need to be, though. Bud Kasper and Logan DeGraeve offer eight tips on saving for retirement that can begin giving you clarity and confidence on your path to and through retirement.
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Where to Start with Saving for Retirement
Bud Kasper: Hello everyone and welcome to America’s Wealth Management Show. I’m Bud Kasper. Dean Barber isn’t with us today. He’s taking a little bit of a time off, so Logan DeGraeve is filling in for Dean.
We’re going to focus on things that are very important for people to understand. A lot of what Logan and I will share will be targeted to parents and grandparents to convey to their grandchildren and children about the importance of saving for retirement. We’re going to review eight tips on saving for retirement in detail, but here’s a quick overview.
- Start as Early as Possible
- Maximize Your Contributions
- Diversify Your Savings, Not Just Your Investments
- Open an IRA
- Consider Your Social Security Claiming Strategy
- Plan for Withdrawals Years in Advance
- Make Goals for Retirement, and Your Money Beyond You
- Determine Your Probability of Success
1. Start as Early as Possible
The first of our eight tips on saving for retirement is starting as early as possible.
Logan DeGraeve: That’s a good point. We are talking to grandparents and parents because when you’re young and maybe start working, what’s the hardest thing to do? It’s saving money for retirement or just saving money in general. Maybe you don’t have a lot of money at that point. But starting early when saving for retirement is the most important thing. You can look at any chart or study and see that compound growth and time are your friend.
A lot of people begin their first job in their teens or early 20s, but they’ll say they don’t have any money to save. Bud and I spend all this time with our clients talking about tax planning and we’re talking about things like Roth conversions. But sometimes when you look at this, you think about the whole family estate. The grandparents might realize that their grandkids have earned income and might be getting by right now, but can’t put $6,000 in a Roth IRA. However, the grandparents can gift their grandchildren the $6,000 so they can start saving early for retirement in that type of account.
Bud Kasper: They sure can. If you’ve just finished college and are just starting your first big job, what might be one of the first things you’re thinking about? Probably something like a new set of wheels.
Logan DeGraeve: Depreciating a valued asset.
Bud Kasper: You have different priorities at that age rather than saving for retirement. You’re likely not thinking 35 years down the pike when you need to turn money into income. But I also think that there are a lot of very bright, young people the importance of saving early for retirement. Maybe they’ve learned a few things from their parents and their grandparents to understand that the only way they’re going to get to retirement and have a lifestyle that is amenable to what your goals are is to make the sacrifices early.
And you know what, Logan? A lot of those sacrifices are not very critical. And by critical, I mean, “Oh, I can’t go out this week because I put money in my IRA.” But nonetheless, it’s just important to have a little bit of discipline.
2. Maximize Your Contributions
That’s the nice thing about working for a company where it’s automatically done and you get a company 401(k) match and all that. But when we look at that, what’s going on with contribution levels inside IRA accounts, and the appreciation we’re going to get in 2023, it gives young people an opportunity to start foundationally building their security for their retirement.
Discipline Is Key When Saving for Retirement
Logan DeGraeve: Bud makes a good point there. He used the word discipline. When it comes to saving for retirement and starting early, maybe it’s not that you’re saving a whole lot of money. It’s just having the discipline to save.
If you can’t save money when you don’t have a lot of money, you’re not going to save money when you have more money. It’s just a discipline that is ingrained in you. We see that discipline with our clients that are 60, 70 years old. They have plenty of money now and we’re begging them to spend it.
Bud Kasper: But there’s the other side of it, too. I just had a sad scenario with this lady I met with last week. She told me that she had saved $150,000. I then said, “OK. What else?” But there was nothing else. I explained that she has some catching up to do. By catching up, I mean that she needs to cut down on her spending to put more money into her 401(k), 403(b), 457(b)—whatever the case may be.
Contribution Limits Increase in 2023
Logan DeGraeve: One of the things we want to hit on with these tips on saving for retirement is to maximize your contributions. Every year, the IRS sets out limits of what you can save to your 401(k)s, the Roth IRAs, the IRAs, SEP IRAs, simples. Make sure you double check those for 2023 because they all increase because of inflation. If you had been maxing out your 401(k), you’re going to have more opportunity next year with that.
