There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to saving for your golden years, and while there is plenty of good advice that can be used to create your own retirement strategy, a few “rules” should be taken with a grain of salt.
When crafting your own retirement strategy it can be tempting to follow certain guidelines that seem like solid advice, but the No. 1 most important thing is to adapt any information you come across to help you create a plan that will achieve your retirement goals.
There are some retirement strategies (or “rules”) that should be outright avoided, though, or at least looked at more closely when it comes to your own situation.
3 Retirement Strategies That Aren’t Completely Fool-Proof
No. 1: The 4% Withdrawal Rule
This retirement strategy gained popularity in the 1990s, and it says if you withdraw 4% of your total funds while adjusting that amount every year for inflation, you can stretch your savings out over 30-plus years.
The major flaw with this plan is it assumes you have adopted a 60/40 portfolio, with 60% invested in the stock market while the other 40% sits in bonds (check out the editor’s note below for more on the 60/40 portfolio). It may not even work if you take on more risk to try to “catch up” with retirement savings, or if you take a more guarded approach and your money doesn’t grow enough to cover withdrawals.
Bond interest rates also used to be a lot higher than they are today.
Spending in retirement can also vary wildly. You may have five straight years of smooth sailing and then get a hole blown in your savings from an unexpected health expense or major repair to your home.
Talking to a financial adviser and creating a spending plan that lets you do what you want in retirement while also socking away some funds for those nasty expenses is probably a better way to go.
No. 2: Your Retirement Strategy Can’t Include Debt
Entering retirement without debt would be an amazing prospect for everyone, but paying off debt shouldn’t be the end-all goal that you must achieve in order to retire.
A better approach may be to focus on high-interest debt like credit cards because they have a tendency to snowball into problems that you can never escape.
Delaying your retirement by years to pay off a low-interest mortgage doesn’t make a ton of sense if you can work it into your retirement budget, and exit the work force when you originally intended to. That extra money you would’ve been pouring into paying off your mortgage earlier could be put to work in other investments.
Once again, it’s all about crafting a retirement plan that works for what you want to accomplish. Carrying some debt into retirement isn’t going to kill your savings if your retirement strategy accounts for it.
No. 3: Plan to Spend Less in Retirement
You may end up spending less in retirement, and numbers like 75% to 85% of what you spent before exiting the workforce are thrown around a lot. That isn’t the case for everyone, though, and making that assumption can put you in a tight spot when something unexpected comes up.
Your lifestyle is going to change without the 9-to-5 grind of a job setting you into a daily routine, and that could lead to spending more than you expected on new hobbies or travel. Not to mention higher health care costs as you get older.
This is where a budget really comes in handy. There are plenty of great budgeting tools out there (I personally recommend You Need a Budget), and taking the time to think about and create a plan for your spending and saving can paint a great picture for your retirement.
Having a plan for your money means you’ll be more prepared if you have to spend more than expected.
There are so many different retirement strategies that may work for you, and taking the time to create your own plan can make a world of difference down the road.
Editor’s note: Check back later today for contributor Charles Sizemore’s take on why the 60/40 portfolio is dead.