Retirement planning has become an uncertain—and much more stressful—exercise for most Americans. Millions of workers watched their retirement nest eggs decline sharply in value in recent years, and “safe” investments such as money market investments and CDs have continued to offer relatively low short-term interest rates. Aside from current market uncertainties, there are other, more constant issues to consider, such as inflation and taxes.
Investors planning for retirement need to begin addressing some important questions well in advance of their actual retirement date: How much will retirement cost? How will I pay for it? How much can I spend each year and not run out of money? Can I plan for retirement while also meeting other financial goals, such as educating children and paying off debt?
While it may be necessary to adjust your financial expectations for retirement or even postpone your retirement date, you can still achieve retirement security. But to do so, you’ll want to engage the services of a financial planning expert. Once retained only by the wealthy, financial advisors now assist all levels of investors in making decisions about retirement. In fact, one of the most common reasons for people to begin financial planning is to build a retirement fund.
Countdown to Retirement
Have you begun your countdown to retirement? If so, a financial advisor can help you make a successful transition to the next stage of your financial life. Following are some critical areas to address with your advisor a few years before you expect to retire:
- Determine what retirement will cost. Many people enter retirement without the slightest clue as to what they want to do with their time or whether they have enough money to do it. Will you continue to work part time? Travel? Maintain a second residence? Make improvements to your existing home? Be sure you plan how you’ll spend your time because that decision will have a direct impact on how much retirement will cost you.
- Assess your sources of retirement income. Estimate the income and savings you can rely on during retirement. How much will you receive from Social Security, a company pension, a 401(k) plan, or other employee-sponsored retirement accounts? Contact the Social Security Administration at www.ssa.gov and/or your employer’s retirement benefits representatives to obtain a report listing the estimated income from these sources. In addition, you’ll want to confirm amounts in other accounts. Do you have retirement assets accumulating in an IRA or a taxable investment account? If your anticipated income does not equal or exceed your projected expenses, develop a plan to bring these two into alignment.
- Arrive at a spending limit. Once you have a handle on expected income and expenses, calculate how much you can withdraw from your accounts each year without spending down your principal. Your advisor can create various withdrawal scenarios based on forecasted investment returns, inflation expectations, and other practical financial planning considerations.
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