Bud Kasper: And if you’re in a 401(k) and you’re trying to decipher all the different options that you have and how they work, contact us. We’ll be happy to have a quick discussion with you and hopefully help you understand that. This is the time when people become very anxious about what’s going on. They see a decline in their 401(k) even though they’re still contributing, which offsets that.
Logan DeGraeve: That’s a good thing.
The Functionality of a 401(k)
Bud Kasper: Let’s say that someone wants to go into a money market account but is very fearful. That option might be available to them, but they’re worried about needing to stop their contributions? Never stop saving for retirement. Remember the functionality of a 401(k). Every paycheck that you get has a contribution that’s going in there. So, let’s say you get paid every two weeks, that’s going in every two weeks. You’re buying at lower levels, higher levels, but you’re going to get the average of that.
Logan DeGraeve: How many times have we heard someone that’s maybe in their 50s say, “I’m going to stop saving to the 401(k)” or “I’m done contributing because I’m just losing money.” No, you’re not. It’s the opportunity that you can buy in low. Obviously, when you look at the NASDAQ, we’re off about 30% for the year. Over the course of your retirement, that’s going to look like a very good investment.
Bud Kasper: Yeah. Your company is helping to mitigate that because they’re putting their own money in as a bonus to you in the sense of matching. That helps. So, we’re all in this together. We just know need to know how to function inside the parameters that we are working with. That’s whether it’s a 401(k), an IRA, or whatever.
We’re getting a boost next year. $22,500 is going to be the maximum amount you can contribute. That’s up from $20,500. The catch-up increases from $6,500 from $7,500. This is providing opportunity. You might say that that’s more money that you’re putting into the market and the market is losing money. But don’t look at it that way. Realize that you can buy in at a lower price. I know that may sound futuristic or naive, but it’s not.
Logan DeGraeve: Absolutely. People who are over 50 might think it’s too late, but that’s why those catch-up provisions are there. If you turned 50 in 2020, know that you can do more to the 401(k), IRA, or Roth. Not only are you 50, but there’s opportunity there too. That helps the person who is maybe behind the eight ball in saving for retirement.
Why Say No to Free Money?
Bud Kasper: There’s free money associated with that from most corporations with the match. It’s true that you should at least put in as much to get 100% of the match so you just doubled your contribution. You doubled the amount of money from your contribution and the match combined.
Logan DeGraeve: It is true in the sense that it’s free money. Obviously, you’re working and that’s a benefit that your employer gives you. But if you’re not taking advantage of that, you’re leaving money on the table. So, when you’re around the dinner table during the holidays, make sure everyone who is working is saving to the match. I’m sure that’ll be a fun dinner conversation, but nonetheless, it’s important that you’re making sure that you’re doing that.
3. Diversify Your Savings, Not Just Your Investments
When you’re young, the most important thing is saving for retirement in some way, shape, or form. You can save to your 401(k), a traditional IRA, a Roth IRA, etc. That leads to our third tip for saving for retirement with diversifying your savings and not just your investments. Where should you save?
For a young person that’s just starting to work and doesn’t have a high income, the Roth IRA is a great option. They can pay the tax now in that 10% and 12% tax bracket. It’s no big deal. It grows tax-free.
Let’s talk about the three different types of money that you can save to. You can save to a taxable account. That would be a brokerage account, your bank account. You could have tax-deferred account like your traditional 401(k) or IRAs. And then you have your tax-free with the Roths. It’s good to have all three. Obviously 100% Roth is great, but that’s just not the reality sometimes.
Bud Kasper: That’s right, Logan. The reason that Logan said three is because each of those has a different impact from a tax perspective. When you’re retired, you’re forced to take money out of your 401(k) when you reach that age limit. Now, you’re having to take the brunt of a tax event that is going to diminish the amount of money that you could utilize if you didn’t have that. So, be wise when you’re looking into that.
That might sound a little confusing, but that’s the way that money is brought into the equation. If you’re working somewhere and have a 401(k), obviously that takes care of that part of it. If you have money after-tax and you’re in a high enough tax bracket that it makes sense to buy municipal bonds or an ETF of municipal bonds, then you have that access as well.
