Earlier this year we shared a post about The "Ostrich effect", which refers to the psychological tendency to avoid negative financial information by simply ignoring it (referring to how an ostrich sticks its head in the sand when it senses danger, thinking that this will prevent it from getting hurt).
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If thinking about your retirement planning process fills you with a feeling of anxiety, you might try to avoid it altogether.
And while this behavior is understandable, it isn't exactly IDEAL for your present and your future self.
So, let's focus on helping you understand where to START when thinking about retirement and your income.
Here are five step-by-step instructions for you to take to help you overcome that overwhelming feeling you might get when you think about your retirement planning process.
1: First, Change Your Multitasking Mindset.
When you’re consumed with what may or may not happen in several months or years, you can’t fully spend your energy on the here and now and complete the task at hand. Write down your action items. There are a number of benefits to writing down your action items (here are a few courtesy of Productiveandfree.com):
Writing things down enables a higher level of thinking, and therefore, more focused action. When your brain isn’t busy remembering everything, your brain can then process anything. It’s when you’re not overwhelmed that you become free to intellectually analyze and ask important questions.
Writing things down also helps you recognize and process your emotions. It seems everyone is so “busy” nowadays and unfortunately, busy-ness leads to stress, anxiety, and even more serious health problems.
In fact, according to the American Medical Association, stress is the basic cause of more than 60% of all human illness and disease. Fortunately, writing things down is one way to help significantly reduce all of that. Because you're forced to put your emotions to writing, you can process your thoughts (whether positive or negative) and feelings at a much deeper level than simply thinking about it. It’s also a form of release or therapy whenever you’re feeling angry, depressed, or overwhelmed.
2: Think About Where You Will Live
Location, location, location. Where you live in retirement could have a big impact on your expenses. For example, if you choose to sell your current home and downsize (or may move to a condo/community, your housing and utility bills could decline significantly, which could allow your retirement income to pay for other priorities.
On the other hand, you might want to live in an area with higher living costs and taxes, maybe to be closer to family/friends, or maybe its a place you've always dreamed of living in retirement (the Cape? Florida? Zimbabwe?). A move like that could require you to prioritize your retirement income on keeping up with living costs in that area.
Once you know where you want to live, you can use this to help calculate your expenses in retirement.
3: Calculate Your Expenses
Not all retirement expenses are created equally. As you prepare for retirement, it is important to understand there are generally two kinds of retirement expenses:
These are expenses you have to pay, such as your mortgage and other related home expenses, food, car bills/maintenance, healthcare, etc.
There are your "lifestyle" expenses, such as entertainment, travel, and other leisure activities.
A secure retirement is built on the foundation of having enough guaranteed income to meet your ESSENTIAL expenses.
We all want to be able to LIVE THE LIFESTYLE of our choice, but we know at the very least that if we meet our essential expenses, we'll be able to sleep well at night.
There are plenty of worksheets out there that help you go through common expenses you’ll likely encounter while in retirement (we have some in our helpful worksheets section of afterthepaycheck.com), so use one as a guide to help you think about expenses you might not otherwise have thought about.
Even if you don’t have a definitive number RIGHT NOW for each expense, it will help put you in the right direction of understanding what you’ll need for income in retirement. Which takes us to our next step:
4: Calculate Your Income In Retirement
Estimate your predictable income from sources such as Social Security and employer pensions. (How do you calculate your social security income?!? Visit this link at ssa.gov and create your account)
The rest of your retirement income may come from your personal savings, and your investment accounts (maybe a 401(k), 403(b), Roth IRA, etc.). When you calculate what your expenses are, then figure out your social security income options, you can start to figure out what amount you'll withdraw from these other accounts in retirement.
So if you have $1 million dollars in retirement assets, and you discover you need $40,000 of that amount per year when you retire, you need to determine if that is enough to support the retirement lifestyle (& time in retirement) you envision.
5: Make sure your portfolio is well-balanced
If you don’t have a well balanced portfolio / retirement PLAN, you could be exposed to a few different things:
- Sequence of Returns Risk
- Liquidity hardships
- Inflation exposure
How do we help prevent ourselves from ending up in one of these scenarios?
The importance of having balance in your retirement plan (The 3 Bucket Approach to Retirement Planning:):
- A liquidity bucket (Savings/cash now)
- A fixed asset bucket (mailbox money)
- A growth bucket (money in stocks for growth to help with inflation, health care costs, etc.)
Structuring (and frequent monitoring/rebalancing) these buckets is key to help protect you from market volatility in retirement.
This is why working with a financial advisor is a good idea, you’ll have someone overlooking your retirement plan, making sure that it works every day of the year, so you won’t have to!