Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Consider Your Retirement Needs, but Don’t Forget Your Retirement Wants

You might have read or heard that you need to replace about 80% of your pre-retirement income to maintain your standard of living in retirement. Although some research validates this guideline, consider that half of today’s retirees say their spending is higher or about the same as it was when they were working.1–2

The idea that you may need less income in retirement considers that your income tax burden may be lower when you quit working and that you probably are not contributing a large chunk of your salary to retirement plans. Variables that can influence the replacement ratio — positively or negatively — include your living expenses, overall debt level, health-care costs, and whether you will receive an employer-provided pension.

Rather than focusing on how much money you’ll need to get by in retirement, take some time to envision a retirement lifestyle that you can really get excited about. Unless you plan to spend retirement being frugal, there’s a good chance that you could need more than 80% of your pre-retirement income to fund the lifestyle you seek.

More Time, More Money?

Retirement may be the first time in your life when you are free to travel, play golf, go back to school, focus on hobbies, and pursue other interests that you simply didn’t have time for during your working years.

What a disappointment it would be to retire and finally have the time, but not the money, to do as you please. If you would find it difficult to afford your ideal retirement lifestyle on your current income, it could be an indication that you are underestimating how much income you’ll need in retirement.

Changing Needs

As we grow older, what once may have been considered a luxury can become a necessity. In their list of “basic needs,” more than half of baby boomers include an Internet connection, special occasion gifts, and pet care. Many baby boomers would add family vacations, dining out, professional haircuts/coloring, movies, and their children’s or grandchildren’s education to the list of basic needs.3 And for 98% of baby boomers, health-care coverage is not a luxury but a basic need, one that they are extremely concerned about being able to afford.4

Underestimating Costs and Spending

The danger of underestimating how much you expect to spend in retirement is that it could lead you to save too little or invest too conservatively during your working years. Among the 46% of workers who have attempted to calculate how much money they will need for retirement, 44% made changes to their retirement savings strategies as a result, with the majority of changes involving saving or investing more.5

To prepare for a retirement that you can truly look forward to, consider the luxuries that your retirement-needs calculation may not account for. It could mean the difference between living well and just getting by.

1) CNNMoney, October 8, 2009

2, 5) Employee Benefit Research Institute, 2010

3) MarketWatch, August 6, 2010

4) Society for Human Resource Management, 2010

The information in this article is not intended as tax or legal advice, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek tax or legal advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.

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