Tax Planning Meetings to Look at Tax Diversification
The combination of these when you get into retirement can be incredibly important. We want to cap income out at certain levels in the tax code so that we don’t go $1 over that limitation. Doing so would increase the amount of tax on the amount of additional income that could be brought in at that period. Logan just told me that he’s done 71 tax planning meetings with clients and our Director of Tax Corey Hulstein since May.
Logan DeGraeve: We’ve been grinding them out. That kind of leads a good segue there. When you’re working, your taxes are what they are. You have your W-2 income. There’s not a lot you can do, but obviously it’s worth looking at. When you retire, and especially before you’re on Social Security, it’s the first time you can set the chess board to manipulate your income.
Right now, we’re sitting down with our clients and wrapping up 2022. In addition, what does 2023 look like? Of those three buckets, where are you going to spend from and what does that give us a projection of income to be?
4. Open an IRA
We have fun things like the IRMAA Medicare brackets and tax brackets. And some people are on marketplace insurance, pre Medicare. Their income needs to stay under certain limits. There’s a lot to it. You want to have diversification and save to those three buckets. Once again, what do you open? Do you open a Roth or traditional IRA? How many times have you been asked that by people, Bud?
Bud Kasper: I bet 1,000 or so over all the time that I’ve been doing this. People need to take this to heart because it’s critical. For young folks or parents that have young folks that beginning to save for retirement, this is an excellent time to start understanding the components of a successful retirement plan. And even though we’re saying start saving for retirement when you’re younger, can you do this when you’re middle age? Can you do this toward the end of your career?
Mitigating Uncle Sam Early on and Throughout Your Retirement
And the answer is maybe. The only reason I say maybe is obviously we’re going to continue to make our contributions. But if I were a young person and it might make sense for me to do pre-tax contributions into a 401(k), if I could do a Roth 401(k) where I’m paying the tax before it goes in there, I would do that.
Why? Because in the future, it is going to come out taxable in a traditional 401(k). If you can eliminate Uncle Sam early on and continue to eliminate it into your retirement years, you are going to be one happy retiree.
Logan DeGraeve: Bud, I’ll give a quick story because we like stories. I’m wrapping up a case with Corey and we were looking at Roth conversions and/or just taking money out of the IRA. It makes sense because they’re in a lower tax bracket and have a home purchase coming up that we’re planning for.
They wanted to take out $150,000 out of the IRA this year to set aside for this home. And I said, “OK, well we’re going to net about $110,000 within that now new brokerage account. We’re going to hold the money in.” They asked where the other $40,000 went. Well, remember that if you have $1 million in your 401(k), you don’t have $1 million in your 401(k). You have Uncle Sam that’s going to have his piece of that pie someday too.
A Roth IRA and Roth 401(k) Are Two Different Things
I do want to talk a little bit more on the Roth bucket that Bud and I have harped on. There’s a huge misconception with that Roth bucket because a Roth IRA and Roth 401(k) are two different things.
You are correct if you think that you potentially make too much money to save to a Roth IRA. There are income limits that every year that you can’t be over. If you’re over them, you’re going to have some problems. The one little known fact is there are really no income limits when it comes to saving to the Roth 401(k) option within your employer. That’s something that a lot of people don’t truly understand.
Bud Kasper: I think Logan is right. Let’s look at it from another direction as well. If you are doing a Roth IRA and you’re choosing a custodial platform to work off, you get to decide what type of investments you want to employ inside those accounts in most cases. If you’re in a 401(k), you’re relegated to whatever the menu says your options are. Oftentimes, these menus simply aren’t broad enough, especially in an difficult environment that we’re dealing with now to continue growing your money.
The Troubles of Target Date Funds
Logan DeGraeve: And the biggest thing is not necessarily in the equity space; it’s the fixed income space. For that person that’s 50, 55 years old and is five to 10 years from retirement, it’s a huge issue. Outside of a stable value or cash fund, where are you going to put your safe money? A lot of times, you don’t have the ability to do inflation-protected security short term treasuries and/or U.S. treasuries that we’re doing with our clients. It’s an issue. And then those lovely target date funds.
Bud Kasper: I was just going to bring those up.
Logan DeGraeve: How many long-term bonds are in target date funds?
