It’s no wonder baby boomers worry about outliving their retirement savings. One out of four 65-year-olds today can expect to live past 90, and if they’re married, one of every four will live even longer.
With 10,000 boomers turning 65 every day, it’s a big worry for 26 percent of the U.S. population.
“The biggest concern for boomers is living too long, or getting sick, and running out of money,” says Rao K. Garuda, an engineer-turned-independent financial planning advisor specializing in work with seniors, high net-worth business owners, and professionals.
“The average 65-year-old retires today with $500,000 to $1 million in assets, and while that might sound like a lot to a 20-year-old, it isn’t,” Garuda says.
Even if you plan to continue some kind of work post-retirement – as many people do whether because they must or because they enjoy it – it’s imperative to plan ahead for the day you can’t work, he says.
“Equally important, people deserve the freedom to make choices about how they’ll spend their last 20 or 30 years, especially if they’ve spent 45 years going to work every day. That’s part of the American dream,” Garuda says. “And you don’t have to earn a fortune to save a fortune!”
Garuda shares four things everyone should know about preparing for retirement:
• Save first, then spend. Most people spend first, and then try to save what’s left, Garuda says. The secret is to make saving first your priority. “The people who save first will always be the people who are employing everyone else!” he says. The more you can save the better, but that will vary at different stages of your life. At the minimum, 10 percent is a good rule of thumb.
• Take advantage of tax-free savings. Taxes are the biggest expense anyone has. Besides federal, state, city and death taxes there are 59 other different ways your money is taxed, Garuda says. “If you save $1, Uncle Sam will help you by waiting for his cut of that $1. With planning, you can put him on hold for about two generations,” he says. With tax-free compounding, a relatively small amount of money saved can yield huge returns years from now.
• Decide how you’ll manage risk. There is risk in everything, and Garuda warns that those who simply choose to ignore it, do so at their own peril. Others choose to “go broke safely” – they avoid risk to such an extent, they lose money. A good example is people putting all their savings in CDs that pay just 1 percent; since that’s lower than the rate of inflation, they’re losing money. In some cases, people transfer risk to someone else, for instance, when they buy homeowners insurance. Finally, they choose to manage their risk emotionally, psychologically and technically through asset allocation rebalancing and other tools that allow you the amount of risk you’re willing to assume while still providing opportunities for growth.
• Create tax-free income. “My favorite question to ask people is, ‘What have you done to create tax-free income?’ ” Garuda says. There are many ways to do this – Roth IRAs, life insurance, tax-free bonds, annuities -- but most involve working with a knowledgeable financial planner. “An indexed life insurance policy is a great one; it protects your money while offering a lot of benefits. But it’s like a Swiss army knife – there are a lot of ways to use it, and most people don’t know how to use it properly,” Garuda says.