All of us have had a flat tire on our bikes growing up. One of the great tricks for repairing the tire was to submerge the inner tube in water to see where the bubbles came from. Then you could find the leaks and patch accordingly.
Your retirement income plan may be sending up bubbles, too, whether around Social Security, taxes, healthcare or somewhere else – and these losses need to be patched up right away.
So, to help your retirement plan be more airtight, let’s look at a few of the common leaks.
When it comes time to collect Social Security, remaining tax efficient is vital – up to 85% of your Social Security can be taxed. This is where having a trusted financial advisor is vital.
Each person’s financial journey is unique, meaning the right solution for you might not be the same as the next person. Your advisor can give you retirement income planning strategies for the best time to take benefits and how to stay within tax brackets that will minimize your penalty.
Paying too much in taxes on Social Security is one of those slow leaks that does a lot of damage over time.
Missing out on spousal benefits is another trouble spot in retirement income planning.
Social Security was designed as a safety net for everyone, and conceived of in a time when most women didn’t work outside the home. Thus, spousal benefits were created to support the non-working spouse, even if the working spouse dies or there is a divorce.
Even if you haven’t paid into the system formally, you can receive a benefit that is half the amount of your spouse’s benefit. Because you supported someone who paid into the system, you should also receive benefit.
Spousal benefits also work for ex-spouses. If you were married to a Social Security contributor for 10 years or more, got divorced, and then did not remarry, you are eligible for spousal benefits. The same logic is at work here. At one point in your life, you supported someone who paid into the system and therefore you also receive benefits.
Inflation is another concern in retirement finance. Your Social Security benefits have lost about 34% of their buying power since the year 2000. You’re looking at 66 cents on the dollar compared to less than 20 years ago due to inflation.
The Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA) on Social Security benefits is far behind inflation at any given point. In 2019, it’s going up 2.8%. That’s an average of about $39 a month – enough to take the grandkids to Denny’s (no dessert of course), but not enough to catch up with inflation.
Medicare and Social Security
In retirement income planning strategies, Medicare and Social Security are similar to special teams in football – the small group of players that specializes in punts, kickoffs and punt-returns. They don’t get all the fanfare, but they’re integral to the overall picture.
Medicare and Social Security aren’t meant to be your full retirement plan, but they fill in gaps and free up other money you can use on living life.
But much like special teams in football, if you aren’t doing things correctly, it can get ugly. Your Medicare premiums can double if you don’t take your Social Security in the right way, and there are chances you’re paying too much in taxes. An advisor can help you walk through the process and protect the money you need.
Finally, does your portfolio have enough downside protection? This can be not only a leak but a full blow-out if the economy hits a bump like it did in 2008, when the market suddenly dropped 38%.
If you’d saved $2 million, you’d suddenly have $1,240,000, throwing off your whole plan.
The key is balance. Your investment strategies should reflect your risk tolerance profile and stage of life. That’s not to say a market downturn won’t hurt, but with the right downside protection you can be in much better shape.
Is Your Plan Airtight?
When you have a leak in a tire, the first step is to find it. Same can be said for your retirement income plan.
Protecting and optimizing what you have are the watchwords for retirement income planning strategies. This isn’t the time to gamble, but to conserve and grow slowly so you’re free to fully enjoy the journey.
Need someone to help you check for leaks?