When it comes to retirement and finances, there’s enough material about saving to fill a library. You see commercials on TV showing one tiny domino gradually becoming a massive tower, you hear advice from coworkers and family members, and you read books and articles on the topic. Much less attention, however, is paid to how to spend those savings once you’re actually retired, even though it’s a significant part of the equation. After all, it doesn’t matter how much you save if you blow it all in a year. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind as you begin chipping away at that nest egg.
The easiest way to budget for your retirement is with a level spending plan. In this system, you simply estimate how many years your retirement will last and divide your savings by that number. It’s better to make a generous estimate rather than a conservative one. A survey of financial planners conducted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) found that outliving savings is the No. 1 concern of those approaching retirement. Underestimating your life span is an easy way for this fear to come true.
Of course, a level spending plan assumes that your financial needs won’t change over the course of your retirement. If you’re the type of person who regularly meets and exceeds your budgeting goals, you can probably make it work. If not, you may want to consider a plan that allocates more money with each passing year of retirement. In the event of increased medical costs or other later-life expenses, an escalating plan provides a financial safety net.
Some of your spending choices will come down to personal preference and interests, but you might be surprised to learn that one category of spending consistently proves more fulfilling than others. Professor Michael Finke of The American College surveyed nearly 1,500 retirees and found that spending money on leisure activities and experiences caused the lowest rate of regret. Finke calls this “social spending” and surmises that it’s favored because it encourages older adults to get out into the world and enjoy their retirements.
There is no perfect plan for how to spend your savings during retirement. But there is one very wrong way to go about it, and that’s mindlessly. However you choose to spend your savings, make sure you have a plan.
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