Invest Retirement

Do I Have Enough Money To Sustain My Lifestyle?

Jean Chatzky  |  July 1, 2019

What does retirement look like these days?  If you’re anything like the 3,700 people surveyed by AgeWave, it looks like about 7.5 hours of leisure time a day.  That, 92% of people say, is enough to have the freedom and flexibility do whatever they want. The vast majority emphasize they’re looking for experiences over things, a combination of everyday experiences that might be time spent in low-stress, health improving endeavors (think exercise, yoga, mindfulness) and special “peak” experiences (think the type that you share on social media for your friends and followers to envy).  Of course that’s not all. Research from AARP shows that three in four 50-plus adults say they’d like to stay put – in their own homes, in their own neighborhoods. And there’s more: Many retirees are working at least part time. Many are taking care of family members. Many are volunteering in their own communities or the world.

But here’s the thing, however you envision it, retirement is typically a time of life where more money is going out than coming in. So, how do you know if you’ve got enough money to sustain your lifestyle?   You’ve got to dig in. That’s why USAA rolled out its #LifeUninterrupted program, explains JJ Montanaro, a certified financial planner with USAA’s Military Affairs Advocacy Group. If you want to figure out where you start, specifically, you can dive in here.  But pausing to take a look at the following facts of your life now – and in the years ahead – will also help.

Conduct A Reality Check

When you’re retired, expenses don’t go down and yet…

When we look at averages, the amount spent each year by older households (those run by people 65 or older as defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics) is about $46,000.  That’s about $1,000 less than the amount spent by all of the household in the US, again on average. What that means is that the rule of thumb that says you should plan on needing to replace about 85 percent of your pre-retirement income may not work; you may need it all.  

It also means is that you should take a good look at whether or not average applies to you.  For example, when you look at how you spent your money before retirement, did you have a hefty budget for commuting due to a monthly train pass, gasoline or parking? Once you’re not going to the office each day, that may free up a few thousand a year.  And, how much were you socking into savings? Now that you’re a net spender, whatever you were automatically contributing to your retirement plan is another line item you no longer need to fork out. Then look at the flipside. The amount you spend on health insurance – if you were previously heavily subsidized by an employer – may go up by thousands a year.  And if you spent your week working long hours and your weekend essentially at home recovering, you’ve got many choices in how to spend your new free time – and they involve money. The point: Try to run some actual numbers before you retire to see where you’re likely to fall. 

Get Real About Whether You’ll Continue To Work (And How Much You’ll Earn If You Do) 

According to the 2019 Retirement Confidence Survey from the Employee Benefits Research Institute, 80 percent of workers believe they will work for pay during retirement – yet only about 28 percent actually do.  Not only that, the majority are expecting that the money they bring in will be at least a minor source of income.  

 This is an important issue, Montanaro notes – and not just for the people who believe they’ll continue to receive a paycheck in retirement, but for the more than 40 percent who are forced to retire at an earlier age than expected because of a health issue or a job loss.  “You don’t want [the ability to earn money over a longer period of time] to be the excuse for not doing the saving you need to do during your primary working years,” he says. “It sounds like it is for a lot of workers.” 

Consider The House 

One way to give yourself significant breathing space as you enter retirement is to do so with a paid-off mortgage.  Yes, it may take some careful planning, lining up the term of your loan so that you retire it just as you retire yourself.   “It creates so much more flexibility and options if you don’t have it,” Montanaro notes. Not only do you only have to account for taxes, insurance and maintenance (and don’t give the latter short-shrift, but rather sock away 1 to 2 percent of the value of your house for major and minor fixes each year), but it opens the door to the possibility of a reverse mortgage.  Although these loans (which allow people 62 and older to tap into their home equity) have their critics, many experts advocate using one as a back-pocket line of credit that you can tap into if your portfolio is having a down year rather than being forced to raise cash for living expenses at a loss.  

Learn more about how you can live #LifeUninterrupted at USAA.com/myretirement, and consider getting a no-charge retirement review today by calling 1-800-531-3392. 

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