Closing the Deal on the Retirement You Envision

The decisions you make in the next few years could help determine whether your post-work life lives up to your dreams.

The retirement you’ve worked for, invested toward, and dreamed of is a few short years away—so close you can almost taste everything the next phase has to offer.

Yet even if you’ve accumulated substantial assets, you may worry. You’re not alone. According to a study by the Society of Actuaries, 62% of surveyed Americans approaching retirement with annual household income of $100,000 or more fear the possibility of depleting all their savings in retirement.

Retirees who run low on savings prematurely could find themselves having to scale back on their retirement lifestyle or adjust the legacy they’re able to leave for family. Others who may have the resources but haven’t done a level of planning that provides reassurance may find themselves spending precious time worrying.

Understanding your needs

The five earning years you have before retirement are crucial for tying up loose ends and making necessary adjustments so you can head into retirement with confidence, says Larry Jones, senior wealth strategist at Huntington Private Bank®‡.

For many pre-retirees, the process starts with a question: “How much do I need?” Your advisor can help by analyzing what you’ll have to spend to support the lifestyle you envision, and what trade-offs may be in order. “You need to understand your whole financial picture—your assets, your debts, the income you’ll have, and what your expenses will be,” he says. “You have retirement goals, but do you have a way to get there?”

Scattered assets

One potential roadblock: assets scattered in many locations, making it difficult to assess your situation. Jones recalls working with one client who over the course of a successful career had collected an assortment of retirement accounts from various employers, as well as investment accounts being handled by multiple advisors.

Together, the assets seemed more than enough to fulfill his retirement goals. Unfortunately, scattered accounts made it difficult to project whether they would generate enough income, and even harder to make adjustments. And there was another serious risk. “When you have accounts in different places, they may be invested in similar types of assets,” Jones says. “So while you feel like you’re diversified, you’re not.”

Considering debt

For some, the prospect of carrying debt into retirement feels like a burden. Jones worked with one couple who envisioned retirement as a time to travel the world. “To do that, they wanted to retire debt-free,” Jones says. Yet while retirement was only five years off, they still faced 15 years of mortgage payments on an expensive home in the Midwest that they did not want to sell. The couple turned to Jones for advice.

First, Jones determined how much they’d need to increase their monthly payment by in order to condense 15 remaining mortgage years into five. Getting there without eating into their retirement savings would require significant cuts in personal spending during those five years, Jones told them. With the retirement of their dreams a few short years away, the couple lived frugally for five years, meeting their goal of retiring debt-free.

As you consider your own situation, other concerns may arise. Have you developed a plan to draw down your assets in a way that keeps your remaining investments growing for a long retirement? What steps could bolster your health care savings? Is your portfolio as tax efficient as it could be? Finding answers to these and other questions over the next vital years could make all the difference.

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† Greenwald & Associates. “2017 Risks and Process of Retirement Survey,” 2018.

Interview with Larry Jones, Huntington Private Bank. (June 17, 2019).

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