How to Avoid Shipwrecking Your Retirement
Dear Rich Lifer,
You’ve worked incredibly hard in order to save up to retire. The road to retirement can be a difficult one that requires both social and financial sacrifices in order to save enough for a comfortable retirement. This is why it’s crucial to avoid as many financial mistakes that could compromise the security of your retirement plan as you can.
Not to fear! I’ll highlight some of the common mistakes people make with their retirement funds so that you can avoid these slip ups.
Not Having a Plan
According to the Retirement Confidence Survey from the Employee Benefits Research Institute, 48% of workers haven’t calculated how much money they need to save for retirement. If you don’t have a plan, you are setting yourself up for failure. In fact, Fortune magazine published a study which showed that people with written plans end up with an average of five times the amount of money at retirement as compared to those with no written plansThere is no “one size fits all” when it comes to a financial plan, but experts suggest you aim to have enough saved up to in your retirement account and income from other sources to equal 80% of your income at the time you retire..
Taking Social Security Too Early
Although you can start collecting Social Security Payments at age 62, your monthly checks are reduced if you start collecting benefits so soon. This could mean your benefits are reduced by almost 30%! To claim your full benefits you must sign up for Social Security at your full retirement age, which varies based on date of birth. So, for a worker eligible for a $1,000 monthly Social Security benefit at his full retirement age, claiming at age 62 reduces their monthly payment to $750 if his birth year is 1954 and if they were born in 1957 it brings the amount down to $725.
Of course, there can be reasons to start collecting social security early, such as health concerns or an issue with your work status, but if you have the choice, make sure you think long and hard about when the right time is to start your collection.
Cashing Out Before You Retire
It’s very tempting to dip into a sizable retirement fund, but as much as you tell yourself you will pay yourself back, once that money is gone it is usually gone for good. It is also important to remember that you have to pay income tax on any money you withdraw from an IRA. You also can face a 10% early withdrawal penalty if you withdraw money before the age 59 ½. If you absolutely must take out funds from your 401(k), there is a loophole you can use to take money out with no penalty. You can take penalty-free 401(k) withdrawals beginning at age 55, if you leave the job associated with that 401(k) account at age 55 or later.
Spending Too Much Too Soon
When most people retire they are still living active and healthy lives. This will most likely result in wanting to spend money on activities such as trips, vacation homes, or boats. However, always make sure you are keeping track of your spending. If you live into your 90s you will still need resources in order to take care of yourself for your whole life.
Playing the Stock Market
This one may seem a bit counterintuitive, but hear me out. Most people automate their 401(k) savings and investments while they are actively working so they can focus on other things. However, once retired some retirees think they are smart enough to take on Wall Street and take control of their own financial fate. My advice here may seem harsh, but unless you have experience with the market, or have someone who does know what they are doing, most likely you are not smart enough to beat Wall Street at it’s own game. Ultimately it may be a much better idea to stick to a low-cost diversified ETF or mutual fund. Either way, if you decide to play the stock market, make sure it is with funds you are comfortable losing. Never invest money you can’t afford to lose.
Failing to Account for Inflation
Right now the government states that inflation is barely 2%; however, there is no way to tell if, or when, higher inflation will occur. Inflation is often an issue for retirees because pensions may not be adjusted for inflation. Further, many jobs fail to offer a traditional pension plan. In fact, Only 17 percent of private industry employees were offered a traditional pension plan in 2018, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Social Security payments are adjusted for inflation annually; for example, recipients will get 2.8 percent bigger checks in 2019. However, this often only accounts for the increase in Medicare costs. So make sure you should keep a portion of your savings invested in assets that increase with inflation, such as real estate, stocks or rental properties.
Failing to Prepare for Medical Expenses
Many retirees have Medicare which covers most medical bills, alongside supplemental insurance. However, many forget that you must also be prepared to pay for deductibles, uncovered procedures and copays. These costs can add up over time. In addition, some health expenses, such as dental, eyeglasses, or hearing aids, are not covered by Medicare. Putting aside funds for health expenses that are likely to occur later in life will save you a lot of headache down the road for unexpected medical expenses..
Also remember, most people become eligible for Medicare during the months around their 65th birthday. If you don’t sign up for Medicare during this initial enrollment period, you could be charged a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Medicare.
Not Spending Enough
This may seem odd, but it is possible to be too cautious when it comes to spending your retirement savings. Of course it’s great to leave your kids an inheritance, but there is no reason to scrimp and save if you have enough money in the bank. Don’t put yourself through Unnecessary financial hardships that could be easily avoided by being realistic about your spending plan.
I hope that these tips will be helpful to you as you move forward with your retirement plan! I know it can seem like a daunting task, but with the right research, and planning, you can retire comfortably, and live out your golden years the way you always pictured them.
To a richer life,