Why income beats savings in retirement

Imagine yourself far in the future. Yesterday, you celebrated your 82nd birthday! It was an enjoyable day spent with family and friends followed by a relaxing dinner with cake, ice cream, and many happy memories.

But this morning you awoke to some troubling news…

When you clicked on your favorite news app, you learned that an overnight far-eastern currency concern has sent U.S. markets into a tailspin.

As the next several days go by, market conditions rapidly deteriorate. The damage even begins to spread to other sectors. Both real estate and bonds start taking substantial hits.

Logging into your online brokerage account, you watch your account balances dropping more and more each day. Years and years of hard-earned savings are vanishing before your eyes.

You ask yourself, “Is this ever going to end? Should I be selling? Should I be staying put? Will my retirement funds be able to survive this latest ‘correction’? If not, how am I going to pay my future bills?”

This story is just a sample of the kind of worry that can arise when long-term retirement income is based solely on invested savings and systematic withdrawals from savings.

Do you currently have only a 401k plan and no guaranteed company pension?

Then, someday, this could be you…

The good news is, however, with a few simple planning steps, there are ways you can help reduce or even eliminate many of the above concerns. In fact, it can even be possible to establish a foundation for a reliable and worry-free retirement income.

The key to doing so is locking down enough guaranteed retirement income to cover your basic future expenses.

Guaranteed income is money that will be paid to you no matter what happens in future markets and no matter how long you end up living. Guaranteed income can be derived from a variety of sources including a combination of Social Security, a company or union pension, and life income annuities.

How much retirement income will you need?

Many planners point toward a “target” for retirement income that is equal to roughly 70% of a person’s pre-retirement income. In general, the more “base income” a person has from guaranteed sources, the easier time they will have meeting ongoing expenses in retirement. Studies show that individuals with more guaranteed income during retirement are also known to be happier and have less stress in their senior years.

How to create a successful retirement income plan

The fundamental elements of building a solid income plan for retirement are as follows;

  1. Reduce your long-term retirement living expenses where possible (downsize, simplify your life, pay off any mortgages or consumer debt).
  2. Establish an emergency fund for short-term cash needs (set aside the equivalent of six months to a year of income in an easily accessible FDIC-insured bank account).
  3. Calculate your NEEDED retirement income using the 70% rule or other similar method.
    (pre-retirement income = $100,000. 70% of $100,000 = $70,000)
  4. Add up ALL the income you will have from GUARANTEED sources such as Social Security, pensions, and life annuities.
    ($46,000 Social Security + $0 company pension + $0 annuity income = $46,000)
  5. Subtract your GUARANTEED income from your NEEDED income. This is your income “gap.” ($70,000 – $46,000 = $24,000 income gap)
  6. Click here to learn more about ways to fill your income gap!

Once funding for your basic income needs is set, you can think about allocating your remaining assets for future savings, special purchases, investments, and legacy planning (i.e. money that you plan to leave to kids, grandchildren, or charity).

For most people, covering basic retirement living expenses through guaranteed income will be better than relying on savings. Guaranteed income takes uncertainty out of affording your monthly bills and removes stress about what will happen to your savings in future markets. Guaranteed income also simplifies planning and assures you will receive a “check” each month no matter how long you our your spouse may live.

When added together, the benefits of guaranteed income help lead to a happier, more secure, and more relaxing retirement.

So, what about you? Do you worry about how to create income for your retirement? Do the potential ups and downs of the market bother you? If so, what is your plan to solve for this problem?

Let me know your thoughts by email or in the comments below.