Retirement is All About Spending! And Experts Say You Aren’t Spending Enough

Retirement is All About Spending! And Experts Say You Aren’t Spending Enough

For many, the season of spending is upon us and I don’t just mean Christmas and the other winter holidays.

If you are nearing or already in retirement, you are indeed permanently in the season of spending.  You have spent a lifetime amassing savings and other resources and now is the time to use these assets — assuming you can accurately figure out how much to spend in retirement.
how much to spend in retirement
As you contemplate your holiday gift giving budgets, you might also want to take a look at how much you spend in retirement (and plan to spend) and make sure that your spending levels are in line with your retirement goals and assets.

Research says that many of you could be spending more each year.  (Maybe it is time to dust off your passport or buy that boat!)

How Much to Spend in Retirement? Are You Too Frugal or Too Frivolous?

While frugality in retirement is admirable, some experts say that many retirees simply aren’t spending quite enough.

Signs that indicate you are spending too little:

  • If you are underinsured or are skipping on medical care because you are worried about costs.
  • While not the best rule of thumb, if you are withdrawing less than 4% from your retirement savings then you could probably spend more — especially if you are already well into retirement.
  • You could be and would like to be spending more but are conserving your savings.
  • You are not allowing your withdrawal rate to keep pace with inflation.
  • You are on track to end up with more money at the end of your life than you have now and have met or exceeded your goals for leaving an inheritance.

Conserving your money is understandable.  It can be terrifying to face the prospect of running out, but the data suggests that retirees are actually staying quite solvent.

Spending Too Little in Retirement is a Fairly Wide Spread Phenomenon

In a recent study published in the Journal of Financial Planning, researchers found that retirees in the top quintile of financial wealth were spending nowhere near an amount that would place them in danger of running out of money. In fact, the average financial assets of wealthy retirees increased during this period.

Beyond the wealthiest, the study also found that retirees in the third and fourth quintiles also spent less than their income.

“The average total income of respondents in the third, fourth, and fifth quintiles was greater than average total consumption. Without any consideration to the drawdown of financial assets, the consumption of these groups could have been increased simply by spending all available income. Evidence that moderate and higher wealth retirees did not spend all of their income was consistent with the increase in average financial assets over the five-wave analysis period.”

And, related research has found that many pre retirees are Saving Too Much for Retirement.

How Can You Be Sure You Are Not Going to Run Out of Money?

In retirement, you need spending to strike a tenuous balance between:

  • Spending without fear or stress
  • Investing and growing your assets to keep pace with inflation
  • Stretching your assets to last over an undetermined amount of time
  • Protecting those assets (and your desired spending levels) from unforeseen events in the financial markets.

Whew.  That is a tall order.

However, here are a few tips for getting a more realistic picture of how much to spend in retirement:

Create a Detailed Budget: The more you know about how much you are going to spend and how those expenses will change over time, the better you will know how much you can withdraw at any given time during retirement.  Here are 9 Tips for Predicting Retirement Expenses.

Know Your Retirement Income Sources: Most retirees collect Social Security and make withdrawals from savings. Some retirees get pensions, earn work income or have passive income sources.  You need to know exactly how these income sources will ebb and flow over your (and your spouse’s) lifetime.

The NewRetirement retirement planning calculator can help you see your different income sources and how they change over time.

Identify a Withdrawal Strategy: There are many different approaches to tapping your savings for retirement.  The trick is in choosing one that really makes sense for you.  Here are a few articles on the subject:

Have a Dedicated Fund for Medical and Longevity Related Expenses:  Instead of worrying about whether or not your money will be there near the end of your life or if you’ll have enough for a major medical crisis, simply budget these items separately.

Understand Your Housing Wealth: Many retirees overlook their biggest source of wealth — their home.  It is actually one of the most misunderstood aspects of the calculations in the NewRetirement retirement planning calculator.

Many retirees ask us about why they are forecast to have so much money left at the ends of their lives.  The reason is home equity.  Many retirees hope to leave this equity to their heirs, but others want to tap into it to use on retirement expenses.

Your home equity and when or if you want to use it can be a huge swing in whether or not you are spending too much or too little in retirement.  The NewRetirement retirement planning calculator does enable you to model different options like downsizing, refinancing, getting a reverse mortgage and more…

Set Legacy Goals: Know how much you want to leave to heirs and allow for a little wiggle room.

Plan for You, Your Spouse and Any Other Dependents: Of course making sure that you won’t run out of money is not quite enough.  You also need to consider your spouse and any other dependents.

This Holiday Season, Should You Gift Yourself with the Assistance of a Financial Advisor?

While retirement planning tools like the NewRetirement retirement planning calculator are making it pretty easy for almost anyone to create and maintain a sophisticated and detailed plan, many people appreciate the peace of mind that working with a professional financial advisor can offer.

With so much complexity and angst around knowing how much you can safely spend given the huge range of variables that can impact that number, a good fiduciary financial advisor can steer you in the right direction and take a lot of the guesswork out of the equation. And, you can still sanity check many of the advisor’s recommendations by running what if scenarios in a detailed online calculator.  (Click here if you would like NewRetirement to match you to a prescreened advisor offering a free consultation and services for a flat fee.)

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