How ready for retirement are you?

Quick Check: How Ready for Retirement are You?

Retirement readiness is not an overnight success story. It is not a simple formula either. It takes dedication, hard work, and good strategies. Why? Because it is simply not just retirement savings. Below is a quick check to assess your readiness for your golden years whether you are 5-10 or even a year away from retirement!

Financial Wellbeing

As the biggest stressor of retirement, financial wellbeing is budgeting, savings, income streams, and planning. Here are some categories to review for your retirement planning

  • Housing, including utilities and maintenance
  • Healthcare costs (covered later)
  • Daily living: food, transportation
  • Entertainment and travel

Having an idea of where you stand now will help determine how much you should have for retirement assets.

Emergency Fund

Planning for the unexpected helps immensely when it comes to retirement readiness. When there is financial uncertainty, the emergency fund is the perfect security blanket. Advised to be kept separate from normal savings, the emergency fund should have roughly 3-6 months of living costs.

Debt Elimination

The less debt you need to pay in retirement, the better off you will be. Retires are often relying on fixed income streams, so beginning a repayment strategy now while you are still working would be ideal. If you can, paying down debts with higher interest rates would save a lot of money for you down the road.

Retirement Needs
As a CPA, knowing what you need and how you want to life your retirement helps set realistic goals and plans. This should include where you want to reside, what age you plan to retire, and even length of retirement. With longevity increasing by the day, it is estimated that retirement will last between 20-40 years for many. While evaluating your needs, this is a great time to also compose a timeline for when certain benefits/income streams begin.

Healthcare & Insurance

Health insurance is a major factor for retirement, and unfortunately will be the biggest expense you will face in retirement. Not including long-term care, a newly retired couple will need a minimum of $300,000 for medical expenses alone. This number is predicted to increase yearly, too. Moreover, should you have a long-term care event, without coverage, you are looking at approximately another $140,000 annually.

Now part of health care costs is insurance. Medicare only covers so much, and that depends on the plans you go with. Other than Part A each Part or supplemental plan has a premium. You may need prescription drug coverage, which is where Part D of Medicare may help. Consider a supplemental plan under Part C. Do further research into what a private health insurance company may offer so you know what options you have and are able to get the best price for what you need. Long-term care insurance is another premium monthly, but it would help a lot should you need it. There are some options where you may add a rider to a life insurance policy to help cover the costs long-term care would entail.

READ MORE

How Inflation Silently Robs Your Retirement

Even with careful retirement planning, one risk that is often not planned for well-enough is inflation. Inflation alone can hit retirement assets the hardest. The budget retirees begin with will change easily within the first 5-10 years—even 20 years down the road. It is most likely that inflation, assuming a rate of 3-4%, will cause daily living expenses to double within 20 years. Retirees should plan for this because, according to life expectancy statistics, folks live 20-24 more years.

That said, the following things should be taken into consideration when planning the silent killer of retirement:

  1. With aging comes more health concerns and more medical bills. Given that inflation will increase day-to-day life, it is predicted that health care costs and services will increase, too.
  2. Social Security benefits will increase for retirees. In 2020, benefits went up by 1.6% which was an additional $24 paid out; accounted when considering cost-of-living adjustments. However, the extra money from SS is offset by huge cost increases across the board. For example, medical services and cost go up; as does Medicare costs. SS should only be considered a baseline for retirement funds.
  3. As mentioned, living expenses are predicted to double within 20 years due to inflation. With inflation, spending power for retirement assets could drastically be reduced if not accounted for properly.

Tacking this silent killer and its concerns takes careful planning and risk managing.

With life expectancy, family medical history and personal medical concerns need to be discussed. Family history of heart disease and cancer will affect your life expectancy. This in turn will determine how long your funds will need to last. If your family members are known to pass away early on or live well into their 90s, this will also factor into how long your funds will need to last. Longer life expectancy means a longer time inflation will affect cost and standard of living.

Reviewing medical history in advance will also allow for the retirement budget to account for any major medical expenses that could arise. For example, a history of knee injuries could mean a knee replacement in your early 70s. Your occupational hazards could cause late-life conditions. If you spent your working years in a steel mill, you have a higher risk for COPD. Planning for these major medical expenses in advance will allow for inflation to be accounted for, for the money to be there if necessary. In retirement, folks spend $250,000-300,000 in medical costs alone.

To account for inflation a realistic budget plan should be set. This includes daily expenses, monthly bills, and additional spending such as travel and hobbies. Factoring into this budget, would be those said medical costs, too. Once a budget and cost-of-living expenses are decided, it is important to review how high inflation rates and the historically low interest rates affect other return rates and income during retirement.

Have a strategy addressing inflation in place. Begin with small withdrawal rates and increase as cost-of-living and inflation go up. During retirement, the small withdrawal rates will be a huge part of your income. Larger withdrawal rates will make deplete retirement funds much sooner—potentially running out of money before running out of retirement. If possible, during working years, saving more will go a longer way. Investing your future retirement younger will also help offset inflation. Consider different income sources: Annuities, long-term care policies, life insurance policies.

Creating an income strategy and working with a Retirement Risk Advisor is key to a safe and secure retirement. Discussing options that can reduce inflation and provide the best management for retirement will save you money and time and give you peace of mind.

READ MORE

International Living During Retirement

After having a taste of the working life and some traveling, retirees often consider living on foreign soil. Panama and Costa Rica are the two most sought out locations for retiring outside the U.S. If you are thinking settling aboard is in your future, the following are items you should consider before moving out of the country.

