Despite the plethora of websites, books, magazines, advisors and other financial information and services available for retirees, there will always be a contingent of people who fail to make their retirement savings last for the rest of their lives. There are many ways to avoid this, some of which are more proactive while others are reactive in nature. But none of them are particularly difficult; all any of them really require is discipline and common sense. Here are a few ways you might be endangering your retirement.
1. Too Much Risk
You worked and sweated for years to accumulate enough money to be able to live a comfortable retirement. Therefore, this is probably not money that you want to use to start trading commodities futures contracts unless you are very experienced with them. Derivatives, small cap stocks and other high-risk ventures should be approached with caution and used judiciously as part of a well-thought out investment strategy.
2. Too Little Risk
This mistake can be every bit as costly as the previous one; those who invest their portfolios too conservatively may find that their expenses are outgrowing their income. Treasury securities and CDs can be great foundations for any retirement portfolio, but virtually all retirees need to have at least a small portion of their assets invested in either equities or real estate in order to provide themselves a hedge against inflation.
3. Retiring Too Early
Early retirement has become something of a status symbol among the upper-middle class. However, early retirement can be disastrous for those who are not adequately prepared for it. For every five years that one wishes to retire early, at least $100,000 of additional assets should be saved (assuming a payout of $2,000 per month and a rate of 6%). Those who choose this path should therefore be prepared to accept a reduced payout and a smaller Social Security check every month if they have not done this. (For related information, take a look at How Much Social Security Will You Get?)
4. Failure to Plan for Long-Term Care
Nothing can destroy a retirement portfolio like having to pay for the cost of a nursing home or other long-term care without any kind of insurance protection. Nursing home care can easily cost up to $60,000 a year, depending upon various factors such as the level of care needed and your geographic location. Medicare seldom if ever pays for long-term care expenses and Medicaid is not a reliable source of aid for this either. There are "spend down" plans available for those who wish to follow their rules, but these plans can be substantially disruptive to daily living in most cases. Purchasing a long-term care insurance policy is usually the preferable alternative for those who can afford it. Other alternatives include annuities and cash-value life insurance policies with long-term care riders. (Protect your nest egg with LTC insurance. Don't miss LTC Insurance: The Umbrella Every Boomer Needs.)
5. Retiring All At Once
For some people, the radical adjustments that come from retirement are too much to absorb all at one time. It may be necessary to work another, lesser job for a time, such as a part-time job with an employer in a field in which you have an interest. A few years of this type of work may allow you to "gear down" sufficiently to total retirement at some point. This strategy can also help to stretch an insufficient retirement portfolio a long way.
6. Living Beyond Your Means
As obvious as this is, those who spend more than they have in retirement will find themselves in dire straits at some point. Run the numbers carefully before you buy that 54-foot yacht or that vacation home. These items often fail to fetch their purchase prices if you have to sell them, so think twice before you plunge into a major pleasure purchase that will eat up a material chunk of your savings. (If you hope to enjoy a comfortable retirement, it's time to get real. Learn more in 4 Retirement Reality Checks.)
These are just some of the ways that you can ruin your retirement if you're not careful. Those who think that Social Security alone will sustain them in retirement are also in for a rude surprise. For more information on how you can avoid these mistakes during retirement, consult your financial advisor.