Though many people focus on a specific dollar number to retire, a combination of skills and a well-executed plan can make a huge difference. In fact, a successful retirement plan is a balancing act that produces a desirable quality of life, and even leaves a legacy.
Just as the rare “five-tool” baseball player possesses speed, a strong arm and fielding range while hitting for high average and with power, superstar retirement plans also have five essential features: estate planning, strategic investments, coordinated sources of income, healthcare contingencies and tax treatments.
Proper estate planning assures that one’s wishes are known so that disruptions and disagreements over healthcare and finances are avoided. Without an estate plan, debilitating illnesses can linger, and the state or local governments can decide the disposition of assets, with only a fraction of the original resources remaining for the intended beneficiaries.
The essentials of an estate plan are living wills (how you’re to be treated in case of incapacitation); standard will and testament (a roadmap of possessions and designated beneficiaries) and power of attorney (a named individual who can make financial and health management decisions).
Different from healthcare directives, this generally refers to how an individual can protect their assets and live independently during a prolonged illness or recovery. Medical expenses multiply quickly, and many individuals wrongly assume that Medicare is comprehensive. It applies primarily to hospitals and physicians, and not for home care, which is increasingly common. Separate contracts can cover facility-based long-term care, or in-home care that includes aides, therapy or living-in-place arrangements.
Income planning addresses sources of income, those to be received on a regular basis separate from existing resources, such as an IRA. Examples include Social Security, pensions or other defined benefits. It’s important to know the amount needed to cover inflation-adjusted expenses, including taxes and insurance, so that gaps can be identified, and potential shortfalls are addressed.
Taxes in many forms, whether Social Security, income or estate taxes, are highly impactful in retirement, and demand accountability. Social Security is paid into with after-tax dollars, yet it may still be taxed, reducing income. Ancillary income from qualified retirement plans or municipal bonds can not only affect a monthly Social Security payment, but can also place some retirees in a higher-than-anticipated tax bracket.
It pays to maximize Social Security, since every additional dollar received reduces the demand on the retiree’s other resources. Many retirees initiate Social Security at the earliest opportunity – around age 62 – not realizing that the maximum payout occurs by waiting the longest, beginning at age 70. Life expectancy must also be factored into the equation, as those who live to expectancy may realize tens of thousands of additional dollars from Social Security.
A good investment strategy provides structure and safety for assets in both the short and long term. Aligning assets around liquidity (home or health emergencies), income (Social Security and pensions) and growth (equities, annuities) can provide a comfortable retirement and produce buying opportunities during market volatility. Retirees who’ve spent a lifetime accumulating assets are well-served by instead focusing on distributions that will service their non-earning years.
A successful retirement is often the result of thoughtful planning and the involvement of an experienced professional. And just as in baseball, the execution of multiple disciplines will ensure that all the bases are covered.
Syndicated financial columnist Steve Savant interviews top retirement specialists in their field of expertise. In this segment we’re talking to chartered retirement planning counselor and registered investment adviser Anthony Cangemi. Right in the Money is a financial talk show distributed in daily video press releases to over 280 media outlets and social media networks.