For those within ten years of their hoped-for retirement age, it's time to be realistic: will your nest egg support you for the next 30 or so years? Put it another way—if you annually withdraw the four to five percent of your portfolio's value, recommended as the safe rate, how much does that give you to live on? If that withdrawal rate number is a lot smaller than you spend right now, you're hardly alone.
MAX OUT RETIREMENT SAVINGS.
The typical boomer has less than $100,000 in retirement savings—at a four percent withdrawal rate, that's about $4,000 per year. The last couple of years in the market have not been kind, but you cannot stop saving and investing. The stock market has rebounded from every single decline. Every single one. You have to believe it will recover again—or no one will ever retire, anyway.
So do it—sock away the maximum amount into your 401(k) plan. That's $22,000 annually for those 50 and older, $16,500 for the youngsters.
Too difficult to live on such reduced means, you say? It's preferable to living on Social Security plus $4,000 a year. Better yet, think how those added savings will boost your standard of living in retirement. As an example, assume a 55 year old worker who wants to retire in ten years but has no savings. His employer will match half of the first 6 percent of salary he contributes to a 401(k) plan. That plan is invested in a mix of stocks and bonds designed to return an annualized eight percent yield. The employee currently earns $80,000 and gets an annual three percent raise. If the employee contributes six percent of his salary each year for the next ten years—just enough to get the employer match—he will retire with $147,340 in the plan. If the employee contributes the full $16,500 each year, he'd have $345,736 at retirement. Better yet, if he uses the catch up contribution and contributes $22,000, he could retire with $444,610.
After maxing out your 401(k) contribution, don't neglect your IRA. You can save $6,000 per year ($5,000 if under age 50). Contribute to a Roth IRA if you can (maximum income—after 401(k) contributions—for doing so is $105,000 for singles and $166,000 for married filing jointly) and to a traditional IRA if you can't.
PAY OFF YOUR MORTGAGE.
Retiring mortgage free has been a traditional goal, but for many people it has not been the reality. Eliminating that monthly payment can make a huge difference in your retirement standard of living. Right now, interest rates are as low as they've been in years. If you still have a mortgage, look into refinancing. For the same monthly cost, you may be able to reduce the remaining term. If not, you could reduce the interest rate but continue to make payments in the same amount you are now—direct that the extra amount you pay each month be allocated to principal. That gets you to the same place.
A word of warning: don't dip into retirement funds or other long-term savings to speed up your mortgage payments. That reduces your liquidity when you are trying to enhance it. If you have no cash flow to pay down your mortgage, consider downsizing by selling your home and purchasing a new one for no more than the net proceeds, or at least at a smaller cost than the sales price of your current home.
For those born after 1942, the minimum full retirement age for Social Security is 66, not 65. Beginning with those born in 1960, it's age 67. It may be time to think of your retirement age as something after age 65 as well. More years in the work force gives you more time to boost your nest egg and less time you'll need to draw down from it. As the Baby Boomers reinvent retirement, this is going to be one of the ways they do it.
Note: Claire E. Toth, JD, MLT, CFP™, is Vice President of Point View Financial Services, Inc., a registered investment advisor at 382 Springfield Ave., Summit. The full-length version of this article is available at: www.ptview.com