Ask a financial professional: How can I be a confident spender in retirement?
Imagine you’ve been invited to go paragliding. It’s your first time and you’ve bought a top-of-the-line paraglider. You climb to the mountain top. Conditions are perfect. You step off the cliff and suddenly realize: “I have no idea how to fly this thing.”
Now imagine you’re approaching retirement. You’re an experienced saver, accumulating assets year after year. Finally, the day arrives. Conditions are perfect. You step off into retirement and suddenly realize: “I have no idea how to manage this thing.”
Would you dive off a mountain unprepared? Of course not. But the point is, many of us think we are prepared for the transition from retirement prep to retirement for real until the moment we step to the edge of that cliff. There, faced with the prospect of life without a steady paycheck, even the well-prepared can have their financial confidence shaken.
Financial professionals are well acquainted with the uncertainty that can accompany the switch from asset accumulation to decumulation, as retirees begin to convert their assets into retirement income.
“There is definitely a lot of concern,” says Nichole Mayer, RICP, a Wealth Management Advisor at Westpac Wealth Partners in San Diego. “Many people wonder, ‘Do I have enough money? Can I do what I want, or am I going to run out of assets?’”
Nichole offers suggestions that can help anyone, at any age, prepare to glide into retirement with confidence when the time is right.
Begin with expense accounting
Forecast your expenses into fixed needs and discretionary wants. Fixed expenses include the basics like mortgage and utilities, but also items that are near and dear to you. “What is fixed will vary for each person,” says Nichole. “You may consider travel to be a must and require funds for at least one trip per year. Another person could take it or leave it.” The goal is to get a true picture of what it will take to fund the retirement lifestyle you want. Be honest with yourself.
Start early, tweak often
Do your homework around expenses and then set it aside. “Revisit it every six months or so and adjust as necessary,” says Nichole. Many people start out assuming they will spend less in retirement until they realize “every day is Saturday” and their expenses may, in fact, rise
Peek over the cliff
Risk is part of life, but the impact financially becomes greater as we age. For example, the financial portfolio of a 30-year-old has far more time to recover from a dip in the market than that of a 55-year-old. “Having the risk discussion is critical,” says Nichole. She uses online tools to help clients see how issues like market volatility, sequence of return, inflation, life expectancy, health, and taxes will impact their personal situation.
Aim for balance
Balance is key to staying aloft financially in retirement. You want an asset mix and systematic withdrawal strategy that will generate a lifetime income stream to cover your fixed and discretionary expenses. “Complementing baseline retirement income sources—like Social Security and pensions—with investments like personal annuities and laddering bonds can build in a floor so you know what your retirement income will look like on a monthly basis,” says Nichole.
Seek an experienced guide
“Working with a financial professional, you can periodically check on your asset performance and get reassurance on your spending behaviors,” says Nichole. “That clarity is key to having confidence with your cash flow in retirement.”
It’s never too late to engage a financial professional. Nichole recently helped a couple nearing retirement who ran their own business and had never worked with a financial professional before. “Uncertainty about taxes is what led them to me,” she says. “When we explored their situation, they were surprised to find they could comfortably retire at age 66, instead of 70 as they had thought. Seeing the big picture, it was a decision they could make with confidence.”
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2021-128377 Exp. 10/23