Just How Much Retirement Money Is Needed?

Nov 19, 2018 | Health Care Power of Attorney, Power of Attorney, Retirement, Social Security

The amount first considered by potential retirees is almost never enough.

The amount of savings you will need for your retirement years is most likely a difficult question to answer. It is not as simple as picking a percentage of your salary and aiming for it, according to The Wall Street Journal in “How Much Money Will You Really Spend in Retirement? Probably a Lot More Than You Think.”

This is a complex question and one that requires more knowledge than most people have, even professionals. Just imagine the data you need:

  • The cost of health care
  • How much health care you’ll need
  • The health of Social Security
  • The rate of inflation
  • Your risk tolerance level
  • How you want to spend your time during retirement

Try figuring this out on your own. How can you know all or any of these items?

To better understand how people approach this question, hundreds of people were invited to a research lab and asked how much of their salary they thought they would need in retirement. The answer most people gave was about 70%. The people were then asked how they got to that number. The answer, not surprisingly, was they had heard it somewhere.

To dig in deeper, another group of participants was asked specific questions about how they wanted to enjoy their time during retirement. Based on this information, the cost of these activities was calculated and then a calculation was done to find out what percentage of their salary they would need to support the type of life they imagined they would have in retirement.

The answer was 130%. That meant their savings rates would have to double for a successful retirement.

How is this possible? Working is cheap. You’re not spending a lot because you’re busy working. The company pays for your health insurance, life insurance and there’s even a breakroom stocked with great coffee and snacks.

When you retire, you’re spending money you would not be spending while you are working. Two big vacations a year, recreational activities and dining out more all add up quickly. So how can you plan successfully for the retirement lifestyle you want?

Think (realistically) about the costs of the activities you have in mind and get as detailed as you can. Once you know how much you want to spend, add them up. Use a spreadsheet or a notepad, but this exercise will give you more information than the simple conventional wisdom of 70%.

 ReferenceThe Wall Street Journal (Sep. 3, 2018) “How Much Money Will You Really Spend in Retirement? Probably a Lot More Than You Think”