It’s safe to expect that you will live 10, 15, or even 20 or more years into retirement. For this reason, most of us know it’s important to save for retirement and to diversify our retirement portfolio. However, relying on Social Security payments and regular savings accounts alone is generally not going to be enough for a long and comfortable retirement.
The reality is that your car might not last 15 years, your roof might need repairs, or you might want to vacation during your retirement years. Planning for purchases of big-ticket items and making sure you can cover unexpected large expenses in your retirement strategy is just as important as your actual retirement savings.
What are the keys to a stress-free retirement? Have a 401(k) or similar retirement savings plan, invest in mutual funds, and maximize matching contributions and savings in addition to regular savings accounts and Social Security.
Make a list of big-ticket expenses
Sit down with your spouse, family, friends, or other retirees and brainstorm a list of needs and wants in retirement. For example, if you know your car is 10 years old and has 120,000 miles on it, you’re probably going to have to replace it soon. If you’ve always wanted to travel to Rome and plan to do so in retirement, research the approximate cost of the trip you envision.
Next, think about your living expenses. Will you keep your home and the maintenance expenses that go with it, or do you plan to move to an apartment or retirement community?
Then consider the additional surprises that may come along, such as a furnace replacement, a broken window, or tree removal from storm damage, and factor in those costs. Everything you imagine is not going to happen, but keeping a few unexpected expenses in mind is just smart retirement planning.
Remember, regular living expenses, normal home maintenance and utilities (or rent), medical care, and transportation are not included on this list. Hopefully, you have already considered how much those things will cost you and have planned your retirement savings accordingly. Once you’ve come up with your big-ticket list, add up the cost of those items and figure out how much extra you’ll have to save to be prepared for those expenses.
If you find that you’ve made your list and have reviewed your portfolio and there isn’t going to be enough money to allow for big-ticket purchases or sudden expenses, then it’s time to make changes.
Consider cutting back on non-essential expenses now to save more for your future. Decide if purchasing some of those big-ticket items, like a new refrigerator, ahead of time would be more affordable while you still have a paycheck than after you retire.
Think about working for a few more years while living on your retirement budget, and put the additional money into your emergency fund. Consider a part-time job that might act as a safety net for unexpected expenses. I’ve suggested this to several of my clients who didn’t have enough retirement savings to take care of their spendinghabits. A part-time job allowed them to “semi-retire,” walk away from the jobs they hated, and be much happier.
In the end, planning ahead for big-ticket expenses is critical to ensuring you have enough money to live comfortably and stress-free in retirement.
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Jeff Rose is an Illinois Certified Financial Planner. He blogs at Good Financial Cents and Soldier of Finance. He loves Crossfit workouts, writes about Roth IRA rules and craves In-N-Out burger. You can follow his updates on Twitter.