The Benefits Of Retiring During A Recession

By Mark P. Cussen, CFP®, CMFC, AFC | August 04, 2010 AAA
The Benefits Of Retiring During A Recession

Most financial planners will tell you that retirement and recession are mutually exclusive entities. Many articles have been written on how to retire in a recession, using various strategies such as hanging on to a part-time job, taking early Social Security and reallocating your investment portfolio. But believe it or not, there are some actual financial benefits to retiring during a recession. Here are some ways that retiring during an economic downturn may benefit you.

IN PICTURES: 5 Tax(ing) Retirement Mistakes

Lower Property Values
If you have been waiting for the right time to buy that vacation home or rental property, this may be it. Property values can decline precipitously during a recession, so your purchase price may be only half of what it was five years ago. This can also allow you to reallocate a portion of your investment portfolio in a sensible fashion. (For more on property values, check out The Top 4 Things That Determine A Home's Value.)

Lower Cost of Living
High unemployment and bad markets mean less disposable income. Retailers must therefore slash prices in order to draw in customers. Take advantage of all the freebies, specials, closeout prices and promotional items thrown at you by department stores, credit card companies, restaurants, movie theaters and other providers of entertainment and travel agencies. Airlines often get into price wars during recessions, and local grocers churn out coupons, rebates and free samples in an effort to keep shoppers happy.

Less Income Tax
Although selling securities when prices are down obviously reduces your return on capital, it also reduces the tax you pay on your gains. Those who have to liquidate long-term holdings in order to retire during a recession can therefore usually expect to pay less in taxes than they would in a bull market. This can also be an excellent time to convert large IRA or qualified plan balances into Roth accounts, since your earnings from your job have disappeared. Not only will you pay less tax because of your lack of compensation, but your retirement account balance will probably be lower as well. These factors combine to allow you to pay the lowest amount of interest possible on your conversion.

For example, if you earned $80,000 from your job and have $100,000 in a Traditional IRA that used to be worth $140,000, then you will now only pay taxes on the $100,000 balance in the account, instead of on $220,000, the amount of income that you might have had to declare a few years earlier when you were working and the markets were high. (This example does not take into account the income threshold that previously applied for Roth conversions, which was lifted in 2010.) (To learn more, see Roth Or Traditional IRA... Which Is The Better Choice?)

Immunity From Unemployment
No more job hunting, no more worries about layoffs, no more updating your resume, no more fruitless interviews or application forms. You're retired now, and other people can fight for a job instead of you. (Now you have time to worry about your kids finding jobs instead.) (What will you do during your retirement? Read Retire In Style for hints on how to strike a healthy balance.)

Emotional Satisfaction
If you have struggled to keep up with the Joneses, then you can sit back and derive a perverse pleasure from watching them lose much of what they own when one or both of them get laid off and can't make the monthly payments on their second home, sports car and cabin cruiser.

The Bottom Line
Of course, retiring during a recession will still bring many financial challenges, but it's not all bad. In fact, retiring at any given time will present its own unique challenges. While there is a lot of press covering the perils of retiring now, don't forget that there are some advantages. So try taking advantage of the benefits, rather than focusing on the disadvantages. (For more, check out You CAN Retire In A Recession.)

Catch up on your financial news; read Water Cooler Finance: Google Gains, Taxpayers Pay.

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