Can I retire with $1 million dollars? Of course you can. Truth be told, you might be able to retire with much less. Then again, you might not be able to retire with $1 million or $2 million or perhaps even $10 million. It all depends on your personal situation. On thing is sure: you want to make sure your golden years are golden, not merely a struggle for existence. (To learn more read, 10 Steps To Retire A Millionaire.)

Most advisors and financial professionals have been able to boil it down to one number, also known as the holy grail of retirement analysis: the amazing 4% sustainable withdrawal rate. Essentially, this is the amount you can withdraw through thick and thin and still expect your portfolio to last at least 30 years, if not longer. This will determine how long your retirement savings will last, and will help you determine how much money you need for the retirement you want.

So, I Can Retire With $1 Million?
If you are 65 with $1 million, you can expect your portfolio of properly diversified investments to provide $40,000 per year (in today's dollars ) until you are 95. Add that to your Social Security income and you should be bringing in roughly $70,000 a year. (Find out how much additional income you can expect in How Much Social Security Will You Get?)

Now, if this isn't enough for you to maintain the lifestyle you want, you have come to your unfortunate answer rather quickly: no, you cannot retire with $1 million.

Now wait a minute, you say, what about my spouse, who is also getting Social Security? What if I'm 75, not 65? What if I want to die broke? What if I'm getting a government pension and benefits? What if I'm planning to retire in Costa Rica? There are many "what ifs", but the math is still the math: If you plan on needing a lot more than $40,000 from you retirement nest egg, then the probability of a successful retirement on $1 million is not good.

Projecting Future Expenses
There are a lot of books and articles that discuss longevity risks, sequence of returns, healthcare costs and debt. But knowing how much you need to retire still boils down to projecting your future expenses until the day you die. Ideally, that yearly figure will add up to less than 4% of your nest egg.

So a $1 million dollar portfolio should give you, at most, $40,000 to budget. If you are forced to take out more than $40,000 adjusted for time during your retirement, you are tempting fate and relying on luck to get you by. So, if you want at least $40,000 per year, $1 million is really the least amount of money - the bare minimum - you should have before you launch into retirement.

Retirement planning means maximizing your lifestyle while maintaining a high probability of being able to maintain that lifestyle until the day you die. So scraping together a bare minimum nest egg is like an explorer heading into the jungle for a week with just enough supplies. What if something happens? Why not take extra? As a result, for the vast majority of people, $1 million is not enough if you want a high probability of a great retirement. (For a deeper analysis of this issue, see Can You Retire On $1 Million?)

Three Types Of Retirees
Typically, we see three categories of people trying to decide if they are ready to retire:

  1. "Of course you can retire! Live it up and enjoy!" If you are at least in your 70s with reasonable expenses, then there is a good chance you and your $1 million fall in this category.
  2. "The probability for your retirement looks good. Just don't go crazy and buy a Porsche." If you are at least 62 and have always lived a frugal lifestyle, then you and your $1 million are likely going to fall in this category.
  3. "Let's redefine retirement for you." This is just about everyone else - including early retirees with $1 million living frugally and 70-year-olds with $1 million spending lavishly.

Early retirement, meaning before Social Security and Medicare kick in, with only $1 million is extremely risky. You leave yourself with so few options if things go terribly wrong. Sure, you can go to Costa Rica and eat fish tacos every day. But what if you want to move back to the U.S. someday? What if you want to change? Having more money set aside will provide you with more flexibility and increase the likelihood of continued financial independence to do what you want within reason until the day you die. If you are forced to stay in Costa Rica or get a job, then you didn't make a good decision and plan. (Learn more about a working retirement in Stretch Your Savings By Working Into Your 70s.)

So, once you have your $1 million, concentrate on what you can control - or at least affect. You can't control when you die but you can affect your health costs by doing your best to stay healthy until you qualify for Medicare. You can't control investment returns but you can affect the range of returns. You can't control inflation but you can affect your fixed costs and your variable costs.

Spending and Expenses
A few quick bits on expenses and spending. To a certain extent, retirement planning is the art of accurately matching future income with expenses. People seem to ignore certain expenses. For example, family vacations and a grandchild's wedding gift count the same as dental surgery and car repairs in retirement planning, but people neither include these enjoyable expenses when they are projecting their costs nor do they recognize how hard it is to cut them - try telling one child that you can't help with his wedding after paying for your other children's weddings!

