Retirement planning doesn’t end at retirement
Congratulations, you’ve officially retired! You’ve worked hard throughout your career to make smart retirement planning decisions and build a nest egg that will provide financial independence for the rest of your life. You’ve rolled over and consolidated employer retirement plans into IRAs, you’ve decided when to begin receiving Social Security benefits, and you’ve met with an estate attorney to ensure that your legacy wishes are up-to-date. All done, right?
Well, as famed basketball coach Abe Lemons said, “the trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off.” And he’s right, especially when it comes to retirement planning—which is truly just beginning at retirement.
Retirement planning – your lifestyle
Your new retirement lifestyle will likely be very different from your friend’s or neighbor’s, so the planning involved to ensure a successful transition should be different as well. There are a lot of questions to ask yourself. How will I spend the hours I used to spend at work? Do I see myself staying in my current home or should I move to a new home? Do I plan to live in the same state or live closer to my children? Do I want to travel more?
If your answer is to move to a new home, you should be sure to understand how this change will impact your financial situation. The state in which you decide to establish residency can have a significant tax impact on your income and potentially how your assets should be titled for estate purposes. Increased travel could mean higher levels of spending compared to when you had a regular paycheck, so be sure to include a conservative expense assumption in your financial independence analysis. Should you reward yourself and splurge in retirement? Absolutely—you deserve it, but make sure to do it with confidence every step of the way.
Retirement planning – replacing your paycheck
How you pay yourself in retirement can have a significant impact on the longevity of your assets. In order to replace your previously earned income, you’ll need a plan that takes opportunity cost and tax efficiency into consideration. There is no magic number, but most retirees should have approximately 6-12 months’ worth of expenses in cash.
For planning purposes, it’s important to understand what your expenses and sources of income will be for the next 3-5 years. Immediate cash needs could be kept in a high-yielding checking or savings account, while the rest of your liquid assets should be invested in a globally diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds. Bonds can provide you with stability needed for cash distributions during down markets, while stocks provide you with the opportunity for capital appreciation needed to grow the base of your portfolio to last your lifetime.
Changes in your tax bracket
For individuals who retire prior to age 70, you may suddenly find yourself in a much lower tax bracket. This can present a great opportunity. As you probably know, when you turn 70½, the IRS requires that you begin to take IRA distributions based on your life expectancy. These Required Minimum Distributions, or RMDs, will be taxed at ordinary income tax rates. In addition to RMD income, many retirees also begin taking their Social Security benefits at age 70. The combination of these income sources can result in a much higher marginal tax rate, sometimes as high as when you were employed. One way to reduce future RMDs and perhaps reduce future taxes, is to take opportunistic IRA distributions in the form of withdrawals or Roth Conversions.
Gifting assets in retirement
Many successful retirees are passionate about giving back to their alma mater or supporting charities that align with their beliefs. Others have the desire to help the next generation get a head start by contributing to tuition or a first home purchase. We recommend first sitting down with your financial advisor to determine the amount that you can gift—either in a lump sum or on a regular basis. Once an amount is determined, the next step is to optimize your gifting strategies in the most tax efficient way. Potential strategies could involve contributing highly appreciated stock to a donor advised fund, directing required minimum distributions to charity through qualified charitable distributions, or gifting cash to family members.
Keep your estate plan up to date
As you continue to age throughout retirement, be sure to keep your estate plan relatively fresh. We recommend revisiting the documents every 3-5 years, or as often as your situation and the laws change. No matter where you establish residency, your will should remain valid. However, laws may vary state to state and may invalidate some clauses.
At CI Private Wealth, we specialize in planning for all the possibilities and potential challenges of retirement.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Peter O'Neill, CFP
Pete counsels and advises families and individuals on holistic financial planning. His areas of expertise are in retirement planning, income tax planning, investment management and estate planning. Pete joined RegentAtlantic in 2019, and has more than ten years of experience working with high-net-worth families and individuals. He is a member of the Financial Planning Committee and actively contributes to discuss and enhance best practices for advisors providing holistic financial planning advice.
Pete graduated from St. Joseph's University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Finance. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM, having received the designation from the Fairleigh Dickinson University. Pete was born and raised in New Jersey, and today he and his wife Paige live in Bridgewater with their two boys. In his free time Pete enjoys trying new restaurants and collecting wine. As a sports enthusiast, I'm a Yankees, Giants and Knicks fan and continue to work on my golf game.
This information is for educational purposes and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, accounting, legal, tax, insurance, or investment advice. This does not constitute an offer to provide any services, nor a solicitation to purchase securities. The contents are not intended to be advice tailored to any particular person or situation. We believe the information provided is accurate and reliable, but do not warrant it as to completeness or accuracy. This information may include opinions or forecasts, including investment strategies and economic and market conditions; however, there is no guarantee that such opinions or forecasts will prove to be correct, and they also may change without notice. We encourage you to speak with a qualified professional regarding your scenario and the then-current applicable laws and rules.
Different types of investments involve degrees of risk. Future performance of any investment or wealth management strategy, including those recommended by us, may not be profitable, suitable, or prove successful. Past performance is not indicative of future results. One cannot invest directly in an index or benchmark, and those do not reflect the deduction of various fees which would diminish results. Any index or benchmark performance figures are for comparison purposes only, and client account holdings will not directly correspond to any such data.
Our clients must, in writing, advise us of personal, financial, or investment objective changes and any restrictions desired on our services so that we may re-evaluate any previous recommendations and adjust our advisory services as needed. For current clients, please advise us immediately if you are not receiving monthly account statements from your custodian. We encourage you to compare your custodial statements to any information we provide to you.