How to Make That Nest Egg Last All The Way Through Retirement

NEW YORK (MainStreet) – If you can retire without outliving your nest egg or going back to work, congratulations: You're a rare breed.

Both Franklin Templeton and Voya Financial conducted surveys recently that concluded retirees aren't all that confident that their money will last throughout their retirement. According to Voya, six out of 10 retirees say their retirement was somewhat or very unexpected, 51% have never tried to determine if their current retirement savings will last, 39% know it won't last 20 years and 13% don't know how much savings they have in the bank at all.

Franklin Templeton, meanwhile, found that 55% of Americans are considering working during their retirement, with 30% of those ages 18 through 24 planning to never retire at all. Topping the concerns of those planning to retire are running out of money (27%) and health/medical issues (27%).

“Conventional thinking and attitudes about what it means to retire are changing. By taking action now — via saving and planning for retirement — individuals can help ensure that they're able to embrace this next phase of life,” says Michael Doshier, vice president of retirement marketing for Franklin Templeton Investments. “They can also reduce the stress increasingly associated with not having enough money to retire.”

With Voya noting that 59% working Americans are very or extremely concerned about outliving their retirement savings — with 74% having never calculated their monthly retirement income needs — just taking that first step can be tough. James Nichols, head of retirement income and advice strategy for retirement solutions at Voya, advises retirees that they'll need 70% of their annual income to continue their current lifestyle in retirement. He also notes that planning for 30 years of retirement or more is key to success.

“Of course, some people will need more than that and some will need less depending of their lifestyle desires, health expenses, retirement plans and other factors,” Nichols says. “To adjust for inflation, make sure your money is still working for you in retirement ... Make sure your portfolio is not too conservative and that you diversify your investments.”

That means throwing as much as you possibly can into your retirement. Max out your 401(k) and IRA if possible, Nichols suggests, and increase your savings with every raise or bonus. Also, don't forget to make those increased catch-up contributions once you turn 50.

But resist the urge to tap into Social Security benefits until you absolutely need them. There's a reason Voya says 82% of Millennials believe that Social Security will pay them little to nothing when they retire, and it's because overeager recipients are taking small payments now. Franklin Templeton notes that 39% of would-be retirees don't even know how much Social Security will pay out, 22% don't know when to start taking it and 37% don't think it will pay out as much as they think it will by the time they retire.

On top of that, 59% of retirees told Franklin Templeton they took Social Security before full retirement age; only 16% began at full retirement age; and just 7% delayed until after full retirement age. Of those who took it early, 42% said they did so just because they were eligible.

“When it comes to Social Security, most people don’t delay gratification – and it hurts them,” Voya's Nichols says. “You can increase your monthly benefit amount by 75% if you are able to defer starting your Social Security until age 70; this can add up to a lot of money!”

That comes in handy when inflation takes a huge bite. When it comes to actual spending in retirement, the Franklin Templeton survey found that 37% of retirees increase their spending as retirement wears on: 28% of that group reports an increase one to five years into retirement, 42% six to 10 years in and 44% after 11 years or more years. For a lot of retirees, that means more time working.

Most working Americans understand they are likely to be working into their late 60s, even 70s,” Nichols says. “For today’s workers, it is a different reality than for retirees and previous generations, with the decline of pensions, longer lifespans and limited savings. Saving early and planning with the help of a financial professional can mean a difference of years of additional time in retirement.”

Once again, it comes back to hitting that 70% income figure. Unfortunately, Franklin Templeton found that 36% of non-retired respondents expect to live on an amount less than 70% of their current income. Roughly 45% of retirees says they already live on less than 70% of their pre-retirement income.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Nichols and advisors at Merrill Lynch suggest investing in a combination of health savings accounts and long-term care insurance to hedge against financially disastrous medical costs. They also advise being open to downsizing and shedding a 20- to 30-year mortgage commitment in favor of a clean slate. Most importantly, Franklin Templeton's Doshier says, work with a financial advisor on a written plan and take the guesswork out of your retirement strategy.

"There's no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to investing for longevity; it depends on a person's individual time horizon and tolerance for risk," says Debra Greenberg, director of IRA product management at Merrill Lynch. "Start doing your homework today so you can be well prepared for tomorrow."

— Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore., for MainStreet

To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/notteham.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held TK positions in the stocks mentioned.

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