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Retirement Rules of Thumb

Retirement Rules of Thumb

By Pamela J. Sams, CRPC
NABBW’s Retirement Planning for Women Expert

Because retirement rules of thumb are guidelines designed for the average situation, they\’ll tend to be “wrong” for a particular retiree as often as they\’re “right.”

However, rules of thumb are usually based on a sound financial principle, and can provide a good starting point for assessing your retirement needs. Here are four common retirement rules of thumb.

The percentage of stock in a portfolio should equal 100 minus your age

Financial professionals often advise that if you\’re saving for retirement, the younger you are, the more money you should put in stocks. Though past performance is no guarantee of future results, over the long term, stocks have historically provided higher returns and capital appreciation than other commonly held securities.

As you age, you have less time to recover from downturns in the stock market. Therefore, many professionals suggest that as you approach and enter retirement, you should begin converting more of your volatile growth-oriented investments to fixed-income securities such as bonds.

A simple rule of thumb is to subtract your age from 100. The difference represents the percentage of stocks you should keep in your portfolio. For example, if you followed this rule at age 40, 60% (100 minus 40) of your portfolio would consist of stock.

However, this estimate is not a substitute for a comprehensive investment plan, and many experts suggest modifying the result after considering other factors, such as your risk tolerance, financial goals, the fact that bond yields are at historic lows, and the fact that individuals are now living longer and may have fewer safety nets to rely on than in the past.

A “safe” withdrawal rate is 4%

Your retirement income plan depends not only upon your asset allocation and investment choices, but also on how quickly you draw down your personal savings. Basically, you want to withdraw at least enough to provide the current income you need, but not so much that you run out too quickly, leaving nothing for later retirement years.

The percentage you withdraw annually from your savings and investments is called your withdrawal rate. The maximum percentage that you can withdraw each year and still reasonably expect not to deplete your savings is referred to as your “sustainable withdrawal rate.”

A common rule of thumb is that withdrawal of a dollar amount each year equal to 4% of your savings at retirement (adjusted for inflation) will be a sustainable withdrawal rate. However, this rule of thumb has critics, and there are other strategies and models that are used to calculate sustainable withdrawal rates.

For example, some experts suggest withdrawing a lesser or higher fixed percentage each year; some promote a rate based on your investment performance each year; and some recommend a withdrawal rate based on age. Factors to consider include the value of your savings, the amount of income you anticipate needing, your life expectancy, the rate of return you anticipate from your investments, inflation, taxes, and whether you\’re planning for one or two retired lives.

You need 70% of your preretirement income during retirement

You\’ve probably heard this many times before, and the number may have been 60%, 80%, 90%, or even 100%, depending on who you\’re talking to. But using a rule of thumb like this one, while easy, really isn\’t very helpful because it doesn\’t take into consideration your unique circumstances, expectations, and goals.

Instead of basing an estimate of your annual income needs on a percentage of your current income, focus instead on your actual expenses today and think about whether they\’ll stay the same, increase, decrease, or even disappear by the time you retire. While some expenses may disappear, like a mortgage or costs for transportation to and from work, new expenses may arise, like yard care services, snow removal, or home maintenance–things that you might currently take care of yourself but may not want to (or be able to) do in the future.

Additionally, if travel or hobby activities are going to be part of your retirement, be sure to factor these costs into your retirement expenses. This approach can help you determine a more realistic forecast of how much income you\’ll need during retirement.

Save 10% of your pay for retirement

While this seems like a perfectly reasonable rule of thumb, again, it\’s not for everyone. For example, if you\’ve started saving for retirement in your later years, 10% may not provide you with a large enough nest egg for a comfortable retirement, simply because you have fewer years to save.

However, a related rule of thumb, that you should direct your savings first into a 401(k) plan or other plan that provides employer matching contributions, is almost universally true. Employer matching contributions are essentially “free money,” even though you\’ll pay taxes when you ultimately withdraw them from the plan.

Pamela has been helping women and their families improve their personal and financial wealth through good financial planning for the past 10 years. She is a Financial Advisor with Financial Planning Services of Northern Virginia and her office is located in Herndon, VA. She is an investment advisor representative and offers securities and advisory services through ING Financial Partners, Inc. Financial Planning Services is not a subsidiary of, nor controlled by, ING Financial Partners. Sources for this article: 1) Income of the Population 55 or Older, 2008, Social Security Administration, 2010. This material was written and prepared by Emerald. © 2012 Emerald Connect, Inc.

Registered representative of and securities offered through ING Financial Partners, Member SIPC. This information was prepared by Forefield Inc. and has been made available for ING Financial Partners\’ representatives for distribution to the public for educational information only. Forefield Inc. is not affiliated with nor controlled by ING Financial Partners. The opinions/views expressed within are that of Forefield Inc. and do not necessarily reflect those of ING Financial Partners or its representatives. In addition, they are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Neither ING Financial Partners nor its representatives provide tax or legal advice. You should consult with your financial professional, attorney, accountant or tax advisor regarding your individual situation prior to making any investment decisions.

For over 20 years Pamela has been helping women improve their personal and financial wealth through solid financial life planning. Pamela’s education and training enable her to help clients successfully navigate through the myriad of financial decisions they face during their lives. She focuses on helping her clients meet their financial needs and help them work to achieve financial security and greater retirement readiness.

Pamela has become a strong voice in the area of personal finance for women. Her knowledge in this area has made her a sought-after speaker. She has been quoted in articles in various financial publications.

Throughout her financial services career, she has acquired several client service and financial planning awards. She has membership in the Million Dollar Roundtable (MDRT). Membership in MDRT is a highly recognized mark of excellence and limited to only the most successful in the financial services profession. This places Pamela among the top professionals in the global life insurance and financial services industry. Pamela was featured in the Women in Wealth section of Fortune Magazine November 2020 issue as a top Wealth Manager in the Washington DC metro area.

She successfully completed the demanding requirements to receive a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor certification through the College of Financial Planning. Pamela also holds a Behavioral Financial Advisor designation, awarded to advisors who have undergone training to learn to help clients make financial decisions using a rational, values-based approach. Behavioral Financial Advisor’s integrate techniques founded in traditional finance, psychology and neuroscience to positively influence clients’ spending and saving behavior in the presence of challenging emotions.

Pamela is married, lives in Chantilly, VA and has three children. She devotes her free time to her family, her church, enjoys reading and loves to sing.

Securities offered through Securities America, Inc., a Registered Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA (SIPC). Advisory services offered through Securities America Advisors, Inc., a SEC Registered Investment Advisory Firm, Pamela Sams, Investment Advisor Representative.

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