THE PRODUCERS of retirement commercials would like us to believe that all retirees are the same. They aren’t. To be happy in retirement, we need a good handle on what our needs are—financially and otherwise—and then find ways to satisfy them each and every day.
That might sound difficult, but it isn’t. To help get you started, here are the three general types of retiree I discovered during my research on retirement:
I RECEIVED A LETTER from the Social Security Administration telling me I need to apply for benefits immediately. I turn age 70 this year and there’s no advantage to delaying my benefits any longer.
How does reaching 70 feel? I know I get cold easily and don’t move as fast when I’m exercising. I’m also not as sharp mentally. But I’m actually looking forward to my 70s. It will be a decade more about living and with less thinking about money.
I KEPT THE LANDLINE number that my mother had when she was alive. I thought there might be friends I wasn’t aware of who would try to phone her. Indeed, I received calls from people like Helen who lives in Arizona, Cheryl in Colorado and Jan from Michigan. Eventually, however, the phone went silent, except for those annoying sales calls.
But I still kept the phone number. I just couldn’t give it up. It was costing me an extra $50 a month,
HERE’S A COMMENT I’ve heard countless times in recent years: You should claim Social Security early because you’ll enjoy the money more in your 60s and because you’ll spend less later in retirement.
I think this is nonsense that rests on three wrongheaded assumptions:
That spending needs should drive when you claim Social Security.
That you will indeed spend less each year as you age.
That you’ll be better able to enjoy whatever money you have in your 60s than later in retirement.
MANY YEARS AGO, when I first developed an interest in financial planning, I read as much as I could on the subject. I distinctly remember being in a bookstore—remember them?—and looking at the myriad of personal finance books. Two stuck out.
The first book purported to show how to maximize your spending throughout retirement and die with nothing. The second book purported to help with the opposite strategy—leaving millions to your children. The stark dichotomy struck me then and it’s stayed with me ever since.
RETIREMENT RULES seem to get revised almost every year. Whether it’s IRAs, Roth IRAs or Social Security, Congress is constantly rewriting the regulations.
Just think about what’s happened over the past half-a-dozen years. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 eliminated the “file and suspend” option for Social Security recipients. Savvy financial planners would advise clients who had reached their full Social Security retirement age to file for benefits, so their husband or wife could receive spousal benefits.
THERE ARE ADVANTAGES to being old. We seniors can leverage the widespread perception that we’re all poor, incapable of decision-making and inept at using technology.
I have fun with this.
We recently went car shopping. As we left the house, my wife turned and said, “You’re going dressed like that?”
“What’s wrong with the way I look?” I’m in my well-worn jeans, flannel shirt, suspenders and battered baseball cap.
“You look like a pauper.”
SOCIAL SECURITY is a crucial source of income for many retirees. But unfortunately, there’s also much confusion, because the ways benefits are calculated sure isn’t simple.
Want to learn more? To get started, I’d suggest heading to the Social Security Administration’s website and creating a free “my Social Security” account. For those currently receiving benefits, the website allows you to:
Verify your benefit payment amount
Get a replacement Social Security card
Get a replacement Medicare card
Change your address and phone number
Start or change direct deposit of your benefit payment
Get a replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S for tax purposes
If you aren’t currently receiving benefits,
BUILDING A NEST EGG is relatively easy: Save as much as you can starting as early as you can. Invest in a diversified mix of low-cost mutual funds. Rebalance periodically. And tune out the noise.
By contrast, determining how much you can safely spend in retirement is far trickier. Consider three strategies.
First, there’s the much-discussed 4% withdrawal rate. In the first year of retirement, you spend 4% of your portfolio’s beginning-of-year value. In subsequent years,
I STARTED WORK in 1961 as a mailroom boy earning $1.49 an hour. There was a fellow named Tony who worked there, too. He started a few years before me. Today, Tony is 87 years old and he still works in the same mailroom. He collects his pay, his pension and his Social Security. I don’t know what motivates Tony, but apparently retirement holds no attraction. Tony is atypical.
When my work situation changed after 49 years in a way that took the fun out of the job,
I RECENTLY WROTE about how, if you claim Social Security benefits before age 66 or 67, your monthly check could be reduced if your earned income is “too high.” Shortly after the article appeared, I ran into a colleague who was struggling with the issue.
My colleague had retired a few years back. He thought there might be some opportunities to do part-time consulting with our old employer. But nothing came of it during the first year he was retired,
JOHN GOODENOUGH was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2019. At 97 years old, he was the oldest Nobel laureate in history. This didn’t happen by accident. At age 57, when most folks are looking to scale back their careers, Goodenough pressed ahead, co-inventing the lithium-ion rechargeable battery, which today powers pacemakers, digital cameras, smartphones, electric wheelchairs and more.
Americans are healthier and living longer than at any time in history. If Goodenough had taken “retirement” to heart and scaled back or completely stopped pursuing his life’s passion,
THE 4% RULE HAS almost mythic status in the financial planning world. Originally suggested by Bill Bengen in a 1994 article, the rule provides a simple way for retirees to figure out how much they can withdraw from their portfolio without running out of money. In a recent article, Bengen updated his rule.
The rule defines the maximum amount retirees should withdraw from their portfolio in the first year of retirement. Got a $500,000 nest egg?
I’M GOING TO BE 70 next year and I think I’m in pretty good shape. I do 25 pushups before bed, along with some stretching. I usually go for a long walk in the morning and, once in a while, I might head out for a hike. On top of that, I do strengthening exercises three times a week.
I don’t take medication or have any chronic ailments. Of course, you can never be sure what’s going on with your body,
I’VE BEEN INVOLVED in retirement planning for more than 50 years. Back in the day, my job was to calculate the pensions for 20 to 30 workers each month by hand, using multiplication and long division. Many of those new retirees were poorly prepared, but they did have a pension.
Here we are in the 21st century and I see little has changed. Lack of planning, lack of savings, widespread misinformation and reliance on inaccurate assumptions still plague Americans.