Preparation

            First and foremost: simplify your financial life where possible. Condense assets and prepare to do a lot of online banking. Make sure you have online access setup for your accounts and investments that will remain U.S-based.          

            If you can, find a community of American retirees wherever you are planning to settle. Those with experience retiring in the area are your best resource. This can be done by online social groups (i.e. Facebook) or by researching.

            Prepare to spend before you even get on the plane. While living expenses may be less per month in some areas, you may have to put several months’ rent down for a home. This could be up to $5,000. That does not consider travel there and moving belongings which could easily be another $5,000.

Credit History & Banking  

            What has been a determining factor throughout life for interest rates, mortgage, car payments? You guessed it! Credit score! The credit history you have built for decades will not likely transfer with you when moving aboard. If you can before, build up a credit history there—cell plan, lease, etc. It is recommended keeping a credit card or two from the U.S. active. This way you can use these for online shopping, travel expenses. This will keep your American credit score active.

            Unfortunately, it may be easier to build a credit history overseas than get a bank account within the country you settle. This goes for getting a credit card there, too. Why? The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) was enforced beginning summer of 2014. This law requires foreign banks to report any accounts of U.S. citizens. Because of FATCA, extra fees are charged if foreign banks work with Americans. Many turn Americans away. In addition, U.S. citizens must file a Foreign Bank & Financial Account report for accountability.

            With the foreign banking laws, other laws have been put in place called “anti-laundering rules.” These rules require providing proof of funds when depositing between U.S. and a foreign account. For example, if you have a large lump sum deposited into your foreign bank account from a house or business sale, you will need to provide documentation of this sale for the money to be properly deposited.

            Another matter to consider is the exchange rate for currency. If you are using an ATM for your U.S. account, what you pull and receive will be based on that day’s exchange rate. The rate may change frequently and there will be fees associated depending on what account you are withdrawing from. Before moving out of the country, find cards that have small or no fees for foreign transactions and withdrawals.

Investments & Social Security

            Top advisors recommend keeping most investments within the U.S. This allows for better reporting and efficiency fund management. Having investments in the world stock markets are riskier, with an additional risk when it comes to the currency rate. By keeping investment assets U.S-based, funds are easily be distributed and oftentimes uninterrupted. Doublecheck that an international address will not a problem. Some agencies have policies that require an American address. Retirees that have moved out of the country have reported that policies have been paid out or closed due to this; this led to tax issues and messing up the three-bucket system. Research into your policies before moving.

            Unlike the issues that investments may have overseas, social security benefits are still paid out. The funds are directly deposited into bank account. The only downside is that Medicare is not given when living aboard.

Taxes

            Living aboard comes with a double taxation price tag. Depending on the laws and other regulations, you will have to file taxes for the United States and wherever you have settled. This is heavily dependent on your financial situation. Luckily, there are some tax breaks you may qualify for living on foreign soil: Foreign earned income exclusion and foreign tax credit.

            First, as of 2021, the foreign earned income exclusion permits $108,700 per individual. A married couple filing together potentially could exclude $217,400. This income exclusion does not apply to retirees who have zero income from working—401(k) and IRA distributions are not earned income. Secondly, the foreign tax credit allows qualified foreign taxes paid to offset U.S. tax liability. The credit is what American retirees rely on the most when living aboard due to itemization.

            Remember, if maintaining a U.S. address, state and local taxes may still be owed. Make sure when you are filing and claiming deductions and credits that you have converted the dollar correctly so no errors may result in major consequences.

READ MORE

How to Face Your Retirement Risks: Think in Buckets

Since the old paradigm of retirement will do more harm than good in this current world, tackling the Top Ten Risks can be tricky.

Why won’t the old paradigm work? The first reason is folks nowadays live into their 80s when decades back that was not as common. Because retirement age back in the late 20th century was 55, many retirees waited until years past their retirement age to fully leave the workforce. Another major contributor to retirement plans back then were pensions. Social Security (SS) was on the table then, too. Folks could easily retire and enjoy their golden years off their employment pension and SS. Now, a lot of retirement is unfortunately up to the employees.

Beyond understanding SS and Medicare, balancing your assets over taxable, tax-deferred, and tax-free accounts is key to the success of your risk-free retirement. This is known as the Three Bucket System.

First and foremost, the taxable bucket is designed for emergency funds. Having 6 months of your living expenses in this bucket permits less risk. You are protected in case of emergency, and you are not exposing your savings to extra taxation.

The second bucket is tax-deferred and is a bucket folks overfill. While this bucket varies individually, there are some ‘rules’ to be mindful of. Your required minimum distributions (RMDs) should be low enough to not create provisional income (too much would cause your SS to be taxed). Secondly, you do not want them to exceed your standard deduction.

Filling the other two buckets means you can successfully begin filling the third bucket up: tax-free. The sooner you do this, the better off your risk-free retirement will do. Things that can be done for this bucket are Roth conversions or buying a life insurance retirement plan.

**We strongly encourage you to listen to our podcast Retirement Risk Show episode “Break Down the Top 10 Risks Facing Your Retirement” for a deeper dive into the information provided in this blog. For even more on the 10 Risks Top Ten Risks and strategies to reduce them during retirement, register for our webinar “Getting Safely Through Retirement.”

READ MORE