If you know me professionally, you know that I’m big on distinguishing between retirement income, vs. retirement asset, planning. This isn’t about semantics. It’s about being practical. Unless your lifestyle allows you to survive solely on Social Security or a comparable monthly benefit if you don’t qualify for Social Security, you need to create your own pension. This is, after all, the theme of this blog: Innovative strategies for creating and optimizing retirement income.
In order to create your own pension, you need assets. The question is, when should you transition from a retirement asset planning to a retirement income planning approach? Tied into this question is a related question: Is your current financial advisor trained, experienced, and equipped to offer solutions to assist you with making this change? If not, it may be time to look for a new adviser who specializes in retirement income planning.
So when should you begin creating your own pension? This is a daunting task since the primary goal is to ensure that you won’t outlive your income while surrounded by many unknowns, including, how long you will live, potential health issues and timing and cost of same, as well as changing inflation and tax rates, to name a few. Given this situation, there ideally needs to be a significant amount of lead time to do the necessary planning.
As with all financial planning goals, you need to work backwards from your target date. By definition, the applicable date for retirement income planning would be the age at which you would like to retire. Given the complexity of the process together with the many unknowns, a 20-year lead time is generally advised. Assuming that you would like to retire at age 70, you should have an initial retirement income plan prepared at age 50.
This doesn’t mean that you need to transfer all of your nonretirement and retirement investment assets into income-producing assets on your 50th birthday. This is simply when the transition from a retirement asset planning to a retirement income planning process should begin. Strategies will generally be implemented gradually over the course of the years leading up to, as well as after, retirement as your situation changes and different opportunities present themselves. Your retirement income plan needs to be vibrant, proactive, and responsive to change since you will experience many of them at an increasing rate as you approach, and move into, your retirement years.
In addition to retirement income planning strategies, your plan should include income protection strategies for yourself and for your spouse if married. An unprotected, or under protected, life event such as disability, long-term care, or death can severely reduce the longevity of, and potentially prematurely deplete, your, or your survivor’s, investment assets. Income protection strategies should be included and implemented as part of an initial retirement income plan due to the fact that they become increasingly expensive and potentially cost prohibitive with age, not to mention the risk of being uninsurable as you get older.
So what if you’re within 20 years of retirement and you haven’t begun retirement income planning? No need to panic. While your strategies and potential opportunities may be more limited depending upon how close to retirement you are, it’s never too late to start a retirement income plan. As previously stated, retirement income planning strategies are generally implemented both before and during retirement as your situation changes and different opportunities present themselves.