Reinvent Your Retirement

RetirementPinFrom the time we start our first job, we are told to begin to save for retirement. We are offered all kinds of retirement savings vehicles from 401’s, IRA’s, and investments. Most people don’t know exactly how much they will need to retire nor how much savings is enough to retire. There are lots of questions and, it seems, few answers.

Would it be helpful to know more about how people who are happily retired with a nice income got that way? I thought so! I have surprising secrets of 500 successful seniors to share with you. This was a survey done with 500 retirees who are “comfortable with their standard of living” in retirement. This is summarized from the Retiree Next Door eBook, which will be published at http://www.moneytips.com/retiree-next-door-ebook. The eBook will be available free of charge through September 30th.

The survey demographics are as follows: 86% are age 60 – 79, 81% are fully retired, 58% male, 42% female, and interestingly, 93% had at least some college, while 71% had a college degree, and 46% had a graduate degree. Fifty-four percent had a net worth of $500,000 to $5 million and 69% had a current annual income of $50,000 to $250,000.

Let’s get right to the nuts and bolts of how they did it and how you can use this information to help you reinvent your retirement!

Before retirement, 67% said they lived comfortably and 30% said they lived frugally. After retirement, 65% said they spend enough to live comfortably and 35% said they live frugally. I’ve often said my philosophy is about understanding “opportunity cost” and how to balance your spending and investing with one eye on today and one eye on tomorrow. Looks like 2/3 of the successful retirees follow that advice.

Your home is usually your largest purchase or investment, and it was good to see 43% owned their home outright. They also mentioned driving a car at least 2 years old (55%) and driving a car that is fuel efficient and/or inexpensive to maintain (30%) as ways to minimize the risk of running out of money. Lessons here? Pay an extra 1/12 of your mortgage to pay it off several years early (but don’t pay off your mortgage before investing for retirement!) and save thousands of dollars by not buying cars too often – one of the biggest money drains I see!

One interesting result was 51% of the successful retirees have NO financial concern! Yeah! True financial independence! For those whodid have concerns, 24% were about incurring substantial health care costs, 23% maintaining their current standard of living, and 21% minimizing the risks of outliving their savings. Seventy-three percent (73%) carry Medicare coverage to minimize the risk.

The shocking results were 36% NEVER made a retirement calculation! In a way, I’m glad because it’s impossible to calculate that number (unless you can tell me the exact day you will die), so the lesson is: focus on the regular saving and investing and make sure you are putting plenty of money away today.

Also shocking was that 51% did NOT start saving in their 20’s and 30’s. Like most people, they were probably getting married, having kids, and buying a home during those years. The good news is they were still able to save and invest for a comfortable retirement.

How?

By saving a healthy amount annually and by investing for the long-term.

Fifty-six percent (56%) saved 6 to 20% in their 40’s and 58% saved 6 to 20% in their 50’s, while 42% did not save for retirement in their 60’s and 39% saved 6 to 20% in their 60’s. That’s a healthy amount of savings. If you can save 6 to 20% for two decades and invest wisely, the chances are good you will be one of the successful retirees when you retire.

It also requires taking some financial control over your money. While 44% primarily made their own investment decisions, 32% frequently made their own decisions with professional advice, and 30% primarily relied on an investment professional.

Since this was a survey of investment professionals’ clients, that’s not that surprising. Nor is the fact 54% said stocks were their highest performing asset class. Investment vehicles included: 66% Traditional IRA’s, 53% 401k’s, 30% Defined Benefit Plans, 27% Roth IRA’s, 25% Tax Sheltered Annuities (TSA’s), and 17% rental property.

There were regrets about selling investments too soon, panicking in bad markets, being over leveraged, etc., which proves that an investor’s mindset is very important for long-term investing. Even in spite of mistakes caused by emotion, the successful retirees still had enough to provide a comfortable retirement.

So, what are the takeaways? Here are 10 solid tips for a comfortable, no-worry retirement:

1. Save 6 to 20% of your income regularly.
2. Invest in a tax sheltered retirement vehicle like an IRA, 401k, or pension plan.
3. Pay a little extra on your mortgage (1/12 extra per month so you make 1 extra payment per year. That will save you 7 years or more on a 30 year mortgage and help you own your home outright at retirement).
4. Invest in stocks for the long-term.
5. Don’t panic or if you do, don’t stay out of the market too long. Get back in while prices are low.
6. Keep car expenses low and don’t buy new cars too frequently. Invest the money instead.
7. Carry Medicare coverage in retirement.
8. Spend less than your monthly income.
9. Educate yourself about investing (I’ll help you with that. Start with the “Be Wealthy & Smart” podcast here: http://bit.ly/1keSiNy).
10. Eliminate consumer debt.

 

Focus on getting the saving and investing right and you may find yourself in the 51% with no financial concerns and the financial freedom your heart truly desires!

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