When it comes to managing your money in retirement, you have a lot of options.
You’ve worked hard for your money, and now you’ve made it to retirement. But just because you’ve retired from working full-time doesn’t mean you can retire from managing your money. In fact, because your income is now limited, managing your finances closely is just as important, if not more, than it was before you retired.
About 40% of all U.S. households where the head of household is between 35 and 64 are expected to run short of money in retirement, according to a 2019 report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Ensuring you manage your income, budget and expenses, and investments carefully can help ensure you have enough income to get you through all your retirement years.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all advice or recommendations for where to put retirement money after you retire, here are a few ideas to help get you started.
Investment options for retirees
If you want to continue earning on some of your income or savings but maintain low risk, consider one or more of these investment options. Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you have to stop investing, especially because retirement for some can last 30 or more years. The important thing is to only make investments that you’re comfortable with, while mitigating risk as much as you can since you’re on a fixed income.
Certificate of deposit (CD)
A CD is a type of bank product that earns fixed interest on a lump-sum deposit. Once the funds are deposited, they aren’t touched for a predetermined period of time. Once the CD is redeemed, you’ll get the original deposit back plus any interest earned. While these are considered a safe option because they aren’t subject to changes in the market, the rate of return is often low.
An annuity is more of a long-term investment strategy, so you’d want to do this earlier in your retirement. These investments are issued by an insurance company, and through annuitization, the funds you contribute are converted into a stream of payments that can last for life. Examples include deposits to a savings account, home mortgage payments, monthly insurance payments, and pension payments.
Savings bonds are issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and considered one of the safest investments. These funds earn interest until they reach 30 years, or you cash them, whichever comes first. Since they earn interest throughout the lifetime of the bond, your investment will pay out more than the amount you originally purchased.
When it comes to investing in stocks, you can maintain a low-risk profile, or you can take greater risk. Stocks give you a share of ownership in a company and can increase or decrease in value depending on the performance of the company, the market, and other factors. Just be sure to invest in a quality company with a history of paying regular and growing dividends, and remember, these dividends are not guaranteed.
Funds involved with direct lending, real estate, public and private credit markets, and reinsurance can help you generate a low, and low risk, return on investments while also improving long-term outcomes by producing income in different ways.
Managing your income in retirement
Ideally, over the last several years, you’ve been putting money away for retirement. This means you’ll likely have multiple streams of income to tap into. Here are a few tips for managing this savings and types of income:
401(k), 403(b), or similar employer sponsored retirement plans
The first thing to know is that if you make withdrawals from these accounts before you turn 59-1/2, you’ll be charged a penalty (unless you meet specific exceptions, like disability). That said, starting at either age 70-1/2 or 72, you must begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs).
This means that between age 59-1/2 and your early 70s, you can make withdrawals as you need. But, deciding how much to withdrawal can depend on your other income and your financial needs. Ensure you don’t withdraw too much each year or you risk depleting funds too quickly.
Many retirees follow the 4% rule, which suggests that you can safely withdraw 4% of your retirement savings each year, though some experts suggest 2-3% is more realistic. Obviously, the return on your investments, rate of inflation, and other factors can play into this, as well as how much money you have in those accounts in general. And remember, the longer you leave the funds in there, the more they can grow.
Related reading: How to Withdraw Money from a Retirement Account
Pensions aren’t as common these days, but if you have a traditional pension from a former employer or labor union, you can use the Summary Plan Description (provided by the plan’s administrator) to find out when it will start paying you. Typically, this is at age 65.
One decision you’ll have to make is whether you want those benefits as a lump sum, or as regular monthly payments. Monthly payments may be able to help you stick to a budget better, but you can invest the lump sum to help grow your income more. The right choice depends on your unique situation.
Social Security retirement benefits
Once you retire, you’ll need to decide when you want to start collecting benefits. When to do this depends on when you need the money. While you can start collecting Social Security benefits as early as age 62, the closer you are to age 70, the more you can earn. If you can wait until age 70 to max out your benefits, you should do so.
If possible, at least wait until full retirement age, which is between ages 65 and 67 depending on the year you were born. Then, you’ll begin receiving monthly payments that you can use to pay for expenses or invest further.
Other things to do with your money as a retiree
Investing and growing your current investments and funds isn’t the only thing you can do with your money once you retire. In fact, there are several other things you can do depending on your saving and spending goals.
Contribute to a Roth IRA
You won’t get a tax deduction on your contributions, but there’s no age limit on contributions, and they can continue to grow until you make the withdrawal whenever you need it.
Put money aside for grandchildren
If you feel like you don’t need to put any more money aside for your own retirement, you can start a savings account or college fund for your children or grandchildren. There are specialized accounts, such as a 529 plan, designed specifically for education.
Take care of yourself
You’re retired, so it’s time to start living each day as you like (if you haven’t already been doing that). Invest in yourself, like taking an online course, picking up a new hobby, or spending time with friends and family. Or, invest in things that will improve your quality of life, such as a new vehicle or improvements to your home.
Pay off your mortgage
If you still have a remaining balance on your home’s mortgage when you retire, consider paying it off. That way, you don’t have to worry about this payment for the rest of your retirement, and you can free up those funds for something else.
Keep up your emergency fund
Life still happens, and when you’re on a fixed income, large and unexpected expenses can be scary. Continue to contribute to your emergency fund to ensure you have enough to cover any unplanned costs.
Set aside funds for your estate
It’s difficult to think about, but planning ahead for when you pass away can make that time easier for your loved ones. Especially if you don’t have life insurance. But even if you do, setting aside funds to pay for a funeral and other end-of-life costs, as well as any inheritance you want to leave behind for beneficiaries, can be a good thing to do with your money.
Being retired means you have more time on your hands, and traveling can help you make memories and have experiences that you may never have otherwise. Travel the state, country, or even the world. Spend time with friends or family, go on adventures, even buy an RV or camper to help you get to where you want to go.
These are just a few ideas, but your options are ultimately whatever you can think of. Take time to plan ahead for retirement and work with a financial advisor to make sure you have enough money saved to fund your ideal retirement lifestyle. Be strategic and smart with your withdrawals and investments, and don’t forget to spend money and time on yourself because after decades in the workforce, you’ve earned it.
Find a Medicare Plan in your area
It’s FREE with no obligation