When it comes to retirement, planning is everything. But even for the best planners, the unexpected happens.
As hard as it may be, you must plan for the unexpected. As they say, you can’t do a do-over when it comes to retirement.
“You want to go into the years before retirement making sure you are prepared for the shocks,” says Craig Ferrantino, president of Craig James Financial Services in Long Island, N.Y.
One big fallback is an emergency fund. Advice varies, but financial planners generally recommend that an emergency fund cover six to nine months of expenses.
“Think of it outside of retirement savings,” says Joe Ready, head of Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement and Trust. “Try to have an emergency fund so you don’t dip into your retirement plan.”
And what could make you do that? Here are five things that can unexpectedly derail your
so-called golden years.
1 Unexpected job loss. “The biggest shock you will have is unplanned unemployment,” Ready says.
Downsizing and layoffs are only a part of it. Many people delay saving for retirement because they expect to work longer. But they are probably in for a surprise, according to a yet-to-be-released retirement study from Wells Fargo.
“We asked people how long they plan to work in retirement,” Ready says. “Thirty-three percent said, ‘I plan to work until I’m at least 80.’ Some of that is born out of trying to keep busy. A lot is out of necessity — ‘I haven’t saved enough, so to fill the gap, I’ll just work longer.’ ”
But 49 percent retired earlier than planned, mostly for reasons beyond their control. Only 7 percent retired early because they had saved enough do so. Another issue, Ready says, is that “people may not have the physical or mental capacity to continue to do what they are doing.”
2 Health insurance. Even if people have saved enough money, the costs of health insurance are a wild card. One important factor: Medicare doesn’t start until age 65.
“For those who want to retire early, a lot say, ‘I have saved enough money and want to retire at 62, and every calculation I have used says I can afford it,’ ” Ready says. “A lot have underestimated the cost of health insurance to bridge the gap.”
Annual health insurance premiums for a person in his early 60s and not under an employee plan could vary widely, depending on health and location — but could hit $10,000 a year, according to WebMD.
3 Taxes: One scenario that will affect your taxes is the loss of a spouse, says Herb White, president of Life Certain Wealth Strategies. For example, he says, a couple earning $70,000 a year and filing taxes jointly would be in the 15 percent tax bracket. A surviving spouse with the same income would move to the 25 percent tax bracket.
Property taxes are another issue, and can pile up even when the mortgage is paid off. “We find people paying $12,000 to $15,000 [a year] on a very modest Cape Cod,” White says. “I wasn’t planning to pay those kind of taxes. And they never go down. They only seem to go up.”
4 Your children. Everyone wants to help their children, but it can be risky. The Great Recession and difficulty getting work for recent college graduates has resulted in a dramatic increase in children moving home after graduation.
About 26 percent of millennials in America lived with their parents in 2015, despite improvements to the job market and economy, according to a Pew Research Center report. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if it doesn’t affect your retirement savings plan.
“You should help as much as you can, but try not to do it at the expense of your retirement savings,” Ready says. “You’ve got to really think first about your retirement security and potential of 25 to 30 years living in retirement.”
5 Medical costs. Fidelity Investments estimates that a 65-year-old couple retiring this year will need $240,000 to cover future medical costs, excluding extended health care. That’s up 11 percent from 2014 and up nearly 30 percent in the past 10 years. One reason is increased longevity.
Nearly three-quarters of couples in the Fidelity 2015 Couples Retirement Study were worried about being able to afford unexpected health-care costs.
If one of the spouses needs long-term care, the costs can be even more extraordinary. Long-term care insurance is expensive, especially for people over 60. Byron Udell, chief executive and founder of AccuQuote.com, says the odds are that two of three people will need some kind of extended-care help.
“People who are worth a few hundred thousand dollars to a couple of million run the risk of having their assets run down,” he says. “My mom was in a nursing home, and it cost $350 a day.”
Confusion about Medicare causes problems as well. “Some people go into retirement thinking, ‘When I turn 65, I am eligible for Medicare,’ and mistakenly think Medicare will cover their health-care needs,” White says. “There are a lot of things Medicare does not cover.”
When that retirement shock happens, it’s imperative that you talk with your financial planner before you do anything, says Kimberly Foss, CEO of Empyrion Wealth Management. That way you can avoid making a critical mistake in a moment of crisis, such as raiding your retirement account when other options are available.
People who have a retirement plan in place are less likely to have
“no idea” when it comes to how much they need in retirement.
With retirement plan
Without retirement plan