Target Date Funds in a Down Market
Bud Kasper: Oh, it’s incredible. You need to thoroughly understand the risk associated with these target date funds. So many people who have target date funds have no clue how much risk is associated with them until there is a down market.
Last week, this lady told me that she’s in a 2035 target date fund. She said it was down 22% and that didn’t surprise me. Then she tells me to wait a minute because she understood that as close as she could get to the date she planned to retire that there’s supposed to be less risk associated with that. In theory, that is right. In practicality, I don’t find it to be right. It becomes onerous to the people that are participating to look past the option and understand the definition of the option.
Logan DeGraeve: That’s the most important thing. People with 2025 or 2030 target date funds are close to their desired retirement date. But when 60%, 70% of their portfolios and long-term bonds are off 12% and 13% year to date, what are they going to do? How are they going to recoup that back?
Bud Kasper: You’re right. In the instance I was talking about, I told the lady that she had a stable value option. We needed to look at that for the time being.
The Disaster That Is the Traditional Bond Market
As we continue talking about the importance of saving for retirement and getting an early start, there are obviously a lot of things that are changing now as we head into the new year. There’s a lot of consternation associated with what’s happening with the markets. Generally, people are thinking about the stock market. We’ve had some recent success in the stock market over the last five weeks or so, but it’s starting to weaken again.
Bonds Are Supposed to Be a Stay-Rich Investment
Bonds, though, have been an absolute disaster. I might be overstating that a little bit, but that’s the way it feels because people look at bonds as a stay-rich investment. When you look at the year-to-date numbers, you’re seeing double-digit losses in bonds and the indexes. Where are people supposed to hide?
Don’t Stop Saving for Retirement
Logan DeGraeve: That’s a good point, Bud. In the past year, the S&P 500 has outperformed the bond aggregate. That is very rare. It shows the unchartered territory we’re seeing within the bond market. That’s led to people understandably saying that they’re not very optimistic about the market. But what doesn’t make sense is that some people have then asked if they should stop saving for retirement? No. Don’t stop saving for retirement.
Bud Kasper: That’s like asking if you should stop eating.
Logan DeGraeve: Exactly.
5. Consider Your Social Security Claiming Strategy
That leads us into our next tip with saving for retirement, and that’s considering your Social Security claiming strategy. Social Security is a free benefit, right? You never pay into that, do you?
Bud Kasper: No, you never paid into it. Why do they say that at your full retirement age that you’re getting all your money back? Every time, somebody says, “If you can tell me how long I’ll live, maybe I can agree with that statement that you’re making.”
Social Security Is Taxed Differently Than Any Other Income Source
Logan DeGraeve: Social Security is part of your savings too. How is it part of your savings, you ask? Because every time you get paid, you’re paying into it. Bud and I explained earlier that you have these three buckets of money and you have Social Security, Well, how do you use Social Security to maximize what you’ve done from a saving for retirement standpoint? Well, you won’t know if you haven’t sat down with a CFP® Professional and CPA in the same room. Because your Social Security is taxed differently than every other source of income.
Bud Kasper: We also know that postponing when you take Social Security eliminates the potential for more growth because it increases with every succeeding year. But the beauty of Social Security and the postponement of Social Security only makes sense when it fits into a financial plan.
When You Claim Your Social Security Matters
Logan DeGraeve: I have a quick story about Social Security. About a month ago, I met with a guy who was very gung-ho about taking Social Security at 62. His reasoning was that he paid into it and wanted the benefit. It took some time for him to see it, but I explained to him that it wasn’t about him. At first, he kind of looked at me weird and wondered what I meant. It’s about his spouse because he was the highest earner. That meant he would have the largest benefit, so if he took it at 62, it would be a reduced benefit.
Let’s say that he lives to 71 and his spouse lives to 100. That’s a long time that to be at a reduced benefit that his spouse will primarily take. You need to look at the overall plan. If you are the higher earner, you need to make sure that you’re not taking it too early. What happens if you pass and only the highest benefit stays?
Bud Kasper: I call that an uneducated move. But some people are like that. They don’t think they’re going to live that long and want to start their Social Security and get what they can. Logan’s point is well taken, especially to the responsibility of your spouse.
