Retirement Planning Assumptions

July 29, 2022

To enjoy your retirement without financial worries, make sure you have enough money saved when you retire. This calculation can be a daunting task, since a variety of factors affect your required amount and inaccurate estimates for any factor can leave you with way too little in savings. Some of the more significant factors include:

What percentage of your preretirement income will you need?

You can find various rules of thumb indicating you need anywhere from 70% to over 100% of your preretirement income. On the surface, it seems like you should need less than 100% of your income. After all, you won’t have any work-related expenses, such as clothing, lunch, or commuting costs. But look carefully at your current expenses and how you plan to spend your retirement before deciding how much you’ll need. If you pay off your mortgage, stay in good health, live in a city with a low cost of living, and engage in inexpensive hobbies, then you might need less than 100% of your income. However, if you travel extensively, pay for health insurance, and maintain significant debt levels, even 100% of your income may not be enough. You need to take a close look at your expenses and planned retirement activities to come up with a reasonable estimate.

When will you retire?

Your retirement date determines how long you have to save and how long investment returns can compound. You want to make sure your retirement savings and other income sources, such as Social Security and pension benefits, will support you for what could be a very lengthy retirement. Even extending your retirement age by a couple of years can significantly affect the ultimate amount you need.

How long will you live?

Today, the average life expectancy of a 65- year-old man is 81 and of a 65-yearold woman is 84 (Source: Social Security Administration). Most people use average life expectancies to estimate this, but average life expectancy means you have a 50% chance of living beyond that age and a 50% chance of dying before that age. Since you can’t be sure which will apply to you, it’s typically better to assume you’ll live at least a few years past that age. When deciding how many years to add, consider your health as well as how long other family members have lived.

What long-term rate of return do you expect to earn on investments?

A few years ago, many retirement plans were calculated using fairly high rates of return. Those high returns don’t look so assured now. At a minimum, make sure your expectations are based on average returns over a very long period. You might even want to be more conservative, assuming a rate of return lower than long-term averages suggest. Even a small difference in your estimated and actual rate of return can make a big difference in your ultimate savings.

Have you considered inflation?

Even modest levels of inflation can significantly impact the purchasing power of your money over long time periods. For instance, after 30 years of just 2% inflation, your portfolio’s purchasing power will decline by 45%. When estimating an inflation figure, don’t just look at the historically low inflation rates of the recent past. Also consider long term inflation rates, since your retirement could last for decades.

What tax rate do you expect to pay during retirement? Especially if you save significant amounts in tax-deferred investments that will be taxable when withdrawn, your tax rate can significantly affect the amount you’ll have available for spending. You may find your tax rate is the same or higher after retirement. Once you’ve estimated these factors, you can calculate how much you’ll need for retirement. Please call if you’d like help with this calculation.

Kim Dyer may be reached at (623) 299-9710 or