If only we had a nickel for every article about financing retirement . . . well, let’s just say our retirement would be complete! Retirement planning strategies can vary widely for one important reason – everyone is different. What works well for you might not work at all for me. So, the best we can do is gather information, examine our own situation, and make educated decisions that will benefit us when we retire.
That’s why I was happy to come across the “Viability of the Spend Safely in Retirement Strategy” report on aging and retirement, published last month by the Society of Actuaries’ Committee on Post Retirement Needs and Risks. Don’t let the name of the report scare you away . . . my takeaway from the 80-page report can be broken down into two key areas:
- Optimize your Social Security benefits.
- Use the IRS Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) rules to generate a retirement “paycheck”.
First, a little background. The study was conducted by Stanford University, where they analyzed 292 possible retirement planning strategies, using eight different metrics to measure how a particular strategy might meet retirement income goals. The results of the study were published in 2017 with the goal of providing a framework for helping people approaching retirement age make important life decisions.
The first key point about optimizing Social Security benefits is pretty straightforward, and you probably know it already – hold off claiming Social Security payments as long as possible. You can draw payments as early as age 62, but there are financial advantages to waiting until the IRS mandated age of 70. That being said, I have been seeing quite a few articles lately extoling the virtues of claiming as early as possible, so do your research to determine what strategy works best for you.
Once you reach the Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) age, that’s when key point number two kicks in and you need to claim your Social Security payment. In addition, the Stanford report suggests that you also start collecting that retirement “paycheck” from your individual retirement account (IRA) or 401(K) account. How much you want to withdraw changes as you age, so make sure you know your IRS requirements. The report recommends at a rate of 3.65% of the total. Remember, you are only required to make the withdrawal – you don’t have to spend it. You have the option to pay income tax on the withdrawal and reinvest all or part of the after-tax proceeds, depending on your financial situation.
My takeaway from this report was that if we plan our financial strategy using this model, then we can use the time between age 62 and 70 to ease into phased retirement. This is what unretirement is all about! Talk with your employer to work out flexible scheduling and develop a plan to transition into a limited work arrangement. Employers are looking for ways to keep senior talent engaged so it could be a win for everyone. Or you could try a limited work arrangement in a field you’ve always loved.
The full report is not a difficult read so check it out if you can. There is a great section that points out the primary advantages and disadvantage of this strategy. And it’s important to remember that most investments are always subject to risks as well as bonuses depending on market fluctuations. I like that the study is the culmination of analyzing 292 retirement planning strategies. That can make it a good foundation for safe spending in your retirement.