Building your retirement income plan can be broken down into a few easy, proven steps. The catch is, planning takes a bit of time, but it’ll be worth the effort.
The following steps provide you with a systematic process to walk through as you begin to plan your retirement:
Step One: Divide your income needs into two elements: (a) essential expenses (needs) and (b) discretionary spending (wants)
Step Two: Figure out how to match your income needs in both of the above categories such that you match low risk investments with certainty of income with your essential expenses first
Step Four: Identify your tax liabilities, estate planning opportunities, and legacy-leaving desires and make sure you’re taking advantage of your options
This process can be as easy as a session at the kitchen table with a pencil and paper or as complex as several years of meetings with teams of professionals and extended family members. Regardless of the complexity of your situation, some details on the above steps follow and may help you focus on what you need to do next.
Comfortable income isn’t just a result of savings accumulated to generate income, but is also a function of properly matching the essential expenses with fairly certain income. Comfortable income also comes from being confident that you’ll likely be able to keep up with inflation and take part in activities over and above the basic expenses.
There are many risks that you’ll face in retirement that may not have been as critical during your working years. Some of these risks apply to all retirees, and some others may be unique to you. Your goal should be to identify your primary risks, prioritize them, and then engage in a discussion to determine practical methods for managing those risks when implementing your retirement income plan.
Here are some important potential post-retirement risks that could impact your retirement income:
1.Longevity risk: the likelihood you’ll outlive your money
2.Inflation risk: the likelihood your standard of living will decline due to lower buying power of your fixed income
3.Health care and long-term care risk: the likelihood that medical expenses will consume an ever-growing percentage of your budget
4.Investing risk: the likelihood that investment performance will not be as expected
An important element to start to think about early is identifying inheritance, tax and estate issues and opportunities. Deferring and reducing taxes over time can have a substantial impact on how long your assets last and how much might be available to your heirs.
In addition to the above estate planning, be sure the beneficiaries on all retirement accounts are current. Ask to see copies of all beneficiary documents, whether for your RIF, TFSA, or pensions.
By now, any income gaps will have become apparent. You have a number of options to address these gaps and you might want to use a combination of approaches. For instance, you might postpone receiving retirement benefits if calculations reveal that it’s to your benefit to wait.
Perhaps one of your gaps is that you would prefer to have more guaranteed income. You can create your own personal pension-style income plan in a variety of ways with a range of the degree of certainty.
As a general rule, your retirement income plan should be reviewed at least annually. Life expectancies will change with the passing of time and changes in health status. Your circumstances will change, as will your risk tolerance.
Additionally, there are several events that can trigger a revision to your income plan, such as the death of your spouse, realizing that you’re spending more or less than you thought, change in health, new retirement income products or even you deciding to return to work.
It’s likely daunting to think about attempting to predict a bunch of variables such as inflation, life expectancy, and health care costs. But don’t let this stop you from devising the best retirement income plan that you can to continuously tweak and improve your situation.
Many variables can affect the outcome of your retirement income plan including different types of risk (longevity, health, investment volatility), different types of products (annuities, bond ladders, long-term care insurance), and different timing decisions (when to start CPP, when to quit working).
Because each of you is in a unique situation, a successful income plan calls for a customized approach to creating your lifetime income.
By understanding all you can about the large number of variables that can impact your retirement, you increase the probability that your retirement income plan will meet your needs as they evolve.
Heather Holden, PhD, CIM