3 Questions That Can Make or Break Your Retirement

It seems that with the market downturn in 2008-2009, there has been concern over folks ability to retire. One of the probing questions I receive from new clients is “When can I retire?” Sounds like a simple question, and for the most part (at least on my end) it is. The difficulty usually stems from a lack of preparation by the client or a non comprehensive view. Here are a few things that often get over looked from the client’s standpoint when performing retirement projections:

1. What will retirement look like for you?
Transitioning from a full time employee or business owner to the life of leisure is a big step. It’s also a step that fewer retirees are taking in today’s world. The old picture of retirement has changed for many Americans….and not necessarily for the worse. The new picture of retirement involves a higher degree of engagement in life’s activities, whether it be part-time employment/business ownership, volunteerism, increased family involvement, or simply a schedule of engaged activities. This new picture is farther from the rocker chair on the front porch.

Understanding what retirement may involve will help to ascertain the needed nest-egg to take you to the next stage in life. While the market’s tenuous past put a damper on many retirement dreams, it doesn’t have to. There are many options to transition into a new phase in life, but this requires a little forethought and is essential to proper retirement planning.

2. What about Health Care Costs?
Now I bet I have your attention. This thought certainly drives fear into most people, especially since the media and advertisers do a wonderful job of painting a dark picture. While Medicare and Medicare supplements (Medigap policies) can do an adequate job for those 65 and older, younger retirees face the road of individual coverage. While challenging, this should not be a deal breaker for most folks. There are cooperative plans, high deductible plans, and high deductible plans tied to health savings accounts that deliver options.

Health care costs are on the rise and should absolutely be considered when planning for retirement. Living a healthy lifestyle and proactively addressing health care needs should be a critical part of the any pre-retirement plan.

3. How much will you pay in taxes?
Taxes are the single largest recurring expense most people have in their lives. Properly managing taxes during the accumulation phase of life can get you to retirement ahead of schedule. Preparing and maximizing retirement taxation can be a real difference maker when it comes to the bottom line need for retirement. Tax efficient withdrawals can save big dollars, especially for those in lower tax brackets. For example, the current ability of those in the 10-15% tax bracket to utilize a 0% capital gain tax (up to the 15% tax bracket max) can save thousands of dollars in taxes. Through proper tax planning and strategies many retirees can drop into lower tax brackets during retirement….even after populating higher brackets during pre-retirement.

A retirement plan without a solid tax plan is a mistake waiting to happen. Simply estimating what tax bracket you may fall into is not enough. A comprehensive tax picture that takes into account maximizing withdrawals by efficiently juggling the taxable and retirement account ( IRA, Roth, or other qualified plans) can mean the difference in retiring sooner than later.

The days of our grandparent’s retirement picture are dwindling, and, hopefully, the days of improper retirement planning is, as well. The simple calculation of yearly need multiplied by years of retirement (mix in inflation) is not enough. Utilizing the standard withdrawal rate of 4% against your nest-egg is not the answer either. A true retirement plan incorporates a comprehensive view to include the above topics and more. By utilizing a comprehensive view to develop a tax-efficient retirement plan that incorporates a realistic retirement picture may show you that you are closer to retirement that you realize.

If you are struggling to paint your retirement picture, you may want to seek guidance from an advisor. An organization of advisors that does a wonderful job in this area can be found on the internet at www.acaplanners.org. ACA is an organization of fee-only planners that specializes is holistic financial planning, and, yes, in full disclosure I am an ACA member!

About the author

Troy Von Haefen, CFP®
Troy Von Haefen, CFP®

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