As a general rule, people who try to determine the minimum amount of retirement savings are usually the least likely to retire. Just getting by isn't a good way to start 30+ years of unemployment and diminishing employability. If something unexpected happens, what are your options? Re-enter the work force, change your lifestyle or get more aggressive with your investments? Most people try the latter and pray. Some get lucky, but most don't. This is the equivalent of doubling down in black jack.

If you want to retire with $1 million dollars, it is going to come down to a combination of 1) how you define retirement, 2) your personal inventory of everything in your life: assets, debts, medical, family, etc. and 3) what the future holds. Remember, stuff happens in life. Do you really want to start this 30+ year adventure with the bare minimum? Retirement is like most good things, it is much better to be overprepared than to wing it. You can you retire with $1 million dollars, but it's better to be safe than sorry – shoot for $2 million!

Related Articles
  1. Investing

    2 Common Ways to Misuse Target Date Funds

    The world of asset classes is just as complicated as taking vitamins. How much should you take of small caps? Intermediate bonds? Emerging market stocks?
  2. Professionals

    Charity or Retirement Saving: Which to Prioritize?

    Financial planners need to help clients with their financial goals but also support them in their philanthropic endeavours.
  3. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    What Target-Date Funds Can Teach About Investing

    Target-date funds are a popular way to invest for retirement. Here's what they can teach the novice investor.
  4. Retirement

    The 5 Best Retirement Communities in Dallas, Texas

    Discover why the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas is a popular retirement destination, and five of the best retirement communities in the area.
  5. Professionals

    How to Protect Retirement and Help Adult Kids

    Parents can both protect their retirement money and help their adult kids. Here's how.
  6. Retirement

    10 Ways to Save Your Retirement: It's Not Too Late

    It's not too late to start saving for your retirement, even if you took longer to start thinking about it and doing something about it.
  7. Retirement

    5 Ways to Use Your Home to Retire

    Retirement is going to cost a lot, and for homeowners who face a shortfall, their home can be a source of income. From downsizing to renting, here's how.
  8. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Mutual Funds Millennials Should Avoid

    Find out what kinds of mutual funds are unsuitable for millennial investors, especially when included in millennial retirement accounts.
  9. Retirement

    Retire on 70% of Your Income? Why It's Not Enough

    Many people think 70% will be enough to support them in retirement, but they forget a few significant expenses that could lurk in the future.
  10. Professionals

    Why Women Are Underprepared for a Spouse’s Death

    Women are typically less prepared for the death of a spouse than men. An advisor can help mitigate some of the financial burdens widows may end up facing.
  1. How do hedge funds use equity options?

    With the growth in the size and number of hedge funds over the past decade, the interest in how these funds go about generating ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What are the main kinds of annuities?

    There are two broad categories of annuity: fixed and variable. These categories refer to the manner in which the investment ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What are the risks of rolling my 401(k) into an annuity?

    Though the appeal of having guaranteed income after retirement is undeniable, there are actually a number of risks to consider ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How do I get out of my annuity and transfer to a new one?

    If you decide your current annuity is not for you, there is nothing stopping you from transferring your investment to a new ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How can I determine if a longevity annuity is right for me?

    A longevity annuity may be right for an individual if, based on his current health and a family history of longevity, he ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How does a Roth IRA grow over time?

    Your Roth IRA account grows over time thanks to two funding sources: contributions and earnings. While your contributions ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Real Estate Investment Trust - REIT

    A REIT is a type of security that invests in real estate through property or mortgages and often trades on major exchanges ...
  2. Section 1231 Property

    A tax term relating to depreciable business property that has been held for over a year. Section 1231 property includes buildings, ...
  3. Term Deposit

    A deposit held at a financial institution that has a fixed term, and guarantees return of principal.
  4. Zero-Sum Game

    A situation in which one person’s gain is equivalent to another’s loss, so that the net change in wealth or benefit is zero. ...
  5. Capitalization Rate

    The rate of return on a real estate investment property based on the income that the property is expected to generate.
  6. Gross Profit

    A company's total revenue (equivalent to total sales) minus the cost of goods sold. Gross profit is the profit a company ...
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!