The fundamental question when it comes to financial planning in your 60s has nothing to do with the markets. It’s really all about your work life.
If you plan to retire on the dot at 65, then your time to save is short. Before long, you will need to begin to draw down your retirement accounts.
If you know you will work longer, then things change a lot. The reason why is compounding. Every year you can put off taking money out of your retirement plan, it has a chance to grow.
It also has a chance to lose value, too, depending on how you are invested. Here’s a checklist of steps to take before making any big decisions:
1. Figure out your real spending
Many retirees simply guess at how much money they spend, and that can be a huge source of grief later. Dig up your bank accounts going back five years and add up your real outgo, then average it over the five years. You can subtract big-ticket spending like the mortgage or car payments, if in fact you’ll have them paid off.
2. Now, add up all your income
Your investments will generate some income, particularly if you own dividend-paying stocks and bonds. If you take Social Security, that will be an income flow as well. Remember, however, that you will be taxed on both to some degree, unless you hold exclusively tax-free bonds or your investments are largely in Roth IRA accounts.
3. Decide how to bridge any gaps
If you know that your income will comfortably outpace your spending, you’re in good shape. If you know there’s a potential shortfall or the numbers run close, you should start thinking now about how to increase your income from working or, conversely, how to lower your costs. Most retirees go the latter route, moving to low-tax states with good weather. It’s a good strategy if you can afford it.
4. Keep current on insurance
It can be tempting to let insurance policies lapse, such as term life policies and disability coverage. If you have student-age children or a non-working spouse, consider carefully the impact of this choice. You would not want to have paid into a life insurance policy for 15 years, only to let it end and then suddenly have a real need for that protection.
5. Consider the long term
The major mistake of most retirees is overspending in the first few years of retirement. The second is underestimating their own longevity. Twenty years of retirement or more is increasingly common. If you are cutting it close, a few more years of working income would allow you to continue to invest prudently for growth, reducing the risk of outliving your assets.
Financial planning in your 60s in not the “final chapter” of a long effort. In many senses, it’s just a change in the environment to which you must carefully adapt if you expect to retire comfortably and well.