If you’re approaching the finish line toward a financially healthy retirement, or perhaps already got there, congratulations! Retiring with the money you need for any adventures that may come your way is a significant accomplishment, and one you undoubtedly strived hard to achieve.
But after enjoying some well-deserved applause—and perhaps a fun retirement party—it’s time to get back to your portfolio, because even those who successfully built wealth aren’t necessarily done with their investment journey.
The first lesson is to keep on managing your portfolio for both income and growth. Retirement planning truly is a lifelong endeavor, even for those who enter retirement well equipped to move ahead without a paycheck. Medical costs are rising and people are having children at older ages. That means kids’ college and graduate school fees may remain an expense in retirement. Some retirees even help pay for their grandchildren to go to college. In addition, longer life spans mean retirement could last as long as your career did.
“If you’re 65, you could still live another 30 years,” points out Dara Luber, Senior Manager, Retirement, at TD Ameritrade.
And in general, despite low inflation, life tends to be more expensive today, in part because retail gratification can be just a keystroke away. “It’s really easy to buy things quickly on electronic commerce these days,” says Kathy Stokes, Senior Advisor, AARP. “How many times have you jumped onto an online retailer, and at end of the month realize you’ve spent more than you need to?”
What’s the Goal? Making Assets Last
All this means retirement planning doesn’t end just because someone has retired successfully or is about to. It simply morphs into a different phase. Now the goal isn’t to build assets. It’s about making them last and enjoying retirement to the fullest.
It’s tough to line things up perfectly, and many investors—though not all—may want to leave money to children and grandchildren, or even to their favorite charity. Other retirement goals can depend on the person or couple. Some people want to travel the world, while others may decide to turn that hobby into a business. Seeing these plans through means getting organized as soon as possible to understand how savings will need to replace a paycheck, separating wants from needs, setting a budget and continuing to invest to help make money last.
Unfortunately, not all retirees and people approaching retirement take these steps. Only 49% of retirees have estimated how much money they need per month in retirement, and only 24% have prepared a formal, written financial plan for retirement, according to a retirement survey released earlier this year by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
Luber advises retirees and those nearing retirement to get their finances organized so they have a clear idea of exactly what’s coming in and how much they can plan to spend vs. save or invest. Often, that means getting things down on paper and thinking carefully about the future.
“Understand what assets you have and what income,” Luber says. “Are you drawing from retirement accounts, brokerage accounts, or other sources of income like a rental property? Be able to look at them, get them organized, and know which institutions you have them with. In some cases it makes sense to consolidate.”
Those long-term financial goals Luber speaks of need to be thought out, as well. She recommends creating goal buckets for different time periods, looking out one to five years, five to 10 years, and 10-15 years, and knowing which money is allocated for which buckets.
Make a Budget
Once you have a better sense of where the money is coming in from, it’s time to make a retirement budget. Divide spending plans into needs and wants, which will depend on the individual investor. Food and shelter are needs for everyone. Wants can vary, and each investor can determine those based on their own circumstances and budgets.
For some, vacation is a desire, but for others it’s a necessity; for instance if grandchildren live out of town. For some, meals out with friends may be an essential part of social life, something that makes them happy. For others, a walk in the park with a friend may fill the same role.
For things people need to have, Luber suggests considering tapping steady income sources such as Social Security checks and any annuities or pension payments. Keep in mind that, if Social Security is left as is, it may only be able to pay out 75% of its promised benefits in 20 years, so those with a long time frame might not want to depend too much on that particular source of income. A written budget that matches everyday expenses with the money steadily coming in can help retirees feel more comfortable about making ends meet. Also, spend some time learning how much you can withdraw from savings each month to keep those dollars from running out too quickly. Many advisors recommend the so-called 4% rule of withdrawal, but others say low interest rates and surging market volatility call that rule into question .
Growing older, unfortunately, often means higher medical bills, and those have to be in the plan as well. A recent study by retirement planning advisory HealthView Services estimates that a 65-year-old, healthy couple can expect to spend about $260,000 on health care premiums over the course of their retirement. “Make sure you have an emergency fund,” Luber says.
Annuities can also supplement Social Security and provide income that can’t be outlived. One variety that’s gaining attention of late is the deferred-income annuity (DIA), which locks in a guaranteed cash flow stream starting at some point in the future and lasts for the rest of your life and/or that of your spouse’s life.
One drawback of purchasing this type of an annuity is losing liquidity and access to the funds used to purchase the annuity. But since the annuity guarantees a lifetime cash-flow stream—even if the rest of one’s nest egg is spent down—you can have more confidence and flexibility to draw on your nest egg, and perhaps even enjoy your money more, during the years before the annuity kicks in.
Don’t Stop Investing
Investing remains important even for retirees. Though it may be tempting to choose less aggressive investments when your working days are over, that’s actually not ideal for everyone because over the years inflation can put a major dent into the firepower of those investments.
“You still need to invest for growth and keep your portfolio growing,” Luber says. “It’s important on a regular basis to review your portfolio and make sure it aligns with long-term financial goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon. That should be done at least once or twice a year, or more often, if circumstances change.”