By Lee Sherbakoff, CPA/PFS™, CFP®, RICP®
What’s a good amount to be able to retire comfortably? Instead of a cookie-cutter number, it depends on many variables and is unique to each person. Everyone’s version of a “comfortable” retirement will also look different. You might plan to spend your golden years close to your hometown, near family and friends. Or maybe you want to travel the world or move to a warm, sunny climate.
Whatever your retirement goals, it’s important to have an idea of how much they will cost you. Most experts say to expect to spend between 55-80% of your pre-retirement annual income per year during retirement. So, will that be enough for you? To help you answer that question, here are some things to consider to determine your magic number for your unique retirement.
When Do You Want to Retire?
Your age (now and in retirement) is one of the most significant factors to consider when determining how much money you need to save. If you want to retire early, you’ll have fewer years to save for a longer retirement. And if you start claiming Social Security benefits before full retirement age, you’ll also have to factor in a smaller monthly benefit amount.
The state of the stock market can also play a role in how much money you need and how long your money lasts. A Vanguard study found that you have a higher chance of running out of money if you retire near or during a bear market. This is known as sequence of returns risk. Of course, you have no way of knowing if we’ll be in a bear or bull market when you retire—but this is a scenario you must account for in your retirement planning.
What Are Your Retirement Goals?
Have you thought about the type of lifestyle you want to have in retirement? If you know you want to travel, play golf, or spend time with your grandkids, you need to factor in what that looks like and how much it will cost.
For example, if you plan to travel, you’ll need to consider:
- Will you be traveling stateside or internationally?
- How often do you want to travel?
- How would you like to get there? (e.g., car, plane, or RV)
- Where would you like to stay? (e.g., 5-star hotel, Airbnb, with family members)
- Will you be traveling with your family? Would you like to cover their expenses too?
- Will you maintain your primary residence? If so, who will watch your house and maintain it while you’re gone?
Even if your dream is simply to spend time with your grandkids, you’ll still need to think through your expectations and expenses. To some people, “spending time with grandkids” means babysitting a few times a week. To others, it means footing the bill for all-expenses-paid trips to various destinations of their choosing. Whatever it is you want to do with your time, map out the details so you can have a clear picture of how much you’ll need to make it a reality.
Will You Have a Retirement Income?
Working during your retirement is a great way to stay active, keep your mind sharp, and maintain a sense of purpose. Some retirees choose to build a second career through consulting. Others decide to pick up a low-stress, part-time job at a family office or retail store. No matter what you do, if you plan to work during retirement, you won’t have to save as much to live comfortably.
How Much Debt Do You Carry?
Bringing debt into retirement has two major drawbacks:
- It reduces the amount of cash flow you have for housing, travel, hobbies, and other non-essential purchases.
- It can potentially drain your retirement savings quicker, which means you may run out of money or have to adjust your lifestyle down the road.
If you carry debt, take a close look at what you owe and figure out how much cash flow you’ll need in retirement to cover these expenses. Some people prefer to pay off any high-interest consumer debt before they retire. Others will take it one step further by paying down their mortgage and auto loans too.
What Kind of Healthcare Will You Have?
Right now, you most likely have health insurance through your employer. When you stop working, you’ll need to have a plan for healthcare coverage another way. You may be able to hop on your spouse’s plan if he or she is still working. Or you can get coverage through the healthcare marketplace. You qualify for Medicare starting at age 65, but even then, you may want additional coverage to pay for prescription drugs, dental care, eye exams, and other expenses.
Retirees sometimes fail to fully plan for expenses during the later stages of retirement, and medical care often tops the list. It’s estimated that retirees will use 15% of their income for health expenses, and the average retired couple could see healthcare expenses of approximately $300,000 after age 65. Don’t let this be a planning oversight that prevents you from retiring comfortably!
Will You Still Have Dependents?
