Friday, April 2, 2021

Financial Planning Tips for Retirement - What the Experts Recommend

How much thought have you given to your financial planning?  Do you know how much money you will have available to you in retirement?  Have you calculated whether or not your savings will last the rest of your life? Have you considered the impact of inflation on your financial planning?  Annual expenses usually rise faster than increases in your Social Security benefits.  Have you allowed for that in your financial planning?  Are you also prepared for periodic downturns in the stock market?  Are you ready for unexpected emergencies?  

While no one can be 100 percent sure they have planned for every eventuality, it is smart to be as prepared as possible when you enter retirement.  If you are already retired, it is shrewd to periodically review your plans and be certain you are still on track to maintain your current standard of living for the rest of your life.  Reading a book such as "Retirement Heaven or Hell: Which Will You Choose?" can help you make sure you are well prepared for all aspects of retirement, and that you are staying on track.  

What are some of the specific tips financial experts have for retirees?

Protect Your Financial Security in Retirement

Keep six to twelve months of living expenses available - While you will want to invest most of your retirement savings, it is also smart to set aside six to twelve months of living expenses in an easy-to-access account which pays you some interest.  This money does not need to cover all your living expenses, since presumably a portion of what you live on will be covered by your Social Security benefits and/or any fixed pension you may have.  However, if you need additional funds each month in order to live, you want to set enough aside money so you will not need to sell stocks or bonds when the prices are low.  Having this money set aside will also give you peace of mind as you go through the ups and downs of your later years. It is important to remember that this money is specifically earmarked for living expenses.  You don't want to start spending it on travel or other expenses you may have.

Set additional money aside for planned expenses - Many financial advisors recommend that you set aside 1 to 2 percent of the value of your home every year to pay for future maintenance and repairs.  If there are other expenses you expect in the years after retirement, such as buying a new car, travel, or a potential homeowner's association assessment, you may want to set that money aside at the start of your retirement, too, so you are not caught by surprise.

Create a realistic retirement budget - How much money will you need to meet your basic expenses during retirement?  Make sure you do not forget to budget for the taxes you may have to pay on IRA withdrawals.  Then, determine whether you have saved enough money to cover those expenses for 25 to 30 years after you stop working.  If your savings will not last at your current level of spending, cut your expenses immediately at the start of your retirement.  Do not wait until you are in a desperate situation and then try to cut back.  

Most financial planners recommend that you start your retirement withdrawals by taking no more than 3 percent a year out of your savings to add to your Social Security benefits in order to cover your living expenses.  You can gradually increase this amount, but only by about 3 percent a year. In other words, 3 percent the first year, 3.09 percent the second year, 3.18 percent the third year, etc.  In this way, your savings should last 33 years or more after you retire, since presumably you will also be adding interest and/or dividends to the principle amount over the years.  If your savings will not generate enough income to meet your needs, in addition to your Social Security, you need to make changes to your lifestyle as soon as possible. Otherwise, you could run out of money in your 80s or 90s.

Meet with your insurance broker - Do you have enough life insurance to cover your funeral expenses and make up for the loss of family income in the event you die before your spouse?  Should you get long-term-care insurance to pay for assisted living or a nursing home for the last few years of your life?  You do not want to over-insure your life during retirement, since you are probably not supporting children. However, a small amount of life insurance could help provide financial security to you and your spouse.   

In addition to life insurance, ask your agent if you are carrying enough homeowner's insurance, including insurance to cover disasters such as floods or earthquakes.  An insurance broker can help you decide how much insurance you need and what size premiums will fit into your budget.  .

Choose the best Medicare plan to meet your needs - Once you reach age 65, you have two different choices you can make for your Medicare coverage.  

1.  You can choose a Medicare Advantage plan, which covers virtually all your medical needs.  You may little or no premiums over the cost of original Medicare, but you will have an annual deductible and co-pays.   For most people, this is the least expensive option, but you will be limited to only using doctors in your network, except in an emergency.  Ask your current doctor if there is a Medicare Advantage plan which they accept.  Then, you can use this less expensive option, while keeping your current physician.

2.  Or, if you want more freedom in choosing which doctors you will use, you can choose to stick with original Medicare, which covers 80% of most medical expenses, and then you can buy a Medicare Supplement and drug plan, which will cover most of the additional 20% which doctors charge.  However, the supplement and drug plan will require you to pay premiums in addition to your Medicare premiums, and those premiums usually make this the more expensive option.  Depending on the supplement you choose, you may or may not have a deductible and co-pays.  

It is highly advised that you choose the plan which will help you stay within your budget and meet your medical needs.  In addition, I also recommend that you read "10 Costly Medicare Mistakes You Can't Afford to Make."  It contains very useful information and is written by a Medicare broker who is licensed in nearly every state.  

Meet with a financial planner to decide how your savings should be invested - How much of your money should be in stocks and how much in bonds?  How will you diversify?  Will you follow Warren Buffet's advice to retirees and put your savings in a variety of index funds?  Once your money is invested, do not simply forget about it and assume everything will stay the same.  Meet with your financial planner at least annually and evaluate each holding you have to determine if it is still generating the growth and/or income you expect.  Re-balance your portfolio periodically.  Strive to live within your means and follow the general financial plan you set up when you first retired.

Do not become a victim of a scam - Sadly, many senior citizens fall for scams in their attempts to get an unusually high return on their money.  Often, this causes them to lose all or most of the money they have saved over a lifetime.  Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Stick with reputable companies and well-known investments.  

In addition, do not "loan" money to people, especially those who contact you through the internet or on dating sites.  It is very unlikely you will ever get back any of the money you loan others.  If you cannot afford to give your money away, do not loan it. Finally, ignore unsolicited phone calls and emails.  If you want to make a purchase, initiate the contact yourself, not because someone contacted you.  A very high percentage of unsolicited phone calls and emails are cleverly disguised scams.  

Read up on retirement planning - It is always a good idea to study different retirement planning programs and choose the one which you think will work best for you.  For example, you may want to occasionally read popular books on financial planning for retirement. 

If you follow these suggestions, you may not be able to avoid every possible financial disaster, but you will have substantially lowered your risk of running out of money during your lifetime.  In fact, you may even have some money and other assets left over to leave your loved ones.  You will also be able to sleep better and be more relaxed when you know you have planned your retirement well.
 
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