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5 Ways to Help Protect Retirement Income

3 retirees

These rules of thumb can help keep your retirement on track.

Our friends at Fidelity Investments recently published this article, and we think you will find it useful.

Key takeaways

  • Plan for health care costs.
  • Expect to live longer.
  • Be prepared for inflation.
  • Position investments for growth.
  • Don't withdraw too much from savings.

If you're approaching the off-ramp to retirement—or already there—it's important to think about protecting what you've saved and helping to ensure that you'll have enough income throughout your retirement. After all, you worked hard to get to retirement. So you want to be able to enjoy it without having to worry about money. That means thinking ahead and planning for a retirement that may last 30 years or longer.

Here are 5 rules of thumb to help manage some things that can affect your income in retirement.

1. Plan for health care costs

With longer life spans and medical costs that historically have risen faster than general inflation—particularly for long-term care—managing health care costs is important for retirees. Retirement planning conversations should include a discussion of the impact long-term care costs have on individuals and their family’s future.

According to Fidelity's annual retiree health care costs estimate, the average 65-year-old couple retiring in 2019 will need an estimated $285,000 to cover health care costs during their retirement, and that is just using average life expectancy data.1 Many people will live longer and have higher costs. And that cost doesn't include long-term care (LTC) expenses. Having a dedicated pool of monies for long-term care expenses may be an important consideration to cover long-term care expenses, ultimately protecting your retirement income.

As reported by the US Department of Health and Human Services, about 70% of those aged 65 and older will require some type of LTC services—either at home, in adult day care, in an assisted living facility, or in a traditional nursing home.2 According to the Genworth 2018 Cost of Care Survey, the average cost of a semiprivate room in a nursing home3 is about $89,297 per year, assisted living facilities4 average $48,000 per year, and home health care homemaker services5 are $48,048 a year.

Consider long-term-care insurance: Insurers base the cost largely on age, so the earlier you purchase a policy, the lower the annual premiums, though the longer you'll potentially be paying for them. It is also important to research the strength of the company you select, as well as investigate other potential options for funding LTC costs.

If you are still working and your employer offers a health savings account (HSA), you may want to take advantage of it. An HSA offers a triple tax advantage:6 You can save pretax dollars, which can grow and be withdrawn state and federal tax-free if used for qualified medical expenses—currently or in retirement.

2. Expect to live longer

As medical advances continue, it's quite likely that today's healthy 65-year-olds will live well into their 80s or even 90s. This means there's a real possibility that you may need 30 or more years of retirement income. And recent data suggests that longevity expectations may continue to increase. People are living longer because they're healthy, active, and taking better care of themselves.

Without some thoughtful planning, you could outlive your savings and have to rely solely on Social Security for income. And with the average Social Security benefit for a retired worker currently at just over $1,419 a month, it may not cover all your needs.6

3. Be prepared for inflation

Inflation can eat away at the purchasing power of your money over time. Inflation affects your retirement income by increasing the future costs of goods and services, thereby reducing the future purchasing power of your income. Even a relatively low inflation rate can have a significant impact on a retiree's purchasing power.

Consider cost of living increases: Social Security and certain pensions help keep up with inflation through annual cost-of-living adjustments. Choosing investments that have the potential to help keep pace with inflation, such as growth-oriented investments (e.g., stocks or stock mutual funds), Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPS), and real estate securities, may also make sense to include as a part of an age-appropriate, diversified portfolio that also reflects your risk tolerance and financial circumstances.

cost of inflation

4. Position investments for growth

Overly conservative investments can be just as dangerous as overly aggressive ones. They expose your portfolio to the erosive effects of inflation, limit the long-term upside potential that diversified stock investments can offer, and can diminish how long your money may last. On the other hand, being too aggressive can mean undue risk of losing money in down or volatile markets.

An investment strategy (asset mix) that seeks to balance growth potential and risk (return volatility) may be the answer. You should determine—and consistently maintain—an asset mix that reflects your investment horizon, risk tolerance, and financial situation.

The sample target investment mixes below show illustrative blends of stocks, bonds, and short-term investments with different levels of risk and growth potential. With retirement likely to span 30 years or so, you'll want to find a balance between risk and growth potential.

Investment mix

Consider diversification: Build a diversified mix of stocks, bonds, and short-term investments, according to how comfortable you are with market volatility, your overall financial situation, and how long you are investing for. Doing so may provide you with the potential for the growth you need without taking on more risk than you are comfortable with. But remember: Diversification and asset allocation do not ensure a profit or guarantee against loss. Get help creating an appropriate investment strategy by working with a Mascoma Wealth Management Portfolio Manager.

5. Don't withdraw too much from savings

Spending your savings too rapidly can also put your retirement income at risk. For this reason, we believe that retirees should consider using conservative withdrawal rates, particularly for any money needed for essential expenses.

We did the math—looking at history and simulating many potential outcomes—and landed on this guideline: To be confident that savings will last for 20–30 years retirement, consider withdrawing no more than 4%–5% from savings in the first year of retirement, then adjust that percentage for inflation in subsequent years.

Consider a sustainable withdrawal plan: Work with a Mascoma Wealth Portfolio Manager to develop and maintain a retirement income plan, so you won't run out of money, regardless of market moves.

You can do it

After devoting many years to saving and investing for your retirement, switching from saving to spending that money can be stressful. But it doesn't have to be that way if you take steps leading up to and during retirement to manage these 5 key rules of thumb for your retirement income.

This information is intended to be educational and is not tailored to the investment needs of any specific investor.

  1. Estimate based on a hypothetical couple retiring in 2019, 65-years-old, with life expectancies that align with Society of Actuaries' RP-2014 Healthy Annuitant rates with Mortality Improvements Scale MP-2016. Actual expenses may be more or less depending on actual health status, area of residence, and longevity. Estimate is net of taxes. The Fidelity Retiree Health Care Costs Estimate assumes individuals do not have employer-provided retiree health care coverage, but do qualify for the federal government’s insurance program, Original Medicare. The calculation takes into account cost-sharing provisions (such as deductibles and coinsurance) associated with Medicare Part A and Part B (inpatient and outpatient medical insurance). It also considers Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) premiums and out-of-pocket costs, as well as certain services excluded by Original Medicare. The estimate does not include other health-related expenses, such as over-the-counter medications, most dental services and long-term care.
  2. https://longtermcare.acl.gov/the-basics/how-much-care-will-you-need.html
  3. Based on 365 days of care.
  4. As reported, monthly rate, private, one bedroom.
  5. Based on annual rate divided by 12 months (assumes 44 hours per week).
  6. US Social Security Administration, October 2018.

 

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