Many readers have spent decades socking away money for retirement. Naturally, the accumulation phase is very familiar ground. However, it is during the second phase, better known as the distribution phase, where the process becomes a bit unfamiliar.
Based on my experience, there are three primary concerns most people have as they near the transition from accumulation to distribution.
First, people want to know how much is safe to spend annually from their nest egg.
The number of rules of thumb promoted out there most certainly outnumber the number of thumbs at my disposal! The most famous guide is known simply as the 4% rule.
Based on the level of today’s stock market – high – and the level of interest rates – low – I tend to err on the side of conservatism. For those who know me best, that’s not a big surprise! Given today’s market setup, my comfort zone is to limit your annual draw to around 3% to 4%.
Yet, we all know life is never as simple as a rule of thumb. Overall objectives and personal circumstances will definitely influence the level of spending in retirement that is both sustainable and safe.
For example, if a retiree is determined to die broke, it leads to advice that differs greatly from the advice given to a retiree who is committed to leaving behind a big inheritance to their children. Another factor that influences the sustainable draw rate is simply time. For those facing the possibility of a 25 to 30 year retirement period, expecting the unexpected is wise.
Once the level of sustainable spending is set, the next concern often centers on taxes.
For many, there are three pots of money with differing levels of tax obligations attached. There are yet-to-be taxed IRAs an 401(k)s. There are never-to-be taxed Roth IRAs. And, finally, there are always-taxed pots of money such as investment and savings accounts.
Tax minimization is a complex and important part of the retirement income game, for sure. Take Social Security, long-term capital gains and dividend income as examples. Depending on the size of your other sources of income, either some or none of this income is taxed.
Related to tax planning, the last concern is deciding which of the above-mentioned pots of money should be tapped and in what order.
For those who have most of their savings in yet-to-be taxed retirement vehicles, like IRAs and 401(k)s, there is not really much choice. But, for those who have spread their retirement resources among the three tax-buckets above, the planning options open up. This is especially the case before you reach the magical age of 70 ½!
We’ll be discussing in more detail the considerations and process of creating your own withdrawal strategy in retirement at the next Money Series on Wed., April 18 in the McGuire Rm. at the Traverse Area District Library. Front Street Foundation is a local non-profit whose mission is to provide open-access to financial education, for all. To register, visit www.FrontStreetFoundation.org or call (231) 714-6459.