Why Baby Boomers Need to Boost Retirement Income

Baby Boomers are falling behind in the amount of the money they have amassed for their retirement and not meeting their goals.

Financial experts recommend that senior citizens need to replace 70% of their pre-retirement income when they retire with distributions from retirement savings, Social Security and other retirement income. Yet Baby Boomers are falling behind in 47 states and the District of Columbia, according to a study conducted by Bankrate, a North Palm Beach, Fla.-based financial content company. Seniors in Alaska, Hawaii and South Carolina are the only ones meeting this threshold.

Across the U.S., people who are age 65 years and older are facing a median income of only 60% of what pre-retirees -- those 45 to 64 years old -- are making, according to the study based on the U.S. Census Bureau's 2014 American Community Survey. 

"These numbers illustrate that many Americans are underprepared for retirement," said Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate's chief financial analyst. "In addition to saving more, people should consider working longer because for each additional year that you work, your assets have more time to grow. It is also an opportunity of another year for you to save and one less year the money has to support you in retirement."

The 15 states with the largest gap of income for retirement are located in the northern half of the U.S. with Massachusetts demonstrating the largest gap.

Residents living in states where there are higher concentrations of pensions fared better, he said.

Increase Retirement Savings

Before Baby Boomers retire, they should attempt to max out their contributions for their 401(k) and IRA accounts, taking advantage of any matching contributions offered by their employer and minimizing their tax liability, McBride said.

Many senior citizens still face large amounts of unsecured debt after they retire and have limited options beyond working extra years.

"Some have also been faced with lingering debt obligations they weren't able to pay off while working," said Bruce McClary, spokesperson for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization. "There are solutions for people who haven't sufficiently prepared for a financially secure retirement."

Consumers in their 40s and 50s who are burdened with large amounts of debt should consider options such as consolidating their loans for a faster payoff period.

"Those with high levels of mortgage debt should explore options that could help reduce their out of pocket housing costs," he said. "For many, a lack of preparation during their working years led to insufficient funds after retirement."

Wait on Social Security Payments

While some retirees are uncertain about when they should start utilizing Social Security payment, even waiting a couple of years can boost a retiree's income.

"Senior citizens should also delay receiving Social Security payments, because each year you delay up to the age of 70 is a permanent pay raise," McBride said.

Waiting until the age of 70 instead of 62 to receive the payments increases the amount by up to 76% increase in Social Security benefits, said Bruce Tannahill, a director of estate and business planning for MassMutual, a Springfield, Mass.-based financial institution.

"Planning to maximize the benefit the surviving spouse will receive is important because the survivor will receive Social Security benefits equal to the higher of the deceased spouse's benefits or the survivor's own benefit, not both benefits, he said.

Other Methods to Build Income

Retirees can boost their income by taking advantage of tax strategies and paying a lower amount. One method is to utilize more money from their checking and savings, accounts because it is not taxed unlike the funds distributed from retirement accounts which are taxed at regular income tax rates, said Michael Garry, chief compliance officer at Yardley Wealth Management, a Newton, Pa.-based financial planning firm.

"One thing some people can do to increase their income is to become tax-efficient, so if they have money in non-retirement investing such as checking or savings accounts, they should take more money from them if they can," he said. "It will reduce their tax burden, giving them more income per dollar of savings and investment used."

Maintaining a diversified portfolio and rebalancing regularly helps increase the amount of money a person amasses for retirement.

"Asset location refers to being diversified within each asset class," said Sean Cartin, a vice president at EP Wealth Advisors, a Torrance, Calif.-based financial planning firm. "Asset allocation is typically adjusted to become more conservative as retirement approaches, but again it depends on each individual's specific situation."

Many people will not be able to retire and maintain their current standard of living, said Derrick Handwerk, a managing partner of Handwerk Multi Family Office, a Lansdale, Pa. financial planning firm.

"The lack of sufficient retirement savings is an epidemic," he said.

Adjusting your lifestyle now means you can save more money, especially if you are not close to retiring yet.

"Live below your means because the magic of compound interest says that saying no to something today allows you to say yes many more times in your future," Handwerk said. "For God's sake, make your own coffee. Why pay $5 dollars for a cup in a crowded shop, since four lattes a week equals to $1,000 after taxes are taken out per year or $1,500 of your salary."

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