8 Esteemed Experts Offer Smart Strategies for the Transition to Retirement

The transition to retirement is exciting and scary.  Like all big events – graduations, relocations, marriage, childbirth, and more – life will never be the same again.
transition to retirementTo make your planning for this transformation easier, here is advice from retirement and personal finance experts.

Go for Risk and Reward

You have a lot of choices for how to invest your retirement savings. You can create predictable income streams from systematic drawdowns and relatively safe investments. Or, you can ride a roller coaster of returns and probably see some years of high income and some years of low (but ultimately a higher average income over your lifetime).

Neal Frankle is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and a popular columnist for The Wealth Pilgrim, a personal finance blog. He suggests the riskier strategy for your transition to retirement.

“If you want to create ‘safe’ income from mutual funds you must first define ‘safe.’ Is it more important to you that your income is fixed? If that’s how you define ‘safe,’ you will likely struggle with inflation down the line – and ultimately this decision may jeopardize your financial future. I can make the case that this route is anything but ‘safe’ over the long run. If you define ‘safe’ as having sufficient income over the long-run you’ll turn to equity growth. The downside will be short-term fluctuation of your capital and your income.”

Look Forward to Something

Janet Tyler Johnson is a contributor for Investing Truths.  However, her advice is not about how much you save or how you invest.  She believes that the key to a great transition to retirement is in knowing what you want to do with this phase of your life.  According to Johnson, we all need things to look forward to.

“It’s the clients that are retiring that I worry about the most because some of them have had very fulfilling careers and really don’t know what they are going to do in the next chapter of their lives. To truly invest in yourself you have to have things to look forward to whether it’s your next vacation, or taking up a new hobby, or creating a business out of a hobby you already have, or getting involved in some new cause you care about,” says Johnson.

Save Everywhere

You have options about where you save for retirement.  You can put money into your company’s 401(k) plan, a health savings account, an IRA, and even non-tax-advantaged accounts.

So what is the best choice?  According to the personal finance web site, Living on the Cheap, if you are nearing retirement, the right answer might be “all of the above.”

You have limited working years ahead of you.  Now is the time to maximize all of your savings options.  Save as much as possible and use tax-advantaged options when available.  And, don’t forget that you have the option of saving more in IRAs and 401(k)s with catch up contributions after the age of 50.

The more you save now, the sooner you can retire (and the more you can spend).

Small Things Matter

Julie Rains, a contributor to the website Investing to Thrive, describes what she learned about investing during the process of training for a half ironman competition.

One of her observations is that small things matter. “I figured that in a 70.3-mile race over seven to eight hours, short stops here and there wouldn’t matter. But they did — snippets of time eroded my race time by 15-20 minutes minimum,” says Rains.

“Similarly, in finance and investing, there’s nothing inherently wrong with paying a fee or a even premium for a valuable product or service. And decisions about the larger issues are typically more important than smaller ones. But it’s a big mistake for me to dismiss the idea that small charges don’t make a difference. They can easily erode my investment returns as well as my ability to set aside money for investing. I grasp more clearly how paying attention to the details is important over the long haul.”

Focus on Things You Can Control

In life and in investing, there are a lot of unknowns.

Taylor R. Schulte, a Certified Financial Planner in San Diego and the founder and CEO of Define Financial, recommends that instead of worrying too much about external economic factors, you focus instead on things you can control, for example, saving more, spending less, cutting costs, reducing investment expenses, improving asset allocation, using asset location (i.e. what type of accounts your assets are held in) and mitigating taxes.

Scale Back Risk in Your 50s

As you age, your investments have less time to recover from big losses.  As you transition to retirement, you might need access to money and have to sell before you can regain your initial investment or some of your previous profits.

Joseph Hogue, of My Stock Market Basics, recommends a balanced asset allocation strategy: “The solution for investing safety in your 50s…pulling back on risk in your portfolio. The target asset allocation calls for just half your investments in stocks, followed by bonds (25%), real estate (15%), and five percent in both cash and alternative assets.”

Use the Bucket Strategy for Generating Retirement Income

Fitz Gilbert (writing for the Retirement Manifesto) created a compelling infographic describing how to put your money into three different “buckets,” or three different accounts. Each of these “buckets” has its own goal and investment strategy.

  1. The first bucket contains cash or cash equivalents.  The purpose of this money is to avoid having to sell stocks in a downturn.
  2. The second bucket is about creating income from your money.  These assets you might want to invest in bonds, CDs, REITs, and dividend-paying stocks.
  3. The third bucket is for long term growth.  This money can be exposed to more risk and can be invested in stocks, junk bonds, and commodities.

Get Serious in Your Fifties

Gary Weiner, of SuperSavingTips.com, offers 9 steps you should take in your fifties. He says that your fifties are “a marker in your prime working life. You’re now a senior in the real terms of work, experience, and your earnings potential. Now is time to get your ducks all lined up for the big day when you can actually walk into the golden years’ sunshine of retirement which is inching closer to you now more than ever before!”

Retirement Math

John Nardini, on ESIMoney.com, suggests a simple formula for retirement. He outlines retirement math that enables you to “retire with your assets able to create enough income for you to live on (without spending any of the assets).”

It is Not All About Investments

“Focusing too much on the investing component of financial planning could be of detriment to your overall retirement plan…

“As advisors (and as investors) we have no ability to control the stock market, so why do we pay it so much attention? On the other hand, we can control our behavior.” says Having more than one financial advisor makes it more likely your exclusive focus will be on your investments rather than your financial plan. That’s bad.” says Benjamin Brandt in his article, “Do I Need Two Financial Advisors,” on RetirementStartsTodayRadio.com

Know What It Takes to Get the Income You Want

“Don’t be too cautious with your investments in retirement, inflation is a retiree’s worst enemy. On the flip side don’t take on excessive investment risk in an effort to catch up if you feel that you are behind where you need to be,” says Roger Wohlner in his article, “Is a $100,000 Per Year Retirement Doable?” on TheChicagoFinancialPlanner.com

Visualize Your Future, Know What You Need, and Have a Plan

You’ll do a better job transitioning to retirement if you have a solid understanding of what you have (and what you will need).  And, it is not all about savings and investments.

The NewRetirement retirement calculator is a highly detailed planning tool that let’s you model the best time to start Social Security, how you might be able to use your home equity in retirement, how you might pay for long-term care and much more (including trying “what-if ” scenarios with various investment accounts).

Best of all, this tool lets you set different spending levels for any time period you can imagine. Rethinking your retirement budget can dramatically lower how much you need overall and make you feel better about your retirement prospects.  The planning system was named a best retirement calculator by the American Association of Individual Investors (AAII).

If you can create a clear picture of your future, then you can get there.

NewRetirement Planner

Do it yourself retirement planning: easy, comprehensive, reliable

NewRetirement Planner

Take financial wellness into your own hands and do it yourself retirement planning: easy, comprehensive, reliable.

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