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The Average Cost of Retirement
The Average Cost of Retirement
Many people wonder exactly how much it will cost for them to retire comfortably, and whether they’ll have enough money to do it. That can be a tough question to answer — but it’s an important one to get right. Learning about current retirees’ finances can be a helpful starting point when gauging your own retirement goals.
According to the Data …
The U.S. Census Bureau provides information regarding the typical retirement income of Americans. They do this by reporting two types of statistics — mean income and median income.
Mean income is determined by adding all the annual incomes of retirees and dividing by the total number of retirees. The resulting number is the arithmetic average. However, this value can be greatly influenced by extremely high- or low-income numbers.
The median is calculated by taking the middle value of all annual incomes of retirees when the values are arranged from low to high. Because a median isn’t influenced by those with very high or low incomes, it’s often regarded as more representative. In 2021, the median annual income of American retirees over the age of 65 was $47,357 — whereas the mean was $73,288.
Census Bureau data also reflects a downward trend in retirement income as retirees age.
From ages 65 to 69, the median household income was $60,324; from ages 70 to 74, it shrinks to $53,327. And among retirees over 75, the median income was $37,335. This is in part because as retirees age, they are less likely to be earning any income and are typically spending down savings and investments.
The census also breaks down data by state. Typical retirement income varies a great deal in terms of where retirees live. The highest reported income is in the District of Columbia ($43,601), and the lowest is found among Indiana residents ($20,521). Cost of living is a primary driver of retirement budget calculations including:
- Your lifestyle during retirement (travel, eating out).
- Housing costs.
- Health care expenses.
- The age you elect to start receiving Social Security benefits.
- Economic conditions, including inflation at the time you retire.
- Financial contributions from your spouse.
Where to Start?
One often-cited rule of thumb when it comes to retirement income planning is that many people are expected to need approximately 80% of their pre-retirement income to retire comfortably. That means if you made $100,000 per year pre-retirement, you’d need about $80,000 post-retirement. Thinking about why you’ll need less is that your income tax obligations are anticipated to be lower, and you won’t have to pay for many job-related expenses. However, it’s important to realize that other costs, especially those related to medical needs, can increase significantly during retirement.
The Number That Matters Most
Retirement planning is ultimately a very personal decision-making process that depends on your unique situation and needs. That’s why things like the 80% rule are best regarded as a starting point and not a hard and fast rule. Because so many factors go into retirement planning — projected taxes, inflation, cost-of-living increases and much more — it can be useful to seek the advice of a qualified financial professional to assist you. In the end, it’s not the average retirement that matters most — it’s your own.
Financial Fact or Fiction
Financial Fact or Fiction
While most people realize breaking a mirror won’t bring seven years of bad luck, many money myths are still widely believed. Can you tell whether the following are fact or fiction?
Let’s put your financial know-how to the test.
1. A mortgage is good debt, no matter how big it is.
FICTION: “Good debt” is manageable and can help you achieve important life goals. While home ownership can be a great goal, not all mortgages are “good debt.” If your house payments are breaking the bank, or if your adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) is about to reset to a payment you can no longer afford, even the mortgage on your dream home may not qualify as good debt.
2. Financial planning is only for the wealthy.
FICTION: You may think there’s no point in working with a financial professional if you don’t have a fortune in the bank, but most people can benefit from a little expert help. Even those with modest assets may have a lot to gain from advice about taxes, investments, budgeting, debt and credit. And this valuable service may also be easier to obtain than you think. Workers with an employer-sponsored retirement plan may already have access to a financial professional through their benefits package — check with your human resources department to learn more.
3. If I’m still young, there’s no rush to save for retirement.
FICTION: It’s actually never too early to start saving for retirement, but waiting too long could put some serious cracks in your future nest egg. If someone invests $30,000 into a retirement fund at 25, even with no further contributions, they could have nearly $450,000 by age 65, assuming an average annual rate of return of 7%. But if they were to wait until 45 to start saving, that amount drops to around $116,000.
4. There’s no sure thing when it comes to investing.
FICTION: There actually is a sure thing — and that’s your employer 401(k) match. This is an additional deposit from your employer into your 401(k) equal to a percentage of your contribution up to a certain limit. Your matching funds may not “vest” right away, which means they might not fully belong to you when they’re deposited. But while you may have to wait for your matching funds to vest, your employer match is like free money — and one of the few sure things in the world of investing.
