Makin' Money

6 steps to figuring out your retirement number

Chris Farrell Mar 24, 2011

Do you have enough set aside to retire? How much will you need to live on when you stop working? Brett Arends of the Wall Street Journal tackles the often depressing topic of how to figure out what you’ll need in retirement.

He tries to keep it simple by highlighting 6 steps:

  1. Figure out how much income you’ll need.
  2. Figure out much you will get from outside sources.
  3. Figure out how much income you will need from your investments.
  4. Understand how long your investments will have to last.
  5. And here’s your answer.
  6. And how to stop panicking.

I’m not so sure he succeeded with the last category, step 6–don’t panic. These aren’t exactly reassuing words.

For those facing a retirement-savings crisis, the strategies for adapting are well known but worth reviewing. They include scaling back, moving somewhere much cheaper and delaying retirement as long as possible, which works multiple levers. It gives you longer to save, it gives your savings longer to grow, it reduces the length of time you will need to live off your savings, and it boosts your Social Security income. Even staying in part-time work can help.

There are no easy answers. But the real problem is that most people still don’t even understand the questions.

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