The Three Key Challenges of Retirement
Planning for your retirement can be challenging. It can be scary, and it can be frustrating. I have seen many clients who felt their plan was a disaster waiting to happen. As an advisor, I am here to say that you can handle it. Planning for retirement doesn’t have to be difficult—in fact, it can be fun! But in order to achieve the retirement of your dreams, you must prepare for three major challenges that every retiree is likely to face.
Challenge #1: Ensuring a Long Retirement Savings Lifespan
One of the greatest fears people have in retirement is that they will outlive their savings. Fortunately, by taking steps now, you can ensure this doesn’t happen to you.
The first step is to budget your expected expenses based on your normal day-to-day costs and any activities you want to pursue during retirement. Things like travel, hobbies, remodeling your home, etc.
Next, take a hard look at your current savings and level of income. How much are you setting aside for retirement? How much more do you need to be saving or investing in order to meet your expected budget? This is where working with a financial advisor can come in handy, because an advisor can help you determine
• how much your savings need to grow to meet your needs;
• how long you can expect your savings to last, based on when you plan on retiring, your general health, and activities;
• how to maximize your income opportunities after retirement; and
• what the ideal rate of withdrawal will be from any retirement accounts you have so you don’t run out of savings.
Once you have a plan for your retirement savings, you can move onto the next challenge:
Challenge #2: Planning for Health Care Expenses
As we age, health care becomes a bigger concern, and a more difficult one to deal with. It can be hard to find a plan that provides the coverage you need at a price you can afford. All the politics and legislation affecting the healthcare industry don’t make it easier, either.
The answer, again, is to plan ahead.
Here are a few things you can do:
1. Learn about your various Medicare options. If you are one of the lucky few who will have employer-provided health care coverage even after retirement, congratulations. But if not, start familiarizing yourself with the intricacies of Medicare now. The Federal government’s health insurance program for seniors is often referred to as a single plan, but in reality, it’s many types of plans rolled into one. From the basic level of coverage (Part A), to “Medicare medical insurance” (Part B) which covers outpatient hospital care, physical therapy, and home health care, to the more elaborate “Medicare Advantage” plans, most retirees are confronted with too many options, some of which are more appropriate than others. Choosing the best type of coverage for you will be crucial when it comes to paying for your medical expenses.
2. Look at Medigap. Medigap supplemental insurance is sold by private insurance companies, and is designed to help pay those costs not covered by Medicare. Medigap isn’t free, and certain criteria must be met before you can purchase it, but it’s definitely a route to consider.
3. Consider long-term care insurance. Important disclaimer: not everyone will need long-term care or assisted living in their lives. That said, many people do, and long-term care (LTC) insurance is one of the best ways to pay for it. It can be beneficial to purchase LTC insurance sooner rather than later, as premiums often grow higher as you grow older. However, LTC is expensive in and of itself, so give the subject a lot of careful consideration before making a decision. As you can see, paying for health care expenses is a huge part of retirement. As you create your retirement plan, make sure you give the subject all the attention it deserves.
Challenge #3: Planning for Unexpected Expenses
While health concerns are a major source of unexpected costs, there are many other types of expenses that could impact your retirement. For instance
• Car repairs. You know it will happen one day: the strange clunk-clunk sound you start hearing from your engine ends up being a problem that will cost hundreds, maybe even thousands, to fix. And if it happens more than once …
• Your bills keep going up. What goes up does not necessarily go down. Anyone who has ever paid for an internet connection or satellite TV knows that prices tend to rise over the years. Your basic utilities are prone to price fluctuation as well. A really cold winter means your gas bill will go up. If you have children in the house who keep leaving the lights on, your electricity bill will go up. You get the picture
• Household repairs. When the toilet clogs or the faucet leaks; when a window breaks or the roof starts to degrade; when wood-boring beetles infest the tree in the backyard; unless you really like to DIY, that means paying for a professional … who usually aren’t cheap.
The point of all this is to show that unexpected expenses can come at any time, in many different forms. What’s more, they can really pile up.
So, what’s the solution? Start a rainy-day fund! When most people save, they tend to just throw everything into one savings account and withdraw money whenever they either need or want to. Instead, I suggest creating a separate type of savings account: one that can only be touched whenever the unexpected happens. Every month, devote a set percentage of your income to the rainy-day fund in addition to your regular savings. Then, when your car inevitably breaks down, you won’t have to worry about it interfering with that vacation you’ve been dreaming about for years, because you’ve already set aside the funds to deal with it.
The key to starting a rainy-day fund is to do it now. If you wait until after retirement, you’ll probably have waited too long. Plus, once you’re retired, you’ll likely have less to set aside for those unexpected expenses.
Which brings us to the single most important thing you can do to meet these three key challenges of retirement. Have you guessed what it is yet?
That’s right: plan ahead.
By being proactive, by starting now, you can mitigate these challenges and prevent them from derailing your dream retirement.