5. It’s better to pay down all your debt than invest your money.
IT DEPENDS: Whether it’s best to pay down debt or invest first depends on your individual situation. It’s often advantageous to pay off higher interest debts like credit cards quickly — especially with the average credit card rate topping more than 19% in the final months of 2022. But for a low-interest mortgage or other manageable debt, it might make sense for investing to take priority — or do a little of both at the same time. This is an area where getting advice from a qualified financial professional can really help.
Everyone can improve their financial wellness.
WellCents can help boost your financial wellness. The first step is to take a short online financial assessment. Your individual results are completely confidential and can help you better understand your financial strengths and weaknesses. You’ll gain valuable insights into your retirement readiness, debt, credit, investments and more. And you’ll have access to e-learning and articles tailored to your needs, plus advice from a financial professional. No matter your current situation, it’s never too late to start improving your personal finances — and that’s a FACT!
Are You Underinsured?
Are You Underinsured?
For some, insurance is just one more item on their financial checklist. Whether you mortgage a home, buy a car or start a business, some type of insurance is usually required. But what if, despite paying all your premiums on time, your coverage comes up short when you encounter a loss?
There are at least three ways you might be underinsured:
- Not carrying insurance for new risks as your life circumstances change.
- Having a policy with coverage limits that are too low to cover a potential loss.
- Failing to notice policy exclusions that don’t protect all your assets.
To avoid finding yourself in one of these situations, it’s important to understand where your coverage may be insufficient — or lacking altogether.
The Home Valuation Problem
Prices, especially on homes, can rise and fall dramatically. In most cases, the insurer will pay for damage to your home up to the limit set in the policy. But what if that upper limit is no longer enough to replace your home when prices for materials and labor go up due to inflation or other causes?
Some policies include “extended” or “guaranteed” replacement coverage. It’s not uncommon to see materials and labor jump in price following a natural disaster that damages multiple homes. Extended coverage will increase the maximum amount the insurer will pay, adding a percentage — 20%, for example — to the stated policy limit. Guaranteed replacement is just that: You are guaranteed to get enough money to rebuild your home no matter what it costs. Naturally, both options will add to the cost of your premium.
The Value of Valuables
The valuation problem also applies to your possessions. For personal property coverage, you can choose between replacement cost and actual cash value. Replacement value means the insurer pays to replace your belongings with new comparable items up to your policy limits. If you lose your home in a fire and you had an older iMac sitting on your desk, you’ll get enough to purchase a new iMac. However, if you choose the actual cash value option, you’ll get the current cash value of that computer — as determined by the insurer — meaning purchase cost minus depreciation, which is going to be less than the cost of a new comparable model.
Change in Circumstances
If you previously had no one financially dependent on you and then get married or have a child, you may be underinsured as a family if you have no life insurance to replace your income should something happen to you. Your children or other family members may develop conditions or needs that your existing coverage is insufficient for. Or perhaps there are now grandchildren you want to include as beneficiaries. Think through all the people in your life who you might want to provide for in the event you’re no longer around.
Get Help from an Expert
As with all things related to insurance, seek out a knowledgeable agent or speak to a financial professional for advice to get the coverage you need at the best price and terms. Be sure to read part two of this discussion, where we’ll examine policy exclusions, protection against lawsuit risk and the importance of understanding your health insurance deductibles.
Saving for a big purchase can be a big challenge, whether it’s a brand-new car, a hot tub — or even a 1959 Gibson Les Paul. But you can tackle your elephant-sized purchase with a similar strategy: Just take it one step at a time. Here are a few big-ticket budgeting tips that you won’t need a memory like an elephant to remember to use.
1. Set a reasonable budget … then pad it. It’s always wise to allow extra room in your budget for contingencies. There can be unexpected surprises, especially with larger purchases. And unfortunately, things often have a way of costing more than you expected. Consider allowing a minimum 10% overrun on your big-ticket budget.
2. Find discounts and take advantage of them. If you’re traveling, for example, consider AAA or AARP discounts. Off-season travel can score you some savings, too. Many items and experiences cost more depending on when you buy or book them. Always look for coupons and other saving options when paying for routine purchases such as oil changes for your car, grocery shopping, dining out and ordering pizza.
