Let’s face it. We’re a “just in time” society. With our busy lives, we do a lot of things at the last minute. Many people thrive on the adrenaline rush that often accompanies completion of a project right before its deadline.
Retirement income planning lesson #1: Don’t plan to squeak by into retirement. We simply cannot apply our “just in time” thinking to retirement. Retirement income planning is complicated, with too many things that can go wrong, many of them beyond our control. It requires a totally different mindset that runs contrary to the way most of us are use to thinking.
While there are no guarantees, a retirement income plan that’s begun and frequently revisited well before and throughout retirement provides the best opportunity for success. The basic goal of any retirement income plan is for your money to outlive you. When you see headlines like “Boomers’ Retirement Confidence Sinks,” you know this isn’t an easy goal to achieve.
Retirement income planning is especially tricky. It is quite different from retirement planning where the primary objective is accumulation of assets to obtain financial security throughout one’s retirement years. Traditional retirement planning isn’t enough to get you to the finish line in most cases today.
It’s too easy to have a false sense of comfort that one’s accumulated assets are sufficient to last for the duration of retirement only to be unpleasantly blindsided by the “sequence of returns” in the first several years of retirement. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this term, it is a series of investment portfolio returns, usually expressed annually, that has a direct impact on the longevity of an investment portfolio during the withdrawal stage. See The Sequence of Returns – The Roulette Wheel of Retirement that includes a comparison of three scenarios to help you better understand the importance of this risk to a retirement asset plan.
Retirement income planning takes retirement planning a step further. It requires planning for a predictable income stream from one’s assets, that when combined with other sources of income, is designed to meet an individual’s or family’s financial needs for the duration of retirement. This is a very important distinction. Locking in a predictable income stream in advance of one’s retirement reduces the impact of a down market in the early years of retirement.
A retirement income plan needs to have a secure floor of retirement income that will last for your, and, if applicable, your spouse’s lifetime. The timing and after-tax amount of the floor needs to correspond to ongoing and one-time predictable and unpredictable expenses that will fluctuate during different periods of retirement adjusted for inflation. To the extent that known income streams, e.g., Social Security, aren’t projected to be sufficient to cover expense needs, other sources of sustainable income need to be developed well in advance of retirement.
Don’t plan to squeak by into retirement. Trust me – there won’t be any adrenaline rush.