The “We’ll Miss You” cards are filed away, the last official pay-check has been deposited and the curious sensation of owning your time 24/7 has started to seem normal. Congratulations, you’re officially retired. And, while the definition of that word can mean many different things – especially if you still have ownership shares in a business – it is traditionally a license to start enjoying more leisure time and some of those bucket list items that you’ve added over the years.
By now you should have worked out how you’ll be using your nest egg, which will include savings and investments, proceeds from the sale of your primary home in lieu of a retirement home, along with other sources of income – such as social security, 401(k) or Individual Retirement Accounts, rental income, corporate and federal pensions, wages from a part-time job or consulting gigs. Whether you’re working with a wealth manager, personal banker or financial planner, you should also have a clear idea of what percentage of your retirement date assets you can draw each year – while always adjusting the amount for inflation.
However, the real key to executing your plan well and living the proverbial good life for all your remaining years is flexibility. A volatile economy means your rates of return will vary greatly and you’ll have to be vigilant so that external forces and the often more dangerous internal spending demons don’t threaten that plan. Here’s what to watch out for:
- Beware of early spending spikes. That round-the-world cruise or Caribbean vacation home may sound mighty tempting, and the cost may not seem exorbitant when compared to your total assets. However, spending too much too soon puts your entire long-term plan at great risk. Don’t fall prey to a post-retirement spending spree – stick to your budget.
- Be prepared for the unexpected. Changes in longevity mean that many retirees still have the joy of healthy, active parents. That status can quickly change and if you are the designated caretaker a parent’s medical and long-term care costs can take an incredible toll on retirement assets. At the same time, as children live at home longer, it’s entirely likely that your previously empty nest could be full again, perhaps even as a caretaker for grandchildren. Potential family issues should be considered when setting your budget.
- Don’t be house rich and cash poor. That 5-bedroom/5-bathroom home served you well when you were raising a family, but is it really necessary now? The cost of maintaining a large property, from lawn care and repairs to taxes, can eat up a good chunk of money. If your home is essential to your definition of the good life and you’re willing to sacrifice spending on other adventures, so be it – but it might make sense to discuss how freeing up cash by downsizing can beef up your budget.
- Have a tax strategy. Chances are you’re in a lower tax bracket after you retire, but that doesn’t mean you should be forgetting about the IRS. Because some of your assets will be tax-deferred, there are a number of considerations – such as which reserves to tap into first. Keep the lines of communications open with your tax attorney or accountant – including an estate planner to ensure remaining assets will ultimately be maximized for your heirs.
The most important element deserving your attention during retirement is your health. Investing in a personal trainer or gym membership, joining a biking group or yoga class or taking daily walks with friends and neighbors can all contribute to your physical and emotional wellbeing and add years to your good life.