3. Comparison shop. Scour the web and Google Shopping for other retailers who offer the product or service you’re interested in. If you’re looking for a car, for example, don’t assume that the price at your local dealer is “the” price. Edmunds.com, cars.com and other online resources can provide options in your area that you can filter based on your needs and preferences. And be sure to check national franchises that can ship inventory from across the country to find the best deal.
4. Ask a “friend.” Crowdsourcing consumer opinions has never been easier. Most products and services are reviewed, rated and compared — and the results can be easily searched for online. Search the comments for keywords like “discount,” “savings” or “cost less” to see how others saved on their purchases.
4. Set up a dedicated account. A great way to help organize your savings for a large purchase is to earmark the money intended for it by keeping the funds in a separate account. That way, you can more easily track your progress — and you won’t be tempted to spend the money on anything else.
5. Boost your savings with offsets. Take a look in your garage, the back of your closets and the attic. See if there are things of value that you no longer use or want. Sell them on eBay, Craigslist, OfferUp or at a yard sale. On the flip side, a penny saved is a penny earned. Can you decrease nonessential spending until you reach your savings goal?
6. Put time on your side. Start saving as early as possible. If you wait until the last minute, you may be faced with having to do some pretty extreme saving. The sooner you start, the less you’ll feel the impact on your day-to-day budget.
Seek out Advice — and Save
Family members, friends and co-workers might have their own experiences with the purchase you’re about to make and can share how they saved money on it. Ask for their advice — but also consider bringing in an expert by speaking with a financial professional who can help you make a realistic, feasible plan for your purchase.
Make Tax Efficiency a Part of Your Investment Strategy
Make Tax Efficiency a Part of Your Investment Strategy
When reviewing investment options, many people focus strictly on returns. But it’s critical to also consider tax efficiency as you build a portfolio.
There are two types of investment accounts: tax-advantaged and taxable. Tax-advantaged accounts are any investment or savings option that’s either tax-exempt, tax-deferred or offers some other kind of tax benefit. When you take advantage of tax-advantaged investing, you can reduce the impact when Uncle Sam comes calling on April 15th.
One of the most common and well-known tax-advantaged accounts is the 401(k). Many employers offer a 401(k) as part of their workplace benefits. There are two main types:
A traditional 401(k) grows tax-deferred. You contribute money from your paycheck before taxes are taken out, lowering your taxable income today. You save money on taxes now, but you pay taxes on your withdrawals later. If you think you’ll be in a lower bracket during retirement, this can be one way to realize tax savings over time.
A Roth 401(k) grows tax-free. You make your contributions with after-tax dollars. So, even though you pay taxes today, you don’t have to pay taxes when you withdraw during retirement. If you think your taxes will be higher in the future, this can be a good move, reducing your tax liability during retirement.
HSA (Health Savings Account) – The “Triple Tax Advantage”
If you have a high-deductible health plan and meet other requirements, you might be able to contribute to an HSA. With this type of account, you get what’s often called a triple tax advantage:
Contributions are made with pre-tax dollars, resulting in tax savings today.
Money in the HSA grows tax-deferred, allowing it to accumulate without the drawback of paying taxes as you accrue earnings from investments.
Withdrawals aren’t taxed if they’re used for qualified medical expenses.
Some retirees use an HSA in conjunction with other tax-advantaged investing accounts. For example, an HSA can pay for health costs during retirement, while money from the 401(k) is used toward everyday expenses.
529 Savings Plans
After you’ve shored up your own finances, you might want to use a tax-advantaged account to save for your kids’ education. Many states offer 529 savings plans that can help you do just that, whether you’re putting money away for college or even K-12 tuition. Both prepaid tuition and savings plans are available but investment options and fees may differ by state. Contributions are made with after-tax dollars, but money in the account grows tax-free if withdrawals are used for eligible education expenses.
Understand Your Options
Taxes can have a big impact on your financial picture and can sometimes be complicated to fully understand. Nonetheless, it’s important to consider tax-advantaged investing when establishing your personal financial plan. If you have questions, speak with your qualified financial professional about which tax-advantaged investment options might be best for you.