People who have money left over after they fund their lifestyle and save the necessary amount for retirement every month often wonder what they should do next. Many people who ask me for advice about what to do with their extra income are trying to seek approval for their desire to inflate their lifestyle. Instead, I give them this checklist of things to consider before they start spending more:
Keep saving. Unless you came into a huge windfall, you probably don't have enough assets to say that you are saving too much. There are way too many unknowns to accurately say that you are saving too much for your future. There could be changes in your marital status, a growing family, a need to support your family financially, a dive in investment performance, and decades of inflation, just to name a few of the things that could disrupt your savings plan. During the first two decades of your working life, the best thing you can do for your financial life is to save as much as you can live with.
Reconsider your assumptions. Seriously think about whether you are really comfortable with what you've already accumulated for retirement. You can't assume that your income will grow consistently all the way until you are 65. You should stress test your retirement plan to see if your assumptions are really solid. What if you are laid off and don't have income for a year? What if your parents need financial support? Make sure you include the possibility of financial shocks in your retirement plan.
Consider lowering your risks. If you have an extra savings cushion, you might want to reduce the risks that you are taking with your investments. By owning more bonds instead of stocks, you are limiting your maximum upside, but you can also drastically lower the chances that an unpredictable economic event can ruin your financial cushion.
Buy an annuity. Another possibility is to buy a few annuities that guarantee payments for the rest of your life. Although some annuities have high costs, knowing that a check will always arrive like clockwork can help relieve financial stress, which is ultimately what comfortable living is all about.
Spend less time working. Instead of buying more stuff, you could spend less time working and gain more time to do what you actually enjoy. Many people in our society work long hours just to pay for their stuff, which is such a stressful way to live. If you've already saved enough for retirement, it's time to develop interests outside of your finances.
Spending more sounds great on the surface, but it's not always the best choice. Having more money than you know what exactly to do with is a great problem to have, but you shouldn't waste the opportunity to ultimately make your life better.
David Ning runs MoneyNing, a personal finance site that shares money moves you can make to significantly increase your chances of having a comfortable retirement. He likes to share simple changes that anyone can make, such as picking the best online savings account and figuring out whether a 0 percent balance transfer credit card makes sense.
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