Getting What You Want in Retirement

During this week of Thanksgiving, I found myself wondering what most people are thankful for. I came across an online Twitter survey of what Americans value most as described by a single word.

The “Top 10” list did not include a single material item or other byproducts of financial prosperity. Instead, it led off with intangibles such as ‘You’, ‘Life’, and ‘People’, none of which come with a price tag attached.

I was pleased to see that. As a long-time financial planner, I have a very good idea of what most people cherish. Of course, my job description was to help clients make smart financial decisions. But what I was really doing was helping them figure out how to afford a lifestyle that made them happy.

And what most of my retired clients told me they wanted most was to keep what they already had. They did not desire more wealth, but they feared being forced into making uncomfortable compromises as their financial resources begin to wane later in life.

That fear is understandable, but it is also avoidable. With a little planning and a bit of discipline, most people should be able to live out their lives without sacrificing the amenities that are truly important to them.

Over the years, I have written frequently on the subject of living comfortably in retirement. Below are excerpts from a few of those articles that should help you retire and still be able to enjoy those things that you value most.

The 4 Biggest Retirement Myths

Let’s debunk some of the most common falsehoods about retirement.

1. Most people die within a year of retiring.

No, they don’t. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), “A man reaching age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 84.3. A woman turning age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 86.7.”

2. Social Security will be gone by the time I retire.

No, it won’t. It will need some tweaking to remain solvent over the long haul, but the amount of your gross benefit should not be reduced. The amount of tax paid on that benefit will probably go up, but unless you have a lot of income from other sources, your net benefit should be about the same as it is under current law.

3. The average couple will spend $280,000 on health care in retirement.

Some will, but most won’t. On average, most couples will spend closer to $144,000 over 20 years. That works out to roughly $7,200 per year, or about one-fourth the average Social Security retirement benefit per couple.

4. Eventually I’ll need long-term care but won’t be able to afford it.

This will be true for some retirees but not all since the average lifetime cost per user comes in at $100,000.

If you own a home and have significant equity in it, you may be able to “age in place” by using a reverse mortgage to pay for in-house visitation. If you do not have home equity to tap, your Social Security benefit combined with an accelerated Individual Retirement Account (IRA) withdrawal schedule may be sufficient to cover the cost.

Finally, if you have no home equity and insufficient retirement savings, you may qualify for Medicaid assistance, which unlike Medicare does offer a long-term care benefit if you qualify.

Read This Story: The Retirement Crisis: Worse Than You Think

How to Avoid Going Broke in Retirement

As obvious as it sounds, one of the keys to not outliving your money in retirement is by not losing it in overly risky investments.

Below are some of the investments being pushed on retirees by Wall Street that create the appearance of steady income but carry more risk than you may realize. That does not necessarily mean they are bad investments, only that they may not be as safe as they first appear to be.

  • Enhancing Income with Derivatives

As its name suggests, an enhanced income fund (EIF) uses some form of financial engineering to increase its dividend yield. In some cases that is fine, such as selling covered call options against a portfolio of stocks.

However, in other cases that can be a problem, especially if the fund manager does not fully grasp the potential risk involved.

  • Treating Capital Gains as Income

Many equity funds, especially those that invest in growth stocks, would otherwise show a very small dividend yield if they only passed through actual income. However, by taking some of the capital appreciation and distributing it as income, their yields magically become much more attractive.

That strategy works as long as the stock market keeps going up, but it fails on the way down.

  • Unconstrained Income and Risk

Call me old-fashioned, but when it comes to managing risk in a bond portfolio, I think a constrained approach is advisable. What unconstrained really means in this instance is that the fund managers can do pretty much whatever they want in pursuit of higher yields.

In essence, these funds operate more like hedge funds and are designed to generate big fees for their managers when the outsized risks they are taking pay off.

Managing Your IRA in Retirement

A common retirement planning rule-of-thumb is to subtract your age from 100 to determine the percentage of your portfolio that should be invested in stocks. Thus, a 65-year-old person should have 35% of their retirement savings in stocks and 65% in bonds.

I don’t like that rule given the likelihood of rising interest rates once the economies of Europe and China begin to strengthen. For nearly 40 years, we have known nothing but declining rates that drive up the value of bonds.

However, rising rates will do just the opposite, and I think most retirees would not enjoy seeing the majority of their portfolio steadily erode in value over their remaining lifetimes.

If anything, a rational case can be made for eliminating bonds altogether and increasing the commodities weighting. Hard assets such as commodities rise in value with inflation and would do a much better job of preserving purchasing power over the long haul in a rising interest rate environment.

We’re not quite there yet, but within a few years this strategy may make more sense than blindly putting money into an asset class that may steadily decline in value over the rest of your life.

However, an even better strategy would be to make investment choices based on a system that can deliver high income regardless of market conditions.

Along those lines, our publisher Jeff Little just made the biggest guarantee in the history of investment research. Jeff is promising that Investing Daily’s top analyst can show 1,000 regular investors how to generate $1 million in retirement income. Each.

That comes to a billion dollars! Jeff will reveal the details during a free webinar he’s hosting on “Black Friday,” November 29. Register now for this life-changing event.