Setting a realistic retirement budget will help you see how far your retirement savings will take you. A retirement budget should reflect your lifestyle and goals and will help you get a realistic picture of the years to come. An estimated budget can ensure you will live within your means and help avoid running out of money, especially as people are living longer than ever before. Doing so before you retire is proactive and will help you better plan when you will be financially stable enough to enter your golden years. As a nonprofit credit counseling agency, here are some of our recommendations.
Setting a Realistic Retirement Budget
Where to Start
Look into how much you spend on housing, food, and other expenses, such as medical and travel. Do you have a mortgage? Are you looking to downsize? Will the money you previously spent on housing go towards future trips? What about coverage of current and future medical expenses? See how much income you will have after you retire, and if there are any ways to gain a supplemental income.
How do I Combat Overspending?
Without work, retirees have much more time on their hands. This time can result in extra spending. To avoid overspending, pre-retirees should sit down and establish a clear budget. Take any retirement income into account as well as monthly expenses (housing, food, transportation, utilities, debt, taxes, etc.). Once these areas are covered, see how much is left for nonessential spending (vacations, entertainment, eating out, etc.). Once you see these numbers, set a monthly spending limit and stick to it! Overspending could lead to excessive credit card debt, which is the last thing you want to deal with during retirement.
Which Retirement Saving Account Should I Access First?
Whether your retirement income is from an IRA or 401(k), pension, social security, or another form of income, consider which will benefit you the best, and when. Ideally, withdrawing from taxable accounts first will benefit a retiree by leaving other funds to grow tax-free for a longer period of time. This way, when you do withdraw from tax-deferred accounts, your money had more time to grow.
Additionally, many retirees opt to consolidate retirement accounts to simplify the management of funds. Be sure to consult with a professional to discuss what would happen to the benefits of each account (i.e., mixing tax-deferred and taxable accounts into one).
In Case of Emergency
Because retirees are most likely living on fixed incomes (and thus can’t make extra income in the event of a financial emergency) and don’t want to risk pulling money out of retirement accounts, an emergency fund is essential. Retirees don’t want to get caught unprepared for a disaster. We recommend saving enough money in your emergency fund to cover at least 6-9 months’ worth of expenses. Depending on your expenses and lifestyle, the more you can save, the better.
How Do I Make Sure My Retirement Budget Is Accurate?
Retirees can help themselves create an accurate budget by tracking their spending habits in advance to see their typical spending and saving patterns. Match these findings up with your projected retirement income and see whether your budget is doable, or if you need to cut back on expenses or seek opportunities for extra income. The best way to see if your budget will work is to try it out. Routinely adjust your budget based on what is and is not working, areas where you can cut back, etc.
For more tips on budgeting and retirement, check out ACCC’s free financial education materials!