By Ron Carson
Comedy writer Gene Perret said it well: “Retirement: it’s nice to get out of the rat race, but you have to learn to get along with less cheese.” But it doesn’t always have to be this way.
We could call this “less cheese” phase making money happen rather than making money. You turn your savings into investments and your investments into income streams.
It’s a concept that is all too important as 4 in 10 Americans are at risk of running out of money in retirement. The landscape changes when you retire. Your goal now is to conserve, grow, maintain and otherwise hold onto what you already have.
Now that you’re not drawing paychecks, making money happen is the way forward – it’s time to do retirement income planning rather than just trying not to spend your bank account. Let’s look at a few factors in the process.
What You Can Control
It’s always best to start a plan with what you can control rather than complaining or worrying about what you can’t. Your own mindfulness and awareness about how you handle money will take you a long way toward conserving it and making it work for you.
Behavioral bias helps us look at the psychology behind money – what’s the thought process behind spending or saving? Often in retirement, people fall victim to recency bias, in which they let the most recent market behavior blind us to potential changes or unpredictability in the future.
Good old-fashioned envy is also often at work. If Old Uncle Charlie is constantly bragging about how much he made in this or that investment scheme, you may be tempted to buy into it. Remember, Uncle Charlie’s plan isn’t yours. Stick to the goals and strategies you’ve worked on with your advisor for your unique journey.
Be careful to make sure your risk profile fits your goals. Your risk tolerance and your portfolio’s resilience are going to change over time according to your life stage and circumstances. Make sure the risk you take fits within your overall plan.
It can be more exciting to throw a dramatic “Hail Mary” pass rather than to run the ball. But if that deep pass attempt doesn’t fit into the situation, it could be unnecessary. Your advisor will help you create a financial plan that fits your needs without ignoring the entire playbook.
The key element to help reduce downside risk is through diversification. Going back to our football metaphor, if you constantly run the ball, you leave yourself at risk of your opponent knowing how to stop your team. The same is said with your investments. Too heavily weighted in one direction, and you could face major market disruptions.
Work with your advisor to carefully balance your portfolio, and maintain frequent contact with him or her to ensure they are actively aware of market fluctuations. When the Fed raises interest rates, the old dogma of stocks-over bonds doesn’t always work, and bonds could become more attractive.
On the other hand, you don’t want to miss out on market gains by holding too heavily in stocks – especially if you have a higher risk tolerance.
What You Can Prepare For
This section could easily be called “What You Can’t Change,” but let’s go with “What You Can Prepare For.” These are inevitable issues that we can’t evade with any amount of maneuvering, but that we can prepare ourselves for the future to make changes less shocking.
Medicare’s trust fund is projected to be depleted by 2026, meaning the monthly premiums for welfare members could go up substantially. This can add up quickly if what was once an eighth of your budget suddenly becomes a fourth of it.
This means that current wealth-builders and young professionals could reach an entirely different retirement landscape than we have now. Currently, the average person spends $42,000 per year in retirement. If your Medicare premium jumps from $300 to $700 per month, that doesn’t leave you a whole lot for cruises and grandkid visits.
Social security has been questioned since it started. Just like the depletion of fossil fuel and the disappearance of the ice caps, the specter of social security’s bankruptcy is raised every few years. Somehow, cuts are made, taxes are tweaked and retirement ages are raised and the fund remains solvent.
But that doesn’t mean it won’t change. Benefits may not completely disappear, but they could be reduced or the retirement age could go up substantially as it has in the past. Be prepared by being informed, and make sure your plan doesn’t lean too heavily on social security as it stands now.
Making Money Happen
Penny-pinching and using your senior discounts will only take you so far in the retirement years. Before long, that car repair, home repair, emergency surgery or medication will take a swipe at your savings. Add to that the fact that life expectancy is nearly 80 after hovering around 60 when social security was introduced.
However, just because you’re done working doesn’t mean your money has to be. Make sure your savings is invested and able to grow – not stuffed under the mattress. Meet with your advisor to position your portfolio for safety, but also for growth.
“Side Hustle” is the new parlance for a side-job that provides you with an extra source of income. Beyond your investment growth, real estate can be a fairly reliable side hustle if you go about it correctly. Whether you’re buying rental property or flipping a home, using real estate as an income source is a very common way to spend your retirement years. It can take less time than a full-time job but still provide income to help you meet your goals.
Other side hustles can involve investing in businesses, starting a small business, working a part-time job or consulting in your area of expertise.
Change Doesn’t Have to Be a Bad Thing
When the day finally comes that you pack up your desk in a cardboard box, take your clock off the wall, and ride the elevator down that last time – just know that life changes in retirement. It’s how you adapt to that change that makes the difference.
You’ll find out quickly that retirement isn’t just about what you’ve had rolling around in your 401(k) or your nestegg, but how you plan for income during those years. How you make money happen for the long-term? Have a conversation with an advisor who can help you see around the corner for what’s ahead.
At Carson, we help you prepare for retirement in more than just finances. We want to help you pursue your definition of true wealth – whether that’s time spent with family, a vacation on the beach, or a brand new fishing boat. Whatever your definition of true wealth – we’re here to help you pursue it.