As we look at that, we know that this money is compounding every time we don’t take it. The increase that we had in Social Security for 2023 of 8.7% is significant in and of itself. It does range itself back into the overall plan for us to understand how we can maximize results.
6. Plan for Withdrawals Years in Advance
Logan DeGraeve: Speaking of planning, that brings us to our sixth tip of saving for retirement. You need to start planning for withdrawals when you’re five years or so out from retirement.
What’s that first withdrawal going to look like? What bucket are you going to take it from? Where are you going to use Social Security and supplement those things? At the end of the day, the way you save when you’re 22, 23, 24 years old impacts your withdrawal strategy in retirement. If you only have tax-deferred 401(k) savings, it is what it is folks. Every time you take money out of that IRA, it’s ordinary income.
Our Wealth Management Mission
Bud Kasper: Absolutely. When it comes to wealth management, we always stress to prospective clients that we have nothing to sell to them. We’re not brokers in the sense of going in and getting a commission because we sold a stock or a mutual fund or an ETF. We are a planning firm. We are fee-based, which means you know exactly how we’re compensated for the work that we do for you.
The importance of that is in the relationships. If a broker is selling you something, they’re probably going to want to sell that stock or whatever at some point in the future and make a commission on both sides of that trade. In our business, we have worked exclusively on a fee basis for a couple of decades. You can decide whether we are worth the money that we’re paid for what we provide.
7. Make Goals for Retirement, and Your Money Beyond You
Logan DeGraeve: When you have a fee-based ongoing relationship, you want lifelong clients. The financial planning that we’re doing is for lifelong clients. And that leads us into our next tip for saving for retirement, which is to make goals for retirement and your money beyond you.
Don’t wait until you retire to figure out what you want to do in retirement. You should start thinking about what your goals and dreams are for retirement at least five to 10 years before retirement. If you retire and working was truly one of your big identities, you’re probably going to struggle. You won’t know what you want to do.
Here’s the other thing. How do you know when you can retire if you haven’t defined what you’re going to do? Your goals, dreams, and if you want to leave money behind is going to depend on what those are and how much money you’re going to spend.
Back to the Buckets
Bud Kasper: Right. And the coordination of the taxable, tax-free, tax-deferred buckets. Tax-deferred is what a lot of working people are familiar with. They’re contributing to the 401(k)s or doing IRAs. But if you’re doing that on a pre-tax basis, you know you’ve got a partner in that in Uncle Sam.
If somebody came into our office and said they had $1 million saved for retirement, they don’t really have $1 million because Uncle Sam is getting a portion of it. But there are things that we can do prior to your retirement date to mitigate taxes. Those include Roth conversions and paying tax now while you have income from your job rather than having tax on retirement income.
Time Is Our Most Precious Commodity
Logan DeGraeve: Bud is talking about how get to the proper tax diversification, proper withdrawal strategy to live that dream that you have. When we sit down with clients and prospective clients, we want to define what they want to do.
If you think you need to work because Social Security says your full retirement age is 67 or until 65 because of Medicare, or whatever other misconception may be out there, it’s just not true. I believe very strongly that our most precious commodity is time.
Another Example of How Saving for Retirement Can Be Beneficial in the Long Run
If you’re 55, why not get a health check financially to see if you’re on track to retire at 62, 65? How many times do we sit down with someone that says they’re going to retire at 65, but they could retire earlier. They say, “Wait, really?”
And that doesn’t always mean that they take the advice. But the reality is they have all the information they need to make educated decisions. You don’t have the information you need to make educated decisions if you haven’t found what you want to do in retirement and haven’t consulted a professional.
Bud Kasper: Exactly. That’s what the planning process is about. I think a lot of people hear that and don’t understand what it really means. This is serious business. We’re planning the rest of your life. Planning your retirement shouldn’t focus on betting on a stock that someone told you to invest in.
Logan DeGraeve: Or using a retirement calculator.
8. Determine Your Probability of Success
Bud Kasper: Right. It’s our opportunity to share with you the facts that are so specific to you and your family. We can show you what your probability of success would be. We can work with you on your specific plan to see if we could meet the objectives that you have for your money in retirement.
