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April 1, 2020
Have you ever asked yourself, “How much money do I need to retire?” Many people want to know exactly how much money they’ll need to live comfortably for the rest of their days. And although it might seem like a complicated equation, it is possible to calculate that “magic number.”
However, this “magic number” is unique for each individual so it can be difficult to come up with according to Chris Hardy, a certified financial planner and enrolled agent from Suwanee, Georgia.
First and foremost, a person should have more income than expenses, Hardy says. A pre-retiree can achieve this by paying off all debts – including any mortgages – before they retire. Then, the pre-retiree should add up all of their monthly obligations – like utilities, travel expenses, insurance payments, taxes, and groceries – plus any amount that they would like to have on the side as fun money. All together, this represents a pre-retiree’s “must-have” income amount.
Next, the pre-retiree should add up all of their income sources beyond retirement funds, such as pensions and rental income. Now, all of the pre-retiree’s expenses can be subtracted from all of the pre-retiree’s income. According to Hardy, if there is a shortfall, that number can be divided by 4% to give an asset amount that is needed to find “the magic number.”
For example, if all of a pre-retiree’s monthly obligations add up to $5,500 per month, and their income sources will only bring in $3,600 per month, this means they will have an annual shortfall of $22,800. This number can then be divided by 4% to get to $570,000. This is the “magic number” for this pre-retiree. Ideally, this amount will fund a retirement that could last as many as 30 years.
It is important to keep in mind that there are many factors that could change a retiree’s financial status during retirement, including market volatility, health issues, and higher taxes.
If this sounds really complicated, a retirement calculator can do all the work for you. The NewRetirement Retirement Calculator is an easy-to-use tool that is also very detailed and sophisticated. Once you input your information, the system performs hundreds of different calculations and provides charts to help you understand your financial situation. If you don’t like your results, the calculator let’s you add more information, change your assumptions, and keep playing with your data until you find a financial plan that will work for you.
Not every financial planner thinks “magic numbers” are a good thing (or that they even exist).
Scott Weiss, a certified financial planner and the director of financial planning for Weiss Financial Group in Mahopac, New York, does not believe in a “magic number.” In fact, Weisee believes that sometimes having a “magic number” in mind could be detrimental.
“If you are not regularly assessing your financial situation, having a single number stuck in your head could be counterproductive to your success,” Weiss says.
Instead of concentrating on your “magic number,” Weiss recommends building a solid retirement plan, setting a goal to save between 10% and 20% of your income, investing your money, and regularly reviewing and revising that plan.
“In order to more accurately determine how much to set aside for retirement, you need to have a clear idea of how much you are spending annually to support your current lifestyle,” Weiss explains.
Also, your magic number can change over time, especially as you get older.
The nearer you get to retirement the more accurate your “magic number” predictions will be, Weiss explains. When you are younger, however, you can still work with approximations and run different kinds of simulations on your numbers, he says. Weiss suggests revisiting those approximate numbers on a regular basis to account for changes in your spending habits, income, and lifestyle.
“There are many quick ‘what is your number’ calculations,” Weiss says. “I think it is more nuanced than that. It should be a conversation.”
Weiss has many good arguments against having a magic number. And, it is very true: there is no universal magic number and your number will change as the economy shifts and your personal situation evolves.
However, a really good retirement calculator can give you the nuanced inputs and analysis to get a great idea of how much money you will really need.
Retirement planning involves a lot more than saving and investing. In the grand scheme of things, there are other criteria that can have more impact.
With a retirement calculator, you can factor in different levels of income and expenses for the rest of your life. This makes sense because you probably won’t be spending or earning the same amounts in 10 years as you are now. You also need a calculator that helps you model healthcare spending.
The best retirement calculator will also let you assess your home equity as part of your plan. You’ll also want to consider when to start Social Security payments in order to maximize benefits. Use this Social Security Calculator to figure out the best time for you to start your benefits. Finally, you’ll need to understand how to handle long term care risk.
The NewRetirement retirement calculator is one of the only tools that does all this (and more). Best of all, you are in the driver’s seat. You control the inputs and assumptions.
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