Your kids may be grown and out of the house by the time you retire, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll stop supporting them financially. Over 79% of parents said they still give financial support to their adult children (ages 18 to 34), according to a Merrill Lynch study, and the COVID-19 pandemic caused a boomerang effect, with 67% of adult children still living at home with their parents after returning home in need of financial help.
And even if you aren’t helping your kids out with daily expenses, you may want to contribute to their weddings or down payments on home purchases down the road.
Where Do You Want to Live?
Housing may be your biggest expense in retirement. And even if your home is paid off, you might want to consider downsizing to a smaller place that requires less maintenance and has cheaper utility costs.
To save even more, you can think about relocating to an area that has an overall lower cost of living. For example, the cost of living in Orlando, FL, is only 3.3% higher than the national U.S. average, whereas the cost of living in Los Angeles, CA, is 76.2% higher than the U.S. average. As you can see, where you live can make a huge impact on the overall cost of retirement.
What Is Your Family’s Health History?
The average 65-year-old man has a 35% chance of living until age 90; that rate goes up to 46% for a woman the same age. And while life expectancy is unpredictable, if your family has a strong history of living to age 90 and beyond, your chances may be even greater than these odds. In this case, you’ll need to determine if your planned retirement savings will last long enough.
Similarly, if you have known health conditions and/or a family history of health problems that could affect your life span, you’ll want to consider this too.
Your Unique Retirement Plan
While some formulas and questionnaires can help you determine your retirement number, it’s not really that simple. On the contrary, to apply to your unique situation, your magic number requires a deep dive into your financial situation, family history, and goals.
The good news is, you don’t have to go through this process alone. At Nalls Sherbakoff, we strive to simplify financial management and prioritize your unique needs, including how much you need to save for your ideal retirement. We also provide comprehensive financial planning services, equipping you with everything you need to be confident in your financial decisions.
Choosing a trusted financial advisor to manage your wealth is one of life’s most important decisions. Set up a complimentary appointment so we can see if our services are the right fit for you by calling us at (865) 691-0898 or contacting us online.
Lee Sherbakoff is principal and financial advisor with The Nalls Sherbakoff Group, LLC, an independent, fee-only financial planning and investment management firm. He specializes in serving pre-retirees and retirees, helping them create and execute financial plans and retirement income plans that lead to sustainable long-term, real-life returns that meet their deepest and most important financial goals and objectives. Lee has a Bachelor of Science in Finance from The University of Tennessee and a Master of Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College as well as the Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Personal Financial Specialist (PFS™), CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, and Retirement Income Certified Professional® (RICP®) certifications. Lee spent over 31 years in the U.S. Army Reserves, including serving at the Army’s highest levels on the Department of Army staff at the Pentagon and being deployed in support of Operation Desert Storm (1991) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (2008-2009). Lee lives by the motto, “As I served my country, I now serve you.” When he’s not giving his best to his clients, Lee enjoys giving back to the community and to his profession. He served as a council member of the Tennessee Society of CPAs and is a member of the American Institute of CPAs. In addition, he is past President of the Knoxville Chapter of Tennessee Society of CPAs and past President of the East Tennessee chapter of the Financial Planning Association. To learn more about Lee, connect with him on LinkedIn.
DISCLOSURES: The information provided in this letter is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered an individualized recommendation of any particular security, strategy, or investment product, and should not be construed as investment, legal, or tax advice. The Nalls Sherbakoff Group, LLC makes no warranties regarding the information or results obtained by third parties and its use and disclaims any liability arising out of, or reliance on the information. Please contact us if there have been any changes in your financial situation or investment objectives, or if you wish to impose any restrictions on the management of your account or modify existing restrictions. You may contact us by phone at 865-691-0898 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any indexes reflect investments for a limited period and do not reflect performance in different economic or market cycles and are not intended to reflect the actual outcomes of any client of The Nalls Sherbakoff Group, LLC. Past performance does not guarantee future results.