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No matter what your age or stage of life, targeting a goal for monthly retirement income can seem like a daunting task. Following are four considerations to help you get started.
The first question to ponder is your anticipated retirement age. Many people base their target retirement date on when they're eligible for full Social Security benefits, and for today's workers, "full retirement age" ranges from 66 to 67. Other folks hope to retire early, while still others want to work as long as possible. As you think about your anticipated retirement date, keep the following points in mind.
If you plan to retire early, you'll need significant resources to provide income for potentially decades. You can typically tap your employer-sponsored retirement plan without penalty as early as age 55 if you terminate your employment, but if you try to access IRA assets prior to age 59½, you will be subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty, unless an exception applies. In both cases, regular income taxes will apply. Also consider that you generally won't be eligible for Medicare until age 65, so unless you are one of the lucky few who have employer-sponsored retiree medical benefits, health insurance will have to be funded out of pocket.
If you plan to delay retirement, consider that unexpected circumstances could throw a wrench in that plan. In its 2017 Retirement Confidence Survey, the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) found that current workers plan to retire at a median age of 65, while current retirees reported a median retirement age of 62. And although four in 10 workers plan to work until age 70 or later, just 4% of retirees said this was the case. Why the difference? Nearly half of retirees said they retired earlier than planned, with many reporting unexpected challenges, including their own health concerns or those of a family member.1
The second important consideration, which builds on the first, is how long your retirement might last. Projected life spans have been lengthening in recent decades due in part to advancements in medical care and general health awareness. According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), a 65-year-old woman can expect to live 20.6 more years, while a 65-year-old man can expect to live 18 more years.2 To estimate your own life expectancy based on your current age and health profile, visit the online longevity calculator created by the Society of Actuaries and American Academy of Actuaries at longevityillustrator.org.
The third consideration is how much you will need to meet your basic living expenses. Although your housing, commuting, and other work-related expenses may decrease in retirement, other costs — including health care — will likely rise.
In 2017, EBRI calculated that Medicare recipients with median prescription drug expenses may need about $265,000 just to pay for basic medical expenses in retirement.3 And that doesn't even include the potential for long-term care. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 52% of people over age 65 will need some form of long-term care during their lifetimes, which could add another $69,000, on average, to the out-of-pocket costs.4
In addition, remember to account for the impact inflation will have on your expenses over time. For example, say you need an estimated $50,000 to cover basic needs in your first year of retirement. Ten years later, at a 3% annual inflation rate (the approximate historical average as measured by the consumer price index), you would need more than $67,000 to cover those same costs.
This is perhaps the most important consideration: How much can you realistically accumulate between now and retirement based on your current savings rate, timeframe, investment portfolio, and lifestyle? Once you project your total accumulation amount based on current circumstances, you can gauge whether you're on track or falling short. And if you appear to be falling short, you can begin to think about how to refine your strategy, either by altering your plans for retirement (e.g., delaying retirement by a few years), saving more, or investing more aggressively.
1EBRI Issue Brief, March 21, 2017
2NCHS Issue Brief, Number 293, December 2017
3EBRI Notes, January 31, 2017
4HHS, "Long-Term Services and Supports for Older Americans: Risks and Financing Research Brief," February 2016