What’s your number: How much is enough to retire?
My long-time clients, Norm and Mary, suffer from extreme retirement anxiety. They don’t have to stress about their retirement as they’ll have more money than they’ll ever need – yet they worry constantly.
Mary has a nice Alberta government pension. They have the usual CPP and OAS pensions and investments of $350,000 that I manage. They own two residential properties.
(Norm and Mary’s names and certain details have been changed for privacy.)
Norm and Mary will have more than enough to retire. When I write that they worry constantly, it’s no exaggeration. Mary stresses over money so they hole up in their house, watching TV and clipping coupons. I’ve told them that they can afford to spend some but they can’t bring themselves to enjoy their money.
No one really needs to be the richest guy in the graveyard, but everyone wants to know that they’ll have enough for a comfortable, worry-free retirement.
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How much is enough to retire?
The question is important for everyone, more so as we get closer and closer to retirement age.
Vancouver-based financial planner Diane McCurdy deals with it in her latest edition of her book, How Much is Enough?: Balancing Today’s Needs with Tomorrow’s Retirement Goals.
Unfortunately, McCurdy writes, there is no easy, one-size-fits-all answer. Everyone’s “enough” number is different, and they can differ wildly. Your personal number depends on several variables – your age at retirement, your desired retirement lifestyle, the income you need to last for roughly three decades, your life expectancy, expected CPP and OAS incomes, employer pensions, whether you’ll retire fully or work part-time or after leaving full-time work, other possible income sources and other factors.
This entertaining book provides good advice to help you find your retirement number and then shows you how to create a plan to reach your savings target. I recommend it even for folks who hate reading about personal finance.
Unfortunately, that will be the case for many Canadians – with savings rates near an all-time low. If you’re short then you have some decisions to make. For example, you could work a bit longer, work part-time for two or three years or reduce your income expectations. There are other tweaks you might consider.
Imagine that you want to retire at age 62 with after-tax income of $55,000, but your projections show that you can sustain income of only $46,000. If you work two years longer that’s two years that you won’t be drawing from your savings and two more years to save. Maybe if you also reduce your spending needs to $52,000 you may be able to erase that deficit.
Your income projections will tell you if you’ll be fine. If not, it’s best to know immediately so you have more time for course adjustments. If you are short a delay in taking action can turn a small problem into a big one.
McCurdy encourages people to separate needs from wants and mentions the B word (budgeting). Don’t spend too much and sacrifice priorities such as proper insurance to protect loved ones in the event of a death or a disability. You also need an emergency plan, and to save for retirement and to assist children with their post-secondary education. If you aren’t doing those things, McCurdy would tell you to budget.
Get rich slowly, McCurdy advises, as there is no good way to quick wealth.
“There are no rules for getting rich quick,” McCurdy writes. “There are, however, rules for getting rich slowly.” Trying to get rich quickly can make you a lot poorer really fast.
Related Article: How Much Will I Need for Retirement?
McCurdy discusses the typical life stages…for 20 and early 30-somethings, she recommends starting a lifetime savings habit, saving 10 percent of your income every year. For ages 35-50, McCurdy suggests investing into RRSPs, starting non-registered investments, establishing an emergency fund and paying down the mortgage. For ages 50 and older, she suggests clearing off any remaining debt and starting to save much more as the kids leave home.