There is no simple answer, but consider some factors. You save for retirement with the expectation that at some point, you will have enough savings to walk confidently away from the office and into the next phase of life. So how do you know if you have reached that point?
Retirement calculators are useful – but only to a point. The dilemma is that they can’t predict your retirement lifestyle. You may retire on 65% of your end salary only to find that you really need 90% of your end salary to do the things you would like to do.
That said, once you estimate your income need you can get more specific thanks to some simple calculations.
Let’s say you are 10 years from your envisioned retirement date and your current income is $70,000. You presume that you can retire on 65% of that, which is $45,500 – but leaving things at $45,500 is too simple, because we need to factor in inflation. You won’t need $45,500; you will need its inflation-adjusted equivalent. Turning to a Bankrate.com calculator, we plug that $45,500 in as the base amount along with 3% annual interest compounded (i.e., moderate inflation) over 10 years … and we get $61,148.1
Now we start to look at where this $61,148 might come from. How much of it will come from Social Security? If you haven’t saved one of those mailers that projects your expected retirement benefits if you retire at 62, 66, or 70, you can find that out via the Social Security website. On the safe side, you may want to estimate your Social Security benefits as slightly lower than projected – after all, they could someday be reduced given the long-run challenges Social Security faces. If you are in line for pension income, your employer’s HR people can help you estimate what your annual pension payments could be.
Let’s say Social Security + pension = $25,000. If you anticipate no other regular income sources in retirement, this means you need investment and savings accounts large enough to generate $36,148 a year for you if you go by the 4% rule (i.e., you draw down your investment principal by 4% annually). This means you need to amass $903,700 in portfolio and savings assets.
Of course, there are many other variables to consider – your need or want to live on more or less than 4%, a gradual inflation adjustment to the 4% initial withdrawal rate, Social Security COLAs, varying annual portfolio returns and inflation rates, and so forth. Calculations can’t foretell everything.
The same can be said for “retirement studies”. For example, Aon Hewitt now projects that the average “full-career” employee at a large company needs to have 15.9 times their salary saved up at age 65 in addition to Social Security income to sustain their standard of living into retirement. It also notes that the average long-term employee contributing consistently to an employer-sponsored retirement plan will accumulate retirement resources of 8.8 times their salary by age 65. That’s a big gap, but Aon Hewitt doesn’t factor in resources like IRAs, savings accounts, investment portfolios, home equity, rental payments and other retirement assets or income sources.2
For the record, the latest Fidelity estimate shows the average 401(k) balance amassed by a worker 55 or older at $150,300; the Employee Benefit Research Institute just released a report showing that the average IRA owner has an aggregate IRA balance of $87,668.2
Retiring later might make a substantial difference. If you retire at 70 rather than at 65, you are giving presumably significant retirement savings that may have compounded for decades five additional years of compounding and growth. That could be huge. Think of what that could do for you if your retirement nest egg is well into six figures. You will also have five fewer years of retirement to fund and five more years to tap employer health insurance. If your health, occupation, or employer let you work longer, why not try it? If you are married or in a relationship, your spouse’s retirement savings and salary can also help.
Can anyone save too much for retirement? The short answer is “no”, but occasionally you notice some “good savers” or “millionaires next door” who keep working even though they have accumulated enough of a nest egg to retire. Sometimes executives make a “golden handshake” with a company and can’t fathom walking away from an opportunity to greatly boost their retirement savings. Other savers fall into a “just one more year” mindset – they dislike their jobs, but the boredom is comforting and familiar to them in ways that retirement is not. They can’t live forever; do they really want to work forever, especially in a high-pressure or stultifying job? That choice might harm their health or worldview and make their futures less rewarding.
So how close are you to retiring? A chat with a financial professional on this topic might be very illuminating. In discussing your current retirement potential, an answer to that question may start to emerge.
1 – bankrate.com/calculators/savings/simple-savings-calculator.aspx [5/30/13]
2 – marketwatch.com/story/how-to-know-if-you-have-enough-to-retire-2013-05-25 [5/25/13]
Create a pool of healthcare dollars that will grow in any market. How will you pay for long term care? The sad fact is that most people don’t know the answer to that question. But a solution is available.
As baby boomers leave their careers behind, long term care insurance will become very important in their financial strategies. The reasons to get an LTC policy after age 50 are very compelling.
Your premium payments buy you access to a large pool of money which can be used to pay for long term care costs. By paying for LTC out of that pool of money, you can preserve your retirement savings and income.
The cost of assisted living or nursing home care alone could motivate you to pay the premiums. Genworth Financial conducts a respected annual Cost of Care Survey to gauge the price of long term care in the U.S. Here is a summary of the 2013 survey’s key findings:
1) In 2013, the median annual cost of a private room in a nursing home was $83,950 or $230 per day – up 3.6% from 2012. In the past five years, the cost has risen about 4.5% annually.
2) A private one-bedroom unit in an assisted living facility has a median cost of $3,450 a month, or $41,400 annually. It was 4.5% cheaper last year.
3) The median payment to a non-Medicare certified, state-licensed home health aide is $19 an hour in 2013, up 2.3% from 2012.1
Can you imagine spending an extra $40-85K out of your retirement savings in a year? What if you had to do it for more than one year?
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services estimates that about 70% of Americans will need some kind of long term care during their lifetimes. Additionally, 69% of Americans older than 90 have some form of disability – often a direct cause for long term care.2
Why procrastinate? The earlier you opt for LTC coverage, the cheaper the premiums. This is why many people purchase it before they retire. Those in poor health or over the age of 80 are frequently ineligible for coverage.
What does it pay for? Some people think LTC coverage just pays for nursing home care. That’s inaccurate. It can pay for a wide variety of nursing, social, and rehabilitative services at home and away from home, for people with a chronic illness or disability or people who just need assistance bathing, eating or dressing.3
How much will your DBA be? DBA stands for Daily Benefit Amount – the maximum amount that your LTC plan will pay per day for care in a nursing home facility. You can choose a Daily Benefit Amount when you pay for your LTC coverage, and you can also choose the length of time that you may receive the full DBA on a daily basis. The DBA typically ranges from a few dozen dollars to hundreds of dollars. A small number of these plans offer you “inflation protection” at enrollment, meaning that every few years, you will have the chance to buy additional coverage and get compounding – so your pool of money can grow.
Medicare is not long term care insurance. Some people think Medicare will pick up the cost of long term care. That is a misconception. Medicare will only pay for the first 100 days of nursing home care, and only if 1) you are getting skilled care and 2) you go into the nursing home right after a hospital stay of at least 3 days. Medicare also covers limited home visits for skilled care, and some hospice services for the terminally ill. That’s all.4
Now, Medicaid can actually pay for long term care – if you are destitute. Are you willing to wait until you are broke for a way to fund long term care? Of course not. LTC insurance provides a way to do it.4
Why not look into this? You may have heard that LTC insurance is expensive compared with some other forms of coverage. But the annual premiums – in the vicinity of $2,000-2,500 for the typical policy right now – are cheap compared to real-world LTC costs.3
Ask an insurance or financial professional about some of the LTC choices you can explore. While many Americans have life, health and disability insurance, that’s not the same thing as long term care coverage.
1 – www.genworth.com/dam/Americas/US/PDFs/Consumer/corporate/131168_031813_Executive%20Summary.pdf [3/18/13]
2 – longtermcare.gov/the-basics/who-needs-care/ [3/18/13]
3 – www.marketwatch.com/story/long-term-care-coverage-worth-the-price-2012-12-04 [12/4/12]
4 – www.medicare.gov/longtermcare/static/home.asp [8/3/12]