Your Guide to a Foolproof Retirement Budget

Scottish poet Robert Burns famously said, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” That’s true about most everything that you undertake in life, but hoping for the best isn’t the greatest retirement budget strategy. You need a real strategy, and one that’s based on your life and the life that you want to have later.
Retirement budgetYou never know where life may take you, but a sound retirement budget can help you manage of it.
Creating an impenetrable budget is something to strive for. You’ll surely have a few hiccups along the way. Everyone does. But aiming higher and preparing for more than the minimum that you think you’ll need will help those hiccups be a short-lived annoyance instead of a situation that alters your whole retirement.

Here are 3 tips for a foolproof retirement budget…

1. Go Forward with Minimal Debt

Debt is inescapable for most people, but the closer you get to retirement the more it should start tapering off. The goal is to be as debt free as possible once you retire. Certain expenses, such as utilities, will continue, and you can only reel them in a bit. Some of them, such as the costs involved with commuting to work, will drop off. But debts are where you have a lot more control.

Think about each of your debts and how costly they are to maintain. You’ll want to eliminate as many of the expensive debts as you can, and as soon as possible. Your mortgage, if you have one, probably has a much lower interest rate than your credit cards. Credit cards are more expensive to maintain than a mortgage, even though a mortgage is a long-term debt. Credit cards can also bleed money from your budget now, which reduces your ability to save, and continue to cut in once you retire.

Nearly every retirement advisor recommends paying off expensive debts such as credit cards as soon as you can, and there’s a good reason why. Keeping a high balance hurts your credit score, and making only the minimum monthly payment means you’ll pay back a small fortune in time.

The NewRetirement Planner.  This retirement budget calculator lets you immediately see the impact of getting rid of debt.  Try a scenario where the debt is paid off now. Then try a scenario when you pay off the debt early.  The system let’s you play with your finances and see for yourself the short and long term impact of different money strategies.

A $2,000 credit card balance at 13 percent interest, which Bankrate says is the going fixed rate, and a $41 monthly payment will take you 69 months to pay off — almost 6 years. That’s 6 years without using the card at all, while the card issuer continues to bring in 13 percent interest on the existing balance. By the time it’s paid off, you will have paid back the balance plus nearly $900 in interest.

Focus hard on expensive debt the closer you get to retirement and pay it down as quickly as you can. That $900 you paid in interest could work for your benefit in an IRA instead of boosting the credit card issuer’s bottom line.
retirement budgetThe retirement budget that you create today might not be the one that you live with tomorrow, but some parts of it probably won’t change.

2. Plan for the Expected

There are some things that you can plan for with a reasonable amount of certainty. That’s where your retirement budget will get a lot of its structure. If you’ll still have a mortgage payment, that’s one item to count on. Property insurance and taxes, too. A vehicle payment might also be included, but most vehicle loans are paid off in a few years after financing. Other expenses will likely never go away, and they make up the more fixed budget items.

Some of these aren’t any surprise. Your electric, gas and other utilities will remain, and you’ll probably want cable and Internet, too. The same goes for phone plans and your grocery bills. Clothing may not be as much of an expense once you retire, but you’ll still need to budget for it the same as you do now.

Other expenses could skip your initial budget plan. If they don’t make the cut, they’ll cut into other areas. Lawn maintenance, for example, might not be an expense at all right now. But what about 10 years after you retire? All home maintenance could become an issue at some point, and you might want to hire it out.

Another expense that you should plan for is health care. While Medicare is available, it’s not entirely free. For example, Medicare Part A, which covers hospital care, skilled nursing care and similar needs, doesn’t have a monthly premium for many people, but the in-hospital deductible is $1,260 for 2016. Medicare Part B, which covers doctor visits, lab tests and similar needs, has a $166 monthly premium in 2016.

Long-term care is another concern. With life expectancies growing longer all the time, chances are you’ll need some type of assistance or long-term care one day. U.S. News and World Report explains that a typical, private nursing home currently costs about $90,000 per year. But if you add a Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program, premium to your retirement budget, long-term care would be covered.
Retirement budgetA budgeting app can help you keep track of every dollar that you spend or want to spend.
The NewRetirement Retirement Calculator offers much more than a typical retirement budget worksheet.  This system let’s you create different tiers of spending for different time periods in retirement.  It also let’s you plan for healthcare costs and gives you multiple options for how you might want to plan for long term care.

3. Plan for the Unexpected, Too

Planning for the unexpected almost sounds like a catchphrase. How can you plan for something that you can’t predict? Some unexpected expenses will almost certainly come from outside sources, but many will just be part of your life as it unfolds, the same as it does now. You might not know what’s in your future, but you can safely bet that you will have unexpected expenses of some variety. When one of them pops up, an emergency fund in your budget can be a lifesaver.

More and more adult children move back home now than in any recent generation. The economy is slowly getting better, but U.S. News and World Report says that this trend is still fairly common. And for adult kids who are out on their own, a lot of parents still offer financial help. Whether it’s $100 here and there or a regular contribution to help pay a debt, you’ll probably need to account for the possibility of helping out your children or another family member at some point.

Emergency expenses are where your budget can really take a hit if you haven’t planned for them. Think about how old your roof will be when you retire. Most common roofing materials have about a 20-year lifespan. Home appliances, such as your HVAC unit, stove and refrigerator won’t last forever, either. And what about your car? It’s probably going to need repairs.

Something else to think about is the way that your attitude about retirement might change once it arrives. What happens if three years later you decide that you want to open a small business or sail around the world? For someone who had envisioned staying home and taking up hobbies, that might be a real surprise. If you cut your projected retirement budget too close, you won’t have any wiggle room to pursue new interests.

It’s always smart to save more than you think you’ll need to expand your budget as much as possible. The only thing that you know for sure about the future is that you can’t predict most of it. You’ll have regular doctor visits and grocery bills. But you might also want to visit Europe, open a botanical shop or go back to college.

Planning a retirement budget is similar to your budget before you retire, but the differences aren’t slight; they’re important. Without a regular income from employment, the security that you fall back on now won’t be there. Your income will be of your own design, plus the benefits that you receive from Social Security.

In some ways, that’s more secure than a job because you saved the money and financed your own retirement in advance. But without a strong retirement budget, your money could dwindle faster than you expected, leaving you unprotected later. Stay involved in your retirement budget, both now while you’re planning it and later while you’re living it. Stay alert to areas where you can cut back and watch for trends, such as regularly overspending at lunch, that can put a dent in your funds.

Most of all, remember that retirement is personal. No one else has a budget that’s right for you. But NewRetirement can help you design one that is. Try out our retirement calculator today, and start on a path toward a workable, reasonable budget that secures your interests for the long term.

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