Congratulations, you’ve officially retired.
In anticipation of this monumental event, you’ve worked hard throughout your career to make smart retirement planning decisions and build a nest egg that will provide financial independence for the rest of your life. You’ve rolled over and consolidated employer retirement plans into IRAs, you’ve decided when to begin receiving Social Security benefits, and you’ve met with an estate attorney to ensure that your legacy wishes are up to date. All done, right? Well, as Abe Lemons said, “the trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off.” Therefore, during retirement it’s very important to annually revisit your financial plan — or as frequently as your situation or wishes change.
Retirement Planning – Your Lifestyle
Planning your retirement lifestyle is something that is often overlooked, causing some retirees to come up with their retirement identity on the fly. Your new lifestyle will likely be very different from your friend’s or neighbor’s, thus the retirement planning involved to ensure a successful retirement will be different as well. There are a lot of questions to ask yourself. Do I see myself staying in my current home or should I move to a new home? Do I plan to live in the same state or live closer to my children? Do I want to travel more? If your answer is to move to a new home, you should be sure to understand how this change will impact your financial situation. The state in which you decide to establish residency will also have a significant tax impact on your income and potentially how your assets should be titled for estate purposes. Increased travel could mean higher levels of spending compared to when you had a regular paycheck, so be sure to include a conservative expense assumption in your financial independence analysis. Should you reward yourself and splurge in retirement? Absolutely — you deserve it, but make sure to do it with confidence every step of the way.
Retirement Planning – Replacing your Paycheck
How you pay yourself in retirement can have a significant impact on the longevity of your assets. In order to replace your previously earned income, you’ll need to develop a plan that takes opportunity cost and tax efficiency into consideration. There is no magic number, but most retirees should have approximately 6-12 months’ worth of expenses in cash. For planning purposes, it’s important to understand your what your expenses and sources of income will be for the next 3-5 years. Immediate cash needs could be kept in a high-yielding checking or savings account, while the rest of your liquid assets should be invested in a globally diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds. Bonds can provide you with stability needed for cash distributions during down markets, while stocks provide you with the opportunity for capital appreciation needed to grow the base of your portfolio to last your lifetime.
Changes in your Tax Bracket
For individuals who retire prior to age 70, you may suddenly find yourself in a much lower tax bracket. These “gap years” present a great opportunity to take advantage of and maximize the benefit of being in a lower tax bracket. As you probably know, when you turn 70½ the IRS requires that you begin IRA distributions, based on your life expectancy. These Required Minimum Distributions, or RMDs, will be taxed at ordinary income tax rates. In addition to RMD income, many retirees also begin taking their Social Security benefits at age 70. The combination of these income sources can result in a much higher marginal tax rate, sometimes as high as when you were employed. One way to reduce future RMDs and perhaps reduce future taxes, is to take opportunistic IRA distributions in the form of withdrawals or Roth Conversions.
Gifting Assets in Retirement
Many successful retirees are passionate about giving back to their alma mater or supporting charities that align with their beliefs. Others have the desire to help the next generation get a head start by contributing to tuition or a first home purchase. If you are interested in gifting to charity or family members, we recommend first sitting down with your financial advisor to determine the amount that you can gift — either in a lump sum or on a regular basis. Once an amount is determined, the next step is to optimize your gifting strategies in the most tax efficient way. Potential strategies could involve contributing highly appreciated stock to a donor advised fund, directing required minimum distributions to charity through qualified charitable distributions, or gifting cash to family members.
Keep your Estate Plan Up to Date
As you continue to age throughout retirement, be sure to keep your estate plan relatively fresh. We recommend revisiting estate documents every 3-5 years, or as often as your situation and the laws change. No matter where you establish residency, your will should remain valid. However, laws may vary state to state and may invalidate some clauses.
At RegentAtlantic, we specialize in partnering with families to help plan for all the expected and unexpected in retirement. Let us know how we can help with your retirement planning.
Important disclosure information
Please remember that different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, including the loss of money invested. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. Therefore, it should not be assumed that future performance of any specific investment or investment strategy, including the investments or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by RegentAtlantic Capital, LLC (“RegentAtlantic”) will be profitable.
Please remember to contact RegentAtlantic if there are any changes in your personal or financial situation or investment objectives for the purpose of reviewing our previous recommendations and services, or if you wish to impose, add, or modify any reasonable restrictions to our investment management services. A copy of our current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available for your review upon request.
This article is not a substitute for personalized advice from RegentAtlantic. This article is current only as of the date on which it was sent. The statements and opinions expressed are, however, subject to change without notice based on market and other conditions and may differ from opinions expressed in other businesses and activities of RegentAtlantic. Descriptions of RegentAtlantic’s process and strategies are based on general practice and we may make exceptions in specific cases.
RegentAtlantic does not provide legal or tax advice. Please consult with a legal and or tax professional of your choosing prior to implementing any of the strategies discussed in this article.