Budgeting for Truly Golden Years

Preparing financially for retirement for many people is a shot in the dark: just save as much as you can and hope it’s enough. It’s understandable that people take that view. After all, it can feel like there are too many variables to even get a grip on. How do you know how much money you will need? How do you know how much income you will have each month? If you can start to get a better handle on these numbers by completing a retirement budget, you can take a big step toward creating a time that will be truly relaxing and low-stress. It’s best to do a retirement budget at least five years before retiring, but there is never a bad time to take a close look at the figures.

Here are some considerations to keep in mind when you are completing your projected budget:

Think about what your retirement will look like
One of the most of important exercises of this entire process is to actually take the time to think about what your retirement will involve. Will there be a lot of lazy days in a hammock? Or do you see yourself on the go a lot, travelling to new destinations? Write down some of the goals you have for your retirement. Visualizing your future lifestyle will help a lot in creating a realistic forecast of which of your expenses will go up and which will go down in retirement.

Examine your current expenses first
Before you can estimate what you will be spending in retirement, you need to have a realistic assessment of what your costs are now. Track your expenses for a month to give yourself a baseline figure. A tip: Putting all your charges for a month on a debit card or credit cards gives you an automatic record of where your money has gone.

Determine your expenses in retirement
This is where that list of current expenses comes in handy. Not only does it give you a jumping off point for determining your future expenses, but it also helps you start to identify some of the expenses you can cut in retirement. A tip: Insurance needs and costs can change dramatically with the onset of retirement, so make a note to contact your agents to discuss your potential for future savings.

Remember to include all sources of income
There are many ways people earn income in retirement, including employer retirement plans, individual retirement plans, pensions, annuities, investments and part-time jobs. Be sure to include all of these in your budget figures. A tip: Call any former employers you believe may have put money in a retirement account or pension on your behalf.

Give the budget a test run
One way to see if your retirement budget will be livable is to try to stick to it for a month or two. Track all your expenses and see if you are able to stick to what you have projected.

Do multiple budgets if necessary
There may be events happening during retirement that will change your financial situation. For example, you may pay off your house. Or you might feel like you want to work part-time for five years and then fully retire after that. Or maybe you will receive a sizeable inheritance. Don’t be afraid to do two budgets, or even more if you think there will be multiple life-changing events.

Take advantage of free calculatorsWith factors like inflation and compound interest affecting your future numbers, it can feel nearly impossible to calculate what your money will be worth or what things will cost at the time of your retirement. Visit our financial calculators.

Decide when you will retire
One simplified way to determine when you have enough to retire is when the amount you will be able to have in monthly income meets what you project for monthly expenses. If you aren’t there yet, consider ways to amass more money for your retirement. A tip: If you are trying to max out your Social Security benefits, there is a calculator at www.ssa.gov that shows how much you will receive based on what year you retire. You can adjust the numbers to see what timeframe works best for you.

Get help
This is a big task to take on by yourself. Contacting a financial counselor, certified financial planner and/or tax professional can help you check your work and get fresh ideas for making the most out of your money.

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