There's a saying that if you have your health, you have everything. Well, that's not exactly true - without adequate resources, you could enjoy a long, healthy retirement at a far lower standard of living than you'd prefer!
When preparing for retirement, it's vital to keep in mind the importance of money to your quality of life during your "golden years." And with retirements now stretching as long as 20 to 30 years - and beyond - ensuring your retirement dollars outlive you is a paramount concern.
It's been said that he who fails to plan, plans to fail. And nowhere is that concept illustrated more starkly than with retirement planning. A sound financial plan can be the difference between the retirement of your dreams and the nightmare of discovering you have too little money, too late to change financial course.
A disciplined retirement preparation plan, diligently followed, will help you develop realistic objectives ... assess progress toward your goals ... and make periodic adjustments to keep you on track.
Government research has determined that most Americans need between 60 and 80 percent of their pre-retirement income in order to maintain their standard of living during retirement. However, many financial experts have raised this figure to between 80 and 100 percent of pre-retirement income, citing skyrocketing healthcare costs, lengthening life spans, and the ever-present threat of inflation - which can rob a retirement portfolio of purchasing power over time.
Of course, how much you will need in retirement will be a function of your goals, time horizon, and spending habits. Those who want to purchase a second home and travel frequently will obviously need more than those who prefer to stay at home in their paid-off house. Consider these factors when estimating your future retirement income needs:
Your support of children who will be self-sufficient by the time you retire
Your current work-related expenses that will be dramatically reduced in retirement, such as commuting costs, daily meal expenses, dry cleaning bills, etc.
Whether your mortgage will be paid off prior to or early in retirement
Whether you will need to continue your monthly savings amount or begin to spend that amount for necessities
Your tax bill in retirement
Once you have estimated your target retirement income, you can begin evaluating your potential sources of regular income. In general, your income sources will fall into one of these three categories:
1) Government sources. The Social Security system was inaugurated during the Great Depression to augment retirees' incomes. Most experts feel that the system will remain solvent throughout much of the 21st century. Even so, a rising retirement age and cuts in benefits could reduce your monthly Social Security check. Benefits are based on the amount you earned during your working years.
2) Employer-sponsored plans. Many employers offer company-sponsored retirement plans, which generally fall into two categories. Defined benefit plans, which are normally funded by the employer and guarantee a retirement benefit based on a formula comprising number of years on the job and employment earnings. For example, a traditional pension is a defined benefit plan. Defined contribution plans, on the other hand - such as 401(k), 403(b), and 457 - rely on funding from employees, matching funds from the employer, or a combination of the two. The employee owns an account balance (subject to company rules regarding vesting) of contributions and earnings. Upon changing jobs, an employee may be able to roll over assets into the new employer's plan or into an IRA. At retirement, the employee decides how to withdraw the balance he or she has accumulated.
3) Personal savings. This is perhaps the most overlooked aspect of retirement planning. Personal savings include, but aren't limited to, balances in savings accounts, directly held assets, home equity, shares in a partnership or business, and even collectibles such as artwork and coins.
How can you determine whether you're on track to reach your retirement goals, and to make adjustments if necessary? We can help you develop a sound financial plan based on your specific situation, monitor it regularly to ensure you're making progress toward your objectives, and recommend occasional adjustments to help you stay on course.