After years of hard work (and some delayed gratification), you’re finally looking forward to a fulfilling retirement. And you have some big plans. Travel. Fine dining. A cozy cabin in the woods.
The question is: Will you have enough money to make those plans a reality?
A healthy ‘check’ on reality
If you’re just starting retirement or expect to do so soon, you may be looking at your retirement assets—401(k), IRAs, annuities and other investment vehicles, as well as Social Security—and feeling pretty confident. More than 70% of Americans say they feel confident they’ll have enough money for a comfortable retirement. Among retirees, that confidence level is around 80%.1
But the fact is, many retirees and retirees-to-be may be overconfident. And that means they’re likely to overspend. People who do often find that those “golden” years become tarnished—and more quickly than they could have imagined.
How much is enough?
That’s up to you to determine based on how you want to live out your retirement years. We’ve all heard the stat about needing around 80% of our pre-retirement income in retirement. That is a good starting point. But then you need to factor in your anticipated lifestyle and health scenario to come up with a figure that reflects your needs.
For example, with all that extra time on your hands, finding entertaining ways to fill the hours could mean spending more than 80% of the income you were earning before retirement. And that can quickly break any budget.
This doesn’t have to happen to you—if you look at retirement more like a marathon and less like a sprint.
Keep your eyes on the prize
If you want to reach the “finish line” of a comfortable retirement, it may help to avoid these common temptations.
Spending too much in the early years. This temptation comes from thinking that “I should spend more while I’m younger. Later on, I might not be able to enjoy these things quite as much.”
While there may be logic to that thinking, there also could be a couple problems with it:
- Your financial needs later in life might increase because of health needs and the costs of skilled nursing, assisted living or home care they may require.
- You may be very lucky and live longer than you expect.
While the current life expectancy in the U.S. is about 81 years for women and 76 for men,2 those numbers climb as people get older. For instance:
- If you’re a 65-year-old male, you would be projected to live to be about 84.3
- A 65-year-old woman would be projected to live to about 87.3
You could say that the longer you live, the longer you will live. And your retirement assets will need to last longer, too.
Taking early retirement. That’s not always by choice. Health concerns and job loss sometimes make it unavoidable. But some people do retire earlier than they should.
This may be because they simply don’t want to wait, particularly when they can start collecting Social Security at age 62. But that also means they’ll get 75% of the Social Security retirement benefit they would have received if they had waited until age 66. Retire at age 70, and you’ll get 132% of that benefit.3
In other words, while taking your Social Security benefits early means you get your money sooner, it also means less income per month for the rest of your life. And by retiring early, you’ll also be withdrawing sooner from your other retirement accounts.
Keeping the fun in your retirement
If retirement is starting to look a bit more boring than you expected, there are some ways around that. You can craft a plan that combines a budget and retirement asset preservation—while still including a healthy helping of fun. For instance:
Consider withdrawing from your taxable retirement accounts first. This lets you take advantage of what could be potentially lower capital gains tax rates while allowing your tax-deferred and tax-free accounts to keep growing.
The success of this strategy depends on your retirement age—and other financial considerations. Keep in mind that at age 72, you may be required to take a minimum distribution from certain tax-deferred accounts like a 401(k) or traditional IRA.
Tailor your withdrawals to you—not to what everyone else is doing. Some people say you should commit to withdrawing 4% of your total assets per year during retirement. While that may work just fine for some people, everyone’s situation is different. You need to develop a retirement spending plan that fits your financial situation.
When deciding on a plan for yourself, here are a couple factors to keep in mind:
- Inflation. Even at a fairly modest level, over a period of years or decades, inflation could take a big bite out of your buying power.
For example, with an average annual inflation rate of 4%, here's what happens to $1,000: