Event planners will tell you that when you make preparations for something huge down the road – a ribbon cutting, a wedding, a visit from the president – you start by scheduling backward from the big day. You will get a handle on when to send the invitations, for instance, when to call the rental company, and which bills will have to be paid by when.
The list includes an important deadline: When you have to turn up the dial from calm preparation to single-minded obsession.
Although the timeline is longer, you can do the same with retirement. The goal is always the same with any planning objective: Attend to the details beforehand so you can enjoy the event.
A retirement planning guide for all ages
At 80 or 85, you can anticipate some health issues that could be expensive and that result in higher rather than lower cash flow needs late in retirement.
You aren’t concerned, though, because you purchased guaranteed lifetime income that started at this second stage of retirement. You took 25% of your Rollover IRA 20 years ago and purchased a Qualified Longevity Annuity Contract (QLAC).
It now provides you annually with tens of thousands of dollars of guaranteed income to pay for hospital bills not covered by Medicare, as well as a couple of part-time aides so you can stay in your home without burdening your children.
The investment advisor who would have had you drawing down savings is long retired herself, but it’s OK – your income is secure and automatic.
You have worked hard for 40 years and you are ready to travel more, spend time with the grandchildren and relax with your hobbies. You need a healthy percentage of your former salary to live on because you are still spending, and it might be needed in large chunks. Social Security provides some of your income and you might have a pension that will deposit checks into your bank account every month.
You have a third source of guaranteed income, too, because at 60 you spent a portion of your low-cost deferred variable annuity on an income annuity that also provides a monthly check. A portion of your Rollover IRA will also purchase – at a large discount – a QLAC to pay for late-in-retirement expenses.
The remainder of your retirement savings provides a cushion that allows you to spoil your grandkids or yourself once in awhile. You plan to leave the bulk of it to your heirs, which makes you happy, too.
The Big Five-Oh.
You’ve got plenty of years left to work and accumulate wealth, but now is the time to start doing some serious planning. How will the savings you have built, along with what you schedule to build for the next 15 years or so, pay for your retirement?
You have a pretty good estimate of what your monthly Social Security check will be and you can reasonably guess at how much cash you might get when you sell your house and downsize. Or is a reverse mortgage better suited for you and your family?
You know that an income annuity can provide guaranteed income for life, but you also know you don’t need to purchase one for a few years. It makes sense, though, to put the money you are saving into low-cost tax-deferred accounts to minimize costs as you continue to grow your retirement fund.
This is the time to figure out the income power your current savings have and start building strategies to realize that power.
From your early 20s to your late 40s, your main concern should be to put money aside with each paycheck for your retirement fund.
You may also be saving for a house down payment or college for the kids, as well as paying off college loans and all the other bills that accumulate, but make sure retirement savings are part of the mix. You should be building a 401(k) or a similar tax-deferred account that invests in a mix of stocks and bonds and defers taxes because you are not spending this money right now.
Plan to not obsess
When you develop a plan to save and develop the right amounts of both liquid and guaranteed income during both stages of retirement (early and late), you won’t have to obsess anywhere in the timeline.
You won’t be watching the Dow Jones average every day and calculating how many part-time jobs you will need if a recession hits. You won’t have to listen to people who tell you they know how to time the market. You won’t worry that you are paying more in taxes than you are required to or that high fees are eating up your savings. Because you have done the proper planning.
Working backward, from late retirement to wherever you are now in your retirement planning process, means you have given yourself the best opportunity to enjoy retirement.
If you have questions about annuities and how they might help meet your retirement objectives, write to me at Ask Jerry.
Or if you’d prefer to do more research on your own, take a look at the useful tools and information we offer in our Current Income Learning Center