12 Tips for Making Your Retirement Savings Last

It’s an interesting time to think about retirement with so much uncertainty in the world. At the same time, planning for the future is essential. If you don’t already have a savings plan, now is the perfect time to start thinking about how you’ll support yourself and your family during your golden years.

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Here are some tips, tricks, and suggestions to ensure your savings last long enough to enjoy a comfortable life after retirement.

1. Diversify Your Portfolio

Building a retirement savings plan isn’t something that’s taught in most modern public schools. Many graduates emerge from these hallowed halls of learning with the mistaken understanding that a 401(k) is all they need to live a comfortable retirement. It is one piece of the puzzle, but it often isn’t enough to support an individual or couple throughout their entire retirement.

Another solution to this problem is to diversify your investment portfolio. Investments are already risky due to the inherent volatility of the marketplace. Diversify by investing in various stocks, bonds, and other options like annuities, real estate, or specific sectors.

Diversification can earn money in sales and support retirement in dividends, depending on the marketplace. Annuities are a popular choice for retirement funds because they are guaranteed to provide a fixed amount of income annually, often for the remainder of your life.

2. Follow the 4% Rule

Once you’ve reached retirement age, the question becomes how you’ll manage your money. It’s easy to splurge on what you’ve always wanted to do or places you’ve always wanted to go. A financial adviser named William Bengen offered an answer to this question — the 4% rule.

It’s simple: You can withdraw up to 4% of your retirement funds during the first year. You then adjust your withdrawal to account for inflation. For example, if you have $1 million put away as your retirement fund, you can safely withdraw $40,000 in the first year. If inflation goes up by 2%, your withdrawal will increase to $40,800 to compensate for the increase in costs. The same rule applies if it goes down. Reduce your withdrawal to $39,200 if inflation drops by 2%.

According to Bengen, following the 4% rule can enable a retirement portfolio to last 30-50 years. Most people retire at 65, with an average life expectancy of 74.5 years for men and 80.2 years for women in the United States. Following this rule can ensure these funds last for the rest of your life.

3. Create a Retirement Budget

How confident are you that your savings will last long enough? A recent survey found that only 31% of adults are convinced they will have enough money to live comfortably through their retirement. Only 21% of baby boomers are confident that their savings will last.

The need to create and stick to a budget doesn’t end when you leave the workforce. Take the time to sit down and develop a retirement plan. Figure out how much income you’ll need and incorporate any expected changes to your spending habits. You’ll need to pay close attention to things like travel and the additional medical expenses that come with aging.

4. Understand How Medicare Works

Another essential tip to follow when ensuring that your retirement savings last throughout your golden years is understanding how Medicare works. Once you reach retirement age, you’ll need to sign up for Medicare Part A and Part B. Part A serves as your hospital insurance, while Part B is medical coverage. You generally only need to sign up for Parts A and B once.

You have the option to change the way you receive your health coverage each year. You can choose Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage, also known as Medicare Part C. Original Medicare will also open opportunities to choose drug coverage, known as Part D, and other supplemental offerings.

Medicare covers part but not all of your health care costs. Some services, like Medigap’s supplemental coverage, can help cover some of those expenses. There is also no limit to what you may need to pay out of pocket. You’ll need to stick to in-network doctors and hospitals, and your medical care must be deemed necessary to be covered.

5. Know When to Claim Social Security Benefits

The retirement age in the United States and worldwide keeps climbing. For decades, 65 was the goal, but in the next year or two, it will rise to 67. You’ve got the option to claim Social Security benefits starting at 62 — a full five years before retirement — but that comes at a cost. You will never gain your full benefits if you opt to claim your benefits early.

You can claim your full Social Security benefits at 67, but the longer you wait, the more you’ll be eligible for. Waiting until you reach 70 offers optimal payouts if you have the means. The amount of money you receive also depends on your work history and the amount you’ve contributed to Social Security taxes throughout your working life. It may also change due to cost of living adjustments. You can get a rough estimate of how much you might receive using SSA’s online tools.

Anyone reaching retirement age in the next few years will be able to claim their Social Security benefits. There is no telling what these might look like in a few decades. President Trump proposed cutting Social Security funding by up to 89%. Even without these threatened cuts, costs are expected to rise to a point where the current budget will only cover 75% of benefits before 2035. Anyone who won’t reach retirement age before 2035 shouldn’t plan to rely solely on Social Security.

6. Treat Your Home as an Asset

Your home can be an important asset for retirement savings as any 401(k) or investment portfolio. Some people prefer to go into retirement debt-free, but you can also use your house and its value as a safety net. Consider opening up a home equity line of credit (HELOC). You can use it to borrow against your home’s value.

Applying before you officially leave the workforce will make it easier to receive approval if you plan to go this route. You can still secure that line of credit after retirement, but it’s more complex than if you’re currently employed and have a steady income.

Remember that a HELOC shouldn’t be used as spending cash or vacation funds. Instead, consider relying on it for emergencies like expensive home repairs. It can also provide a safety net if you lose money in a market downturn. A diversified portfolio can help reduce those losses, but it’s not a perfect plan. Don’t rely on a single form of income to support you throughout your retirement.

