Tips to Ensure Your Retirement Income

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In the early 1990's, I started my career in the financial industry with one of the most well-known Wall Street firms. Many changes have occurred since 1993. Thousands of different investment strategies have been created. Banks and insurance companies have become financial planning and investment firms, and the reverse as well. We have seen technology break down the barriers to access that once greatly benefited the major banks, and the emergence of independent private wealth management firms.

But today, the biggest challenge that all advisors have to deal with, irrespective of what firm you own or work for, is an environment where the expected rate of return and the risk associated with getting that return has changed, especially for older investors. In other words, your income during retirement is lower today than it has been in a long time.

So what should you do to ensure retirement income? The simple answer is to save more and plan achievable and realistic rates of return during retirement. Three to six percent is reasonable, depending on age and whether you want to exhaust your savings or pass it on. Below are ten steps towards doing just that.

1. Eliminate as much debt as you can. Start focusing on this well before you retire by living below your means and paying down floating rate debt first, such as credit cards and home equity lines.

2. Fix the rate on any debt you cannot eliminate. Although mortgage rates have risen a bit, they are still very low. In some cases, it may even make sense to raise your monthly payment a bit to secure a predictable fixed rate.

3. Insure your earnings with life insurance especially in the last few years of work if you identify that you need more savings to achieve the lifestyle you desire.

4. Approaching retirement or at retirement, assess your insurance coverage. Often times, pre-retirees and retirees are over-insured in life insurance yet have no long-term care or proper health insurance. Explore the concept of co-insurance when buying long-term care. In other words, compare the cost of a policy that pays for 30 percent to 70 percent of future care costs rather than 100 percent, because it will likely be less expensive. This can be done if you have saved and can cover some costs in the event you need the care.

5. Plan so you know what you need. Analyze pensions, Social Security, real estate income, etc. to get an exact number that needs to come from savings, interest or investment gains.

6. Consider taxes when planning. It is critical to understand that tax rates vary. Drawing principle from a taxable account with no realized capital gains costs nothing, individual retirement accounts and other retirement distributions are taxed as ordinary income, and Social Security and real estate have their own tax ramifications, so look at after-tax or net income not pretax.

7. Get liquid before you retire. Having a substantial net worth and very little liquidity can greatly restrict the income you receive. This is particularly tough when interest rates rise or are high.

8. Consider less traditional and less liquid investments in exchange for security and higher yield. Many have floating rates that will increase the income as rates rise rather than losing value and having fixed rates.

9. Don't chase yield. Several bond markets, such as high-grade municipals, AAA-rated corporate and government-backed bonds may be susceptible to a major correction. These bonds are interest-rate sensitive and therefore their values go down as rates rise.

10. Don't be afraid to spend savings if you have accumulated enough.

I hope this helps. Start your planning now and it should work out just fine.

Michael Patrick Jacobs, CFP®, is a Partner at Monument Wealth Management, a Registered Investment Advisory firm located just outside Washington, D.C. in Alexandria, VA. Follow Mike and the rest of Monument Wealth Management on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, and their "Off the Wall" blog which can be found on their website.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendation for individual. To determine which investment is appropriate please consult your financial advisor prior to investing. All performance referenced is historical and is not guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.



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