While most Americans already have enough difficulty saving for retirement, there may be another obstacle not all have planned for — the rising cost of living.
"I think it is safe to say that inflation should be the primary concern for retirees and soon-to-be-retires," said Matt Hylland, investment advisor for Hylland Capital Management. "Just ask the countless who are earning 0.1% in their savings accounts, or earning less than 1% on a CD who are seeing their purchasing power eroded every day."
Almost half of Americans say they are either "very concerned" or even "terrified" that the rising cost of living will negatively affect their retirement plans, according to a new study on inflation from Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America.
"To some extent, inflation's effects can not totally be tamed," Hylland said. "The high inflation rates of the seventies hurt stock holders and bond holders alike. But there are a few new additions to investors' toolboxes to help counteract the effects of inflation on their investments and maintain their purchasing power."
Hylland said treasury inflation-protected securities and Series I savings bonds are such tools. He added besides these special instruments, savers also can do a few other things to help ensure they are not locking into low rates before inflation rises such as keeping the duration on bonds shorter.
"Shorter maturity bonds and CDs yield less, but it means that you will be able to roll these investments into higher yielding ones when they mature," he added.
Hampton Bourne, with First Advantage Investments, said inflation can absolutely cripple a retirement plan if people aren't properly prepared.
"The average retiree retires sometime in their mid-sixties, and over that time, if inflation increases at an average of 3% a year, it will double their cost of living by the time they are 90," Bourne said.
In other words, Bourne said if one does not have streams of rising income, their income will only get them half as far at the end of their retirement as it would in the beginning, and very few people can physically go back to work in their late 80s to support themselves.
"This also happens very slowly," he said. "It's like a slow erosion on someone's spending abilities."
In order to combat this, Bourne said people can retire later so that they aren't funding as long of a retirement or keep enough cash on hand to cover their income shortfall down the road, since people always underestimate the amount of cash they will need. Perhaps the best thing to do is have some sort of rising income that will combat inflation, he adds.
"There are a few different ways of doing this," Bourne said. "Variable annuities, mutual funds with dividend paying stocks inside — or my favorite — individual dividend-paying stocks. You can customize an income stream much easier this way, plus retirees generally like holding investments that they can relate to."
"Obviously each of these has a place where appropriate and should be avoided when not appropriate," he added.
As an advisor it is imperative to create plans to last, and be able to withstand the potential for large cost of living adjustments, said Miranda Bonde, an advisor with Financial Advisor in Green Bay, Wis.
"The rising cost of living is a huge concern for retirees, and it is usually the first thing people want to discuss, aside from longevity," Bonde said.
Bonde said it's important in each retirement plan to look at how income is structured, how long the clients will live, and always include at least a 2.5% — if not 3% — annual inflationary increase on the income needed in retirement.