In the next 10 years, the first wave of America’s 76 million baby boomers will be retiring. Since today’s retirees are generally healthier and more active than their parents, they are looking forward to living longer and spending more time playing with grandchildren, pursuing hobbies, or even trying new careers.
Investors enter retirement with more confidence if they have a thoughtful retirement strategy. Planning ahead helps those nearing retirement prepare for when company paychecks stop coming and the goal of accumulating assets gives way to generating income from those assets for retirement expenses.
While planning for and managing income in retirement may not sound like fun, it is the most effective way to be confident in your future. Consider the following.
* Calculate how long retirement will last. Since retirement doesn’t have a preset time limit, this first step can be particularly challenging. Many of our customers are surprised to learn that they are likely to live in retirement just as long as they worked. A 65-year-old couple retiring today, for example, should plan to have enough money to last at least 20 or 30 more years, according to a 2003 Fidelity study. When determining how long your money will need to last, realistically estimate the expenses that are likely in your own retirement and consider that you may live longer than you think — possibly into your 90s.
* Preserve and grow assets. Fear of a down market can cause some retirees to be too cautious, so they sell virtually all of their stock holdings. While they should protect their assets, retirees should recognize that they may also benefit from growth that can come from investing in the markets. In fact, long-term success may lie in a portfolio that includes an appropriate mix of stocks, bonds, and cash. The key is to find an asset mix that is age-appropriate and generates enough income to help offset withdrawal requirements and the effects of inflation over time.
* Simplify to stay on track. Pre-retirees expect to manage an average of nine sources of income, including Social Security, multiple 401(k)s, annuities, and personal savings, according to a 2004 Fidelity study. These assets are often held in multiple accounts at different financial institutions, making it difficult to develop and maintain a comprehensive investing strategy. For example, mutual funds from different firms may hold similar investments, potentially increasing risk to your portfolio through greater exposure to volatile markets or sectors.
To prevent this from happening, anyone, five to seven years from retirement may want to consider consolidating various 401(k)s and other retirement accounts in one place or finding a tool that easily provides a look at your entire financial picture in a single view.
Creating a thoughtful retirement strategy involves sharp focus and detailed calculations, and can force couples approaching retirement to face difficult considerations for the first time. Luckily, there are many resources available to help investors prepare their retirement strategy. Planning for the future is the key, however, and helps build financial confidence so that you can enjoy the retirement you have worked so hard to achieve.
Cynthia Egan is executive vice president, Fidelity Investments.