Are you interested in a more secure retirement? Who wouldn’t be? These days, when so many things are uncertain, retirement security would seem to be a goal anyone can embrace. But after reading this just-published article from the USNews website, we at AgingOptions are reminded once again that most people still seem to equate “retirement security” with “financial security.” Are they really the same? In our view the answer is no.
Retirement Security in Seven Steps? Something’s Missing
“Retirement security is the ability to live a comfortable retirement without the burden of financial stress,” author Craig Stephens writes in USNews. While it’s best to start planning early for a financially secure retirement, the article acknowledges that not everyone has the luxury of a long lead time to prepare. Nevertheless, he writes, “The financial decisions you make in the years approaching retirement will have a significant impact on your retirement security. You can take action in the years leading up to retirement to lower your risk and raise the likelihood that your money will last.”
Stephens goes on to list seven key steps that he says will enhance financial security in your retirement years. We’ll summarize this list because in our estimation it’s a pretty good starting place, as far as it goes. But after we look at the seven steps, we’ll share an eighth step that we think may be more important than all the rest. Here’s the list.
Is it “Retirement Security” or “Financial Security”?
- Maximize retirement savings. This seems like good, straightforward advice, because the earlier you start setting aside retirement savings, the better shape you’ll be in. But even if you’re getting a late start, you’re much better off late than never. “At whatever point you can, take full advantage of the tax savings provided by retirement accounts,” says Stephens. “Start with your employer-sponsored plan or fund a traditional IRA. If there’s money left over and you qualify, contribute to a Roth IRA with after-tax money up to the allowable limits.” This is where a financial dashboard prepared by a qualified financial planner can prove invaluable.
- Reduce payment obligations. This means eliminate debt if at all possible. “Debt carried into retirement is a financial burden,” says USNews. “In retirement, you’ll want your savings to go toward living your ideal life, not toward payments to a bank.” For that reason, experts generally advise you set a goal to be debt-free before you retire.
- Establish retirement income sources. This is where you need to get specific – and, we would add, you need an accurate budget. Then, says the article, “Aim to create a steady monthly income stream that is greater than your spending needs.” Set aside any extra cash for special occasions or emergencies. Pensions, Social Security, required distribution from retirement accounts, part time work, freelance gigs, and income from rental property all get added into the income mix.
- Regularly rebalance your investment portfolio. “An appropriately weighted investment portfolio is critical for retirement security,” Stephens advises. “If your investments are too aggressive, you risk losing too much money in a market correction. An overly conservative portfolio might not last for as long as you need it. Set a reminder to rebalance your portfolio on the same date each year. Remember to adjust your allocations to reduce asset risk as you age.”
- Reduce asset risk. This relates to rebalancing and refers to the ratio of stocks to bonds in your retirement portfolio, which should reflect your age and tolerance for risk. “At the stage of your life when you need your retirement savings the most, you want your investment income to be steady and reliable,” the article warns. Here again is where advice from a qualified, objective financial planner can help you stay safely diversified.
- Downsize your home. We think the USNews article is looking at the home from a purely financial point of view. “If your current home is paid off and it serves your long-term needs, staying there may be your best option,” the article says. But there’s no mention of how well-suited your home is to aging in place. While we agree that downsizing is often a good choice, there’s more to the housing equation than simply dollars and cents.
- Take Social Security wisely. “Though it may be tempting to begin taking Social Security at age 62, those who can afford to delay should consider doing so,” Stephens writes. “Only take Social Security early if you absolutely need the money or if you have reason to believe your life expectancy will be below average.” By waiting until age 70 you’ll reap a significantly higher income and, if you’re the prime earner, you’ll help guarantee your spouse will be in better fiscal health should he or she outlive you.
Retirement Security Means Starting with the Right Questions
As we said above, there’s little with which to argue in these seven recommendations, but if that’s all you do to prepare for retirement, we fear your “retirement security” will turn out to be anything but secure. That’s because true retirement security means much more than having enough money in the bank. For example, you can do everything on the list above and still face a legal challenge if you’re unprepared. You can find yourself estranged from your family if you don’t make them part of your planning process. You can face a sudden medical expense that can catch you unaware, or a housing crisis that might derail your desire to age in your own home. For all these reasons we at AgingOptions strongly advise you that you add “Step Number Eight” to the USNews list, and take this step first: attend a free AgingOptions Seminar with Rajiv Nagaich and find out about LifePlanning.
LifePlanning is our comprehensive approach to retirement planning that combines a personalized financial, legal, medical, housing and family plan into one carefully-crafted blueprint for true retirement security. With a LifePlan in place you can face your retirement future with confidence and eager anticipation. Why not invest just a few hours and join Rajiv at a seminar soon? You’ll find a complete calendar of currently-scheduled seminars here on our Live Events page where you can also sign up for the event of your choice. If retirement security is your goal, a LifePlan is your answer. Age on!
(originally reported at https://money.usnews.com)