exit strategy

When we talk about retirement planning, the most common focus is how much we are saving to support ourselves in retirement. Simplifying to one goal is a great way to get started, but planning for retirement requires a lot more than just picking a savings rate. Here are some other considerations to think about when planning for your dream retirement.

What does your lifestyle look like?

Before you dig into the details and pull out your calculator, do a high-level assessment of what you want to do in retirement. Will you continue to work, maybe part-time? Will you live near family, or will you want to travel to spend time with family?

These high-level questions might not seem like much help when deciding how much to save for retirement, but they absolutely matter. If you will earn an income, even just a thousand dollars a month or so, it counts. If you can drive 15 minutes away to see your grandkids, it is very different from getting on a plane to visit in terms of cost. This is why high-level questions matter first.

Where will you live?

The biggest expense most of us deal with in our monthly budgets is housing. Whether you plan to rent or own, you will need a place to live in retirement. How you plan for this has a major impact on your budget in retirement.

If you own a home and plan to stay there in retirement, you may have plans to pay your mortgage off in full. That means your fixed housing costs in retirement are limited to property taxes and insurance. For me, that adds up to about $10,000 per year, but every area and home has significantly different tax and insurance costs.

If you plan to rent or won’t have your mortgage paid off, you need to plan for monthly living expenses for housing. Again, this varies depending on the home and location, but whatever you will spend to have a place to live in retirement, you need to take that into account.

How much will you spend on needs each month?

Odds are you won’t have a hungry high school athlete eating through your entire fridge during retirement, but you will need to eat, as will your spouse or partner and other dependents. You also need clothes, transportation, and likely some sort of telecom expense like a phone or internet.

Your monthly needs are likely quite a bit lower in retirement than today, outside of healthcare. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan for them. Even retired people have to eat!

Healthcare costs in retirement are massive

Healthcare costs are higher in the United States than anywhere else. Even with Medicare, the elderly end up paying a small fortune for health insurance and healthcare in retirement.

Current estimates show that we will need about $275,000 per couple for healthcare costs in retirement. If that quarter million dollar plus price tag made you gag, I understand. It is ridiculous that we expect people to spend this on healthcare. If you don’t like it, call your Senator or Representative to suggest a better option.

The AAPR has a retirement healthcare cost estimator here that you can use for a more personalized number.

How much do you want leftover for travel, golf, and other activities?

I’m a horrible golfer and don’t find the activity particularly exciting, but many people plan to golf regularly when retired. Others prefer airports and travel to golf courses, while others still make a point to spend their golden years by the pool, beach, or playing bridge.

There is no right or wrong here, but you should plan to budget for fun spending during retirement as well as your core needs. Golf is not free, after all, so you need savings for all of those green fees. And maybe an extra lesson or two with the club pro.

Look at retirement as a complete package, not just a number

Whatever you want to do during retirement, you should be able to do that. But if you want to live your dreams in retirement, you need the right retirement savings. Between Social Security, 401(k)s, IRAs, and other savings, many Americans are still falling short. They are losing their ability to maintain the same standard of living. Dreams of regular trips to the golf course may seem like quite a reach.

As long as you plan well, check-in at least a couple of times per year, and do the math to make sure your savings are on track to meet your goals, you have little to worry about. Just don’t ignore your retirement. It isn’t going to take care of itself!

Eric Rosenberg is a finance, travel, and technology writer originally from Denver, Colorado living in Ventura, California. When away from the keyboard, Eric he enjoys exploring the world, flying small airplanes, discovering new craft beers, and spending time with his wife and baby girl. You can connect with him at his own finance blog Personal Profitability.

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