Logan DeGraeve: With your probability of success, sometimes it’s great and sometimes it’s not. Our job is to maximize what you have and get you to a proper probability of success.
Things You Can Control in Retirement
There are only so many things you can change with retirement planning. You can change how long you’re going to work, how much you’re going to spend, and how much you’re going to save for retirement. Do you want to leave money behind? And how much risk to you want to take in the market? Those are really the big levers we can change.
Bud Kasper: And to add to that the Social Security benefit. You put all this money into the government program that’s going to provide you it. How do you maximize those results? So many people think they’ll just take Social Security at 62 or 63. They’re likely just doing that because they want the money.
But is it working into your plan? If you postpone a year, did that increase your probability of success? Maybe it could go from 85% to 90%. If you don’t know what I’m talking about when I talk about those, then you really don’t understand what we do.
Is Legacy Planning Important to You?
Logan DeGraeve: When you look at legacy planning, obviously estate planning is a part of that. But when talking about legacy planning, do you want to leave money behind? Some people do and feel very strongly about it. But there are others who just want to live their life and whatever is left is left.
Oftentimes, there’s something left. That’s important because once again, if you look at your financial plan and you’re leaving $3 million behind and you’re someone that doesn’t want to leave money behind, what are you going to do? Are you going to spend it, give more, etc.?
Starting to Save Early for Retirement Is the Most Important Tip
Once again, don’t wait until you’re 65 to start retirement planning. I have a handful of stories about people wanting to get a second home in Arizona, Florida, wherever. You don’t always have to wait until retirement to do that. There have been many clients that can do things like that earlier.
It doesn’t have to be a second home. It can be gifting to your kids, grandkids, or whatever you feel strongly about. That stuff doesn’t have to start at retirement. With a proper plan, you can figure out if you can start that stuff now.
Bud Kasper: Oh yes. I would say that at least half of the people we’re working with today are in their late 40s or early to mid 50s because they understand the responsibility that’s in front of them.
Logan DeGraeve: And it’s a beautiful thing. That age has consistently dropped.
Reviewing the Eight Tips on Saving for Retirement
Bud Kasper: It has. Before we wrap things up, I want to review our eight tips on saving for retirement.
- Start as Early as Possible
- Maximize Your Contributions
- Diversify Your Savings, Not Just Your Investments
- Open an IRA
- Consider Your Social Security Claiming Strategy
- Plan for Withdrawals Years in Advance
- Make Goals for Retirement, and Your Money Beyond You
- Determine Your Probability of Success
Logan DeGraeve: Other than those eight tips on saving for retirement, just make sure you’ve got your ducks in order. We’re getting down to the last few weeks of this year. Obviously, it’s been a challenging year, but I think that’s when we really earn our money. And for our clients who have tuned in, we look forward to seeing you all at the Christmas party next week.
Paying Our Respects on National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day
Bud Kasper: Also, we’d be remiss if I didn’t mention National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day that was observed on Wednesday. We want to honor those men and women who gave their lives and their time of service for the benefit of us who have enjoyed the safety that they provide us in our lives. Incredible day. Unbelievable.
A lot of younger folks don’t realize the sacrifices and how horrible that situation was. They’re getting unfortunately tastes of that now with the situation in the Ukraine, Iran, and all the other ones. But we sure are lucky to be in a country that is free and provides us the opportunities. And one of those opportunities is preparing and saving for retirement.
Logan DeGraeve: Absolutely, Bud. You couldn’t say it any better. It’s one of those things that you don’t want to take for granted there. Some of the daily challenges that we face that we think are big really aren’t big in the grand scheme of things.
Start Building Your Plan to Save for Retirement
Bud Kasper: Agreed. If you have any questions about these eight tips to save for retirement, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We can’t stress enough how important it is to start early. We’re giving you the opportunity to do exactly that and see how the other tips apply to you by giving you access to our financial planning tool. You can use it at no cost or obligation and do so from the comfort of your own home by clicking the “Start Planning” button below.
And if you need something(s) explained in more detail, we welcome the chance to meet with you. You can schedule a 20-minute “ask anything” session or complimentary consultation with one of our CFP® Professionals by clicking here. We can meet with you in person, virtually, or by phone—whatever works best for you.
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