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4 Ways to Get the Most out of Your Retirement Budget

Posted on | January 9, 2012 | 2 Comments

As medical technology advances, society becomes safer and health knowledge becomes more mainstream, the life expectancy of humans tends to increase. In 1950, the average lifespan was 68 years. Today, that figure has risen to 78. While people are excited about living longer, quality of life is also an important part of retiring comfortably. Finding ways to stretch your retirement budget will allow you to retire at a normal age without having to sacrifice the hobbies and adventures you enjoy. Here are 4 ways to get the most out of your retirement budget:

1. Create a Financial Strategy

Getting the most out of your retirement starts with knowing the limits of your finances. Start by breaking down your current annual expenses and how those will change as the years progress. For example, each year your expenses will grow roughly 3% due to inflation alone. Although you may pay off a mortgage, or save money on business clothes and transportation, the cost of medicine and treatment may replace those expenses. Mapping out your financial obligations year by year will help you determine your financial readiness and how much flexibility you have.

Once you have a budget, every decision you make can be justified by working within the confines of that budget. For example, you can fund a more luxurious lifestyle by downsizing your home, or moving to a more tax friendly region. If you want to spend a particular year traveling, you can eschew another vice such as eating at restaurants for that specific year. There are plenty of creative ways to do what you want without having to blow up your initial projections by tacking on an additional expense.

2. Diversify Your Portfolio

Just as inflation can eat into your retirement portfolio, earning interest can replenish your coffers. The problem is that many high interest products come with the caveat of increased risk, something older investors are generally less likely to tolerate. However, many financial experts are shifting away from the traditional model and are recommending a more diverse model of risk for their retired customers. As much of your nest egg is not intended to be utilized for decades, there is no reason that a small portion of your funds can’t be invested in higher risk products, if you are willing to ride out the occasional bear market.

3. Determine Your Strategy for Social Security and Pension Payments

The government allows you to take out Social Security benefits starting at age 62. However, doing so will permanently reduce the amount of your benefits. This amounts to a 25 to 30 percent drop in benefits as opposed to waiting until age 66. On the other hand, if you have no other income, or suffer from health issues, it may be wiser to take a reduced check now than wait for a bigger check down the line.

Another decision many workers must consider is whether to take their pension via a lump sum or an annuity payment. As the advantages vary depending on your personal finances, it is best to consult a financial planner about which choice is right for you. Traditional annuities have the advantage of guaranteeing a steady income throughout the life of you and your spouse, whereas a lump sum provides more flexibility and purchasing power.

4. Start Slow

The first five years are the most critical when it comes to retirement. Unfortunately, it is common for many couples to overextend themselves during these years, depleting their savings and compromising their ability to spend in the future. Being conservative early in your retirement has two advantages. First, it allows the bulk of your nest egg to earn interest for another five years. Second, it gives you a realistic portrait of how sustainable your budget is over the breadth of your retirement. From there you can gradually take a more aggressive approach and spend your retirement without worry of outliving it.

Carl Edwards writes for EquityRelease.net covering a wide range of retirement finance topics.


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