7. Have Enough Petty Cash for 6-12 Months of Expenses

Saving for retirement is something many people struggle with. A MoneyMangnify poll of more than 2,000 people found that nearly 60% of them believe they’ll never be able to save enough money to retire. Ultimately, you want to have enough varied income sources that you’ll have something else to take its place if one falls.

Dividends and interest can provide some income, but it’s subject to the whims of the stock market. Your retirement fund may gain some money in interest, depending on the details of your investment, but it usually isn’t enough to offset any withdrawals you make over the years.

Having a solid bank account that you can rely on can act as another safety net, giving you enough funds to support your retirement lifestyle and meet your needs without struggling. The exact amount you should have stashed away varies depending on the expert you ask, but in general, you’ll want to have six to 12 months of income on hand. This will depend on your budget, which you should already have in place by the time you hit retirement.

8. Stock up on Frequent Flier Miles and Reward Points

Did you travel much during the years you spent in the workforce? Things like frequent flier miles, reward points, and savings apps can help make things more comfortable during retirement. It can also make all those trips you have planned kinder to your wallet.

Frequent flier miles and reward points don’t last forever. Learn how to make the most of them. Along the same lines, look into credit cards and lines of credit that offer cash back or reward points that you can use for other tasks or trips. Every little bit helps if you plan to spend much of your retirement traveling worldwide.

A growing trend has even seen individuals and couples retiring on cruise ships because the costs of living full time on one of these floating cities are less than on land. If you’ve taken cruises in your life and collected reward or loyalty points, that could reduce the cost of your retirement even further. It isn’t an option for everyone, especially those prone to seasickness, but it’s becoming a viable option.

9. Monitor Your Account and Data Security

Everything is digital these days, from credit accounts to medical records. Your retirement funds and related data are also online. It makes managing your portfolio more convenient, but as with any connected system, it is vulnerable to hackers and data breaches.

There were more than 1,000 data breaches in 2020 alone, impacting the information security of 155 million Americans. These hacks usually result in the loss or theft of private information. Breaches are different from data leaks, which can occur accidentally or when a third party deliberately releases intelligence. Leaks aren’t usually direct attacks.

A data breach that involves your retirement funds can be costly. The good news is that your money is likely insured and will eventually be replaced. Still, if someone drains your account, you lose out on any interest or dividends you could be earning during that period. It could also put other parts of your digital footprint at risk.

Work with the affected company to fix the problem if you’re involved in a data breach. Most companies, especially financial institutions, will offer tools to help repair any damage done. They’ll also monitor your identity, credit report and digital footprint for more information that might be floating around on the internet.

10. Consider Other Variables

Your career and the size of your retirement fund aren’t the only things you need to consider when trying to ensure your savings last for the remainder of your life. There are other variables to consider. Are you married? If you’ve ever been married and have gone through a divorce, it could impact your funds or delay your plans.

A 2018 study found that divorced households are 7% more likely to not have enough money for retirement due to the need to divide assets. They also often have lower wealth and earnings overall than married couples. Make sure you understand your rights. Even after a divorce, you may still be entitled to a payout from your spouse’s 401(k) via a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). This form is often the only way to get a payout if you’re not listed as the primary beneficiary of a retirement plan.

These steps are easier to manage if your divorce was amicable, but it isn’t a strict requirement. Consider hiring a lawyer or another intermediary to handle the paperwork and manage contact points to keep the entire exchange civil.

11. Hire a Professional

There are often a lot of rules and requirements to consider when dealing with a retirement fund. You can keep track of everything yourself, but sometimes the best thing you can do is hire a professional. Having a financial planner in your back pocket can make things easier.

These professionals can counsel you on wealth management, guide your investments, and advise on fortifying or diversifying your investment portfolio. They can also help manage the taxes and fees of a retirement account.

There’s no room for error when maintaining your retirement savings. Hiring a professional can be expensive, with most either charging by transaction or billing an hourly fee for their services. Still, it’s worth having a pro on your side when you’re dealing with a hefty account.

12. Figure Out How You Want to Spend Retirement

Once all the paperwork is handled and you have a plan for how to fund your lifestyle once you leave the workforce, the fun can begin. You get to figure out how you want to spend your retirement. After 40+ years working for a living, you can do whatever you want — and whatever your careful planning and saving lets you afford.

Do you want to travel the world? Write a book? Get to low earth orbit? There is an entire world of options and opportunities out there. Decide what you want to do once you’re done working and plan accordingly. Keep in mind that if you’re still a few decades away from reaching retirement age, the cost of living and price of your dream vacations will likely rise. Inflation has been growing steadily for years, and it’s at the highest it’s been in decades. There is nothing to suggest that this trend won’t continue, at least for a while.

Make Your Retirement Savings Last

Saving enough for retirement is only part of the equation. Once you have a plan in place, you must ensure it can support you comfortably for the remainder of your life. Don’t cut corners when it comes to setting things up. Make sure you have plenty of savings and multiple forms of passive income, such as an investment portfolio or an annuity.

From there, it’s crucial to have a clear idea of what you want to do with your retirement. Be smart about your spending, and a solid savings plan should easily support you comfortably for the rest of your life.

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