No retirement plan is complete without covering these five key areas.
But the act of saving money is not in itself a retirement plan. You also need to be intentional in establishing how much money you will need, when and how you will spend it, how taxes might affect you, and a host of other issues.
Let’s look at five key areas you should think about as you carefully produce a retirement plan that can serve you well when you finally take that step into your post-working years.
1. Income distribution
A top concern among retirees is running out of money, so it’s critical to take steps to make your money last. But how do you do that, especially now that the once-popular 4% rule is falling out of favor in some quarters? Dr. David Babbel, professor of finance at the Wharton School, puts it this way: “If you have a stock portfolio and withdraw a fixed amount per year, such as the standard rule of 4% plus inflation, you have a 90% chance of running out of money in retirement.”
While it would be nice to think a magic-bullet investment exists that could fix this problem, there isn’t one. That ideal investment would be safe, liquid and would show strong growth. Investments typically will do some combination of two of those, but no investment will do all three.
One of the most effective ways to make your money last is to separate your investments into different asset classes to accomplish different goals. This means that you would set aside, into income-producing vehicles, the lowest amount necessary to produce the monthly income you need above and beyond Social Security and pensions. You would also have an emergency fund of at least six to 12 months plus any known upcoming big expenses. And the rest of your money would be in a growth portfolio to hedge against inflation.
2. Tax mitigation plan
The IRS doesn’t lose interest in you when you reach retirement; in fact, a portion of your Social Security may be taxable, depending on how much other income you have. Therefore, it’s important to continue to find ways to reduce your tax bill. Instead of micro tax planning, you need macro tax planning – focusing on the big picture of what your tax-deferred accounts are going to cost you over your lifetime. Explore how each of your investments is taxed, and create a written plan for the most tax-efficient way of withdrawing money from accounts in retirement.
3. Readjusting your portfolio for retirement needs
Throughout your working years, you may have relied on an aggressive investment strategy, taking calculated risks so you could see substantial growth in your retirement savings. But as you near and enter retirement, it’s time to ease up on the risk. Your goal is no longer to grow your money but to hang on to what you have. The time has arrived to begin shifting your portfolio into more conservative investments.
This might also be a good time to reconsider which financial professional you are working with. Some advisers are more focused on accumulation – piling up as much money as possible for you – while others are more skilled at income planning – making sure that the money you accumulate lasts.
4. Health care planning
Both health care and long-term care costs can eat away at your savings. It’s especially important for retirees to know the complex ins and outs of Medicare, for which you become eligible at age 65. For example, if you don’t enroll in Medicare during your initial enrollment period, you could face premium penalties.
Also, it’s important to know that Medicare doesn’t cover everything, and one thing it doesn’t cover is long-term care. You will need another plan – savings, long-term care insurance, or other alternatives – to deal with that. Maybe you will never need long-term care, but the odds say you will. Someone who turns 65 today has a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care services at some point in their lives.
5. Estate planning
None of us likes to dwell on this, but eventually our lives come to an end. It’s vital to have a plan in place so that the right assets get left to the right people in the right way. Perhaps surprisingly, even the wealthy and the famous fall short with this sometimes. When Prince died in 2016, it was discovered he had no valid will, and his sizable estate has been in litigation ever since.
Closer to home, I’ve seen situations where a property wasn’t titled correctly, causing problems for heirs. Tanya Bell, of Bell Law Firm, P.A., says, “Having a properly crafted estate plan can assist your family in avoiding the substantial expense of the lengthy probate or guardianship proceedings. One of the biggest problems we see at Bell Law Firm is that many people don’t ever fund their trusts.” When you fund a trust, you transfer ownership of assets from you to your trust. If that doesn’t happen, your beneficiaries will end up in probate, something you likely wanted to avoid by setting up the trust.
Certainly, creating a retirement plan that covers all the bases can be complicated, so consider conferring with a financial professional who understands the best strategies for making your money last. You don’t want all those years of investing and saving to go to waste.
Ronnie Blair contributed to this article.