Common Retirement Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
By Jeff Gilbert
Making mistakes is an inevitable part of being human, and we often use past mistakes as a way to learn and make better decisions in the future. However, in retirement, there is far less room for error. Making such a significant financial transition involves shifting from earning an income and building wealth to depending on that wealth to sustain you for the rest of your life. Even if you’ve been preparing for retirement for years, it’s important to stay vigilant in order to avoid making costly mistakes.
Rather than coasting on autopilot, there are several key decisions and actions you can take to help smooth the transition into retirement. Let’s explore five common mistakes made by retirees and discuss tips on how to avoid them.
1. Overspending in Retirement
Do you know what you will do with your newfound freedom in retirement? Many people start by pursuing all the things they didn’t get to do while working—traveling the world, picking up a new hobby, remodeling their home, and the list goes on.
But many people underestimate the amount of money they’ll spend in those first few years of retirement. With so much extra time on your hands, it’s easy to make a lot of little purchases that add up to a lot over time.
If you want to avoid this mistake, create a detailed but realistic budget and stick to it. Yes, you can budget for extras such as a vacation or a new hobby, but make sure you know how it will affect your nest egg before you follow through with it. And be sure to work with your advisor to find a withdrawal rate that will stretch your money for as long as possible.
2. Underestimating Healthcare and Long-Term Care Costs
Retirees receive Medicare after age 65, but most of the time, this isn’t enough to cover chronic healthcare needs in retirement. For example, did you know dental, basic vision, over-the-counter medication, and long-term care are not covered by Medicare?
The average couple at age 65 will spend $315,000 after tax on medical expenses. What’s more, the real retirement enemy often comes in the form of long-term care costs. Nearly 70% of retirees will need some form of long-term care during their lifetimes, and with average long-term care costs hovering around $315 per day or $9,584 per month for a private room in a nursing home, it’s critical for you to have a plan in place to cover these expenses.
First, cautiously watch your spending in retirement to ensure there is a financial margin in place to protect you when larger medical bills hit later in life. And when choosing your health insurance for retirement, make sure you understand all Medicare options and supplements and work with an experienced professional to help you evaluate your options. Finally, explore your long-term care coverage options, such as traditional long-term care insurance, life insurance with a long-term care rider, and annuities with long-term care riders. The earlier you get coverage, the better, since the older you get, the higher your cost for a long-term care insurance policy will be and the greater the likelihood of your application being denied.
3. Overreacting to Stock Market Volatility
Retirees usually want to play it safe in the stock market, by investing conservatively and safeguarding their nest egg as much as possible. But when you play it too safe, your savings can’t keep up with inflation and you end up losing money down the line. With inflation hitting a staggering 9.1% in 2022 and still hovering around 6% in February 2023, most retirees can’t afford to avoid the stock market volatility that comes with investing at least a portion of their savings in growth assets.
Since your retirement may last anywhere from 20 to 30 years—as much time as you’ve spent in the workforce—don’t get caught up in investing too conservatively just to avoid short-term volatility. When your portfolio is too conservative, inflation becomes the biggest threat to your assets.
4. Claiming Social Security Too Early
Don’t assume it’s best to start collecting Social Security at age 62 (or at full retirement age, for that matter). If your full retirement age is 66, for example, you could receive a 32% increase in monthly benefits by waiting to collect Social Security until age 70. This means if your standard benefit amount is $1,500 per month, you could receive $1,980 by waiting four more years. This equates to thousands of extra dollars over the course of your retirement.
When deciding when you should start collecting Social Security, consider the size of your nest egg, your retirement date, and the current state of your health. Calculating when to claim your benefits is both an art and a science. If you need help, reach out to a trusted financial advisor who can help you run the numbers.
5. Miscalculating Taxes on Retirement Income
Your retirement accounts are all taxed differently. If you don’t have a strategic withdrawal plan in place, you could end up with a large tax bill at the end of the year. For example, a $50,000 withdrawal from a Roth IRA will have a wildly different tax impact than that same distribution from a traditional IRA. If you blindly take your money and run, you could trigger an avalanche of higher Social Security taxes, investment surtax, capital gains taxes, and even higher Medicare premiums, which will eat away at the funds that were supposed to carry you through retirement. Creating a tax plan can help you strategically withdraw from your various retirement accounts and minimize your tax liability.
Speak with a financial planner or tax advisor about creating a tax-efficient distribution strategy for retirement. This professional can look at your tax bracket, retirement accounts, and Social Security to help you withdraw money in the most tax-efficient way.
Partner With a Professional
Although it’s impossible to avoid all mistakes, it is essential to take proactive steps toward a satisfying retirement. At Balboa Wealth Partners, we specialize in wealth management and can assist you in sidestepping the expensive mistakes often made during retirement. As your dedicated partner in this journey, we can collaborate with you to create a practical budget and develop a tax-efficient distribution strategy to help increase your savings. If you’re interested in our services and how we can help you enjoy a worry-free and comfortable retirement, give me a call at 949-445-1465 or email me at [email protected]. Or complete a complimentary risk assessment here.
Jeff Gilbert is the founder and CEO of Balboa Wealth Partners, a holistic financial management firm dedicated to providing clients guidance today for tomorrow’s success. With over three decades of industry experience, he has worked as both an advisor and executive-level manager, partnering with and serving a diverse range of clients. Specializing in serving high- and ultra-high-net-worth families, Jeff aims to help clients achieve their short-term and long-term goals, worry less about their finances, and focus more on their life’s passions. Based in Orange County, Jeff works with clients throughout the entire country. To learn more, connect with Jeff on LinkedIn or email [email protected].
Advisory services provided by Balboa Wealth Partners, Inc., an Investment Advisor registered with the SEC. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Balboa Wealth Partners and its Investment Advisor Representatives are properly licensed or exempt from registration.
Securities offered through Kingswood Capital Partners, LLC, member FINRA, SIPC.
Balboa offers advisory services independent of Kingswood. Neither firm is affiliated.