Whether you’ve been saving for retirement since the onset of adulthood or have just learned tips for saving for retirement and begun stashing away extra cash for your golden years, knowing how many years you can rely on your savings might dictate plenty. When you can plan to slice into the icing on your retirement cake, where you might travel, if you can swing the purchase of a first or second house—all might be somewhat or entirely informed by your retirement savings and wealth management.
From runaway inflation to unpredicted expenses, just as many factors can affect this answer. And yet, you can still land on a ballpark number—of years, that is—to help guide you. Read on to gain the insights you need to get a grasp on your financial future.
Knowing How Much You Need for Retirement: An Overview of the Basics
The answer to the question, “How long will my savings last in retirement?” involves much more than just how much money you have in your savings accounts. The longevity of your retirement plan depends on several factors, including:1
- Your guaranteed income
- Your anticipated retirement age
- Your annual cost of living expenses in retirement
- Your annual contribution to your retirement savings
- Social security, pension, and additional income
No retirement savings at 65, 50, 55 or below? Don’t have a strategy in place?
Not to worry: You’re not doomed—and the more info you glean now, the more secure you’ll feel in the future. Between implementing systematic withdrawals and learning to spread out your retirement savings, a comfortable retirement can be within your reach. Let’s walk through it.
What Are Systematic Withdrawals?
Systematic withdrawals take the discipline and motivation out of saving by automatically drawing money from your investment portfolio to provide you with a retirement income later in life. This might include:
- Mutual fund accounts
With systematic withdrawals, you can have either a set amount or a set percentage withdrawn across your investments to cover your living expenses post-employment.
Systematic withdrawal strategies (SWPs) are partially based on research conducted by financial advisor Bill Bengen, who created the 4% rule.2
The 4% Rule
Bengen’s 4% rule may have been established in the 1990s, but it’s considered an effective rule of thumb to this day.
The idea is that you could withdraw 4% annually from your investment portfolio (or retirement fund) to use as spending during your retirement—a percentage that would, of course, be modified for inflation. If, say, you had a million dollars tucked away for retirement and used $40,000 per year to cover your expenses, you would have 30 years of retirement ahead of you.
Not only does this assume that one can accumulate a million dollars over the course of their career—which may be impossible for some—but experts also point out that the rule has some clear disadvantages. This includes:3
- It’s rigid – To live by this rule requires that you stick to the percentage you’ve set for yourself, and strictly at that. It doesn’t take into account how our lifestyles might change between, for example, our 40s and our 70s—forcing some retirees to assume a way of life that falls beneath their standards.
- It may be unrealistic – If we go by the scenario outlined above—or $40,000 per year—the 4% “rule” may seem unrealistic. The cost of living varies state by state and lifestyle by lifestyle. In addition, while this amount may seem doable for some, it may not provide much leeway for life’s black swan events, such as divorce, job loss, or illness.
Still, there’s a simplicity to the rule that’s appealing. Your best bet is to work with your financial advisor to determine if systematic withdrawal is right for you.
How Do I Know if I Have Enough in Retirement?
Retirement is as individual as your job and lifestyle—and whether you have enough in your retirement account to take off your golden cuffs (so to speak) is contingent upon several factors.
Typically, though, financial experts suggest examining these parameters, among others:
- The size of your nest egg – Your nest egg should be anywhere between 6 to 14 times your annual salary before you retire–and this amount should allow you to lead your preferred lifestyle.4 Another sign that you have enough in retirement? You won’t have to depend on Social Security to pay for your monthly expenses.5
- Your debt – Experts indicate that auto loans and mortgages can be challenging to meet in retirement. If your debt is paid off, though, you might be that much closer to the freedom that retirement can afford you. If you happen to have poor credit and need help paying off debt, learning how to consolidate debt with bad credit can only be of benefit to you.
How to Stretch Retirement Savings
Fortunately, if you’re nearing the age and time of retirement and are starting to wonder, “How long will my money last in retirement?” there are dozens of ways to stretch your savings:
- Create a budget and adhere to it
- Make smart investments
- Use senior discounts
- Downsize to a smaller home that requires less maintenance
Planning for the future of your financial situation can be a dizzying endeavor, but with the right knowledge and sound strategies in place, you can look forward to years of joy and calm.
- US News & World Report. How long will your savings last? https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/features/calculator
- Forbes. Should you use the systematic withdrawal approach to retirement income planning? https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamiehopkins/2019/04/23/should-you-use-the-systematic-withdrawal-approach-to-retirement-income-planning/?sh=66dc2d7e64db
- Investopedia. What is the 4% rule for withdrawals in retirement and how much can you spend? https://www.investopedia.com/terms/f/four-percent-rule.asp
- USA Today. If you’re close to retirement, here are 3 ways to know you’re prepared. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/columnist/2020/10/11/retirement-3-ways-know-youre-ready-retire/5944318002/
- Business Insider. 6 signs you have enough saved for retirement. https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/signs-you-have-enough-saved-for-retirement-2021-8