By Darrell Bryant
Quick question: How much money would it take for you to describe yourself as wealthy?
According to a Charles Schwab survey, most Americans consider a “rich person” as someone with $2 million in net worth. And sure, $2 million can buy a lot of stuff: bigger homes, more cars, designer clothes. But there’s a big difference between being rich and true wealth.
Let’s look at Joe. Joe is 60 and is nearing the end of his career. He has nearly $3 million in assets and he earns a great salary as the CEO of a manufacturing company. On paper, Joe is rich.
What you can’t see, though, is that Joe is spending money faster than it comes in. He and his wife live far beyond their means; in fact, neither one of them have any idea of what their monthly expenses even are. Joe hasn’t thought much about planning for the future, assuming he’s got enough to live on in retirement.
The problem is that a good portion of Joe’s money for retirement is in the stock market. He’s not even sure what he owns or how much he’s paying in fees. Then one day, the market takes a dramatic plunge – leaving the asset side of Joe’s balance sheet much lighter. Suddenly, Joe doesn’t feel so rich, and he’s lying awake at night wondering how he and his wife will maintain their lifestyle in their later years.
Meanwhile, Joe’s employee Pam has about $1 million in the bank. Pam is also 60, and although she’s never risen as high in the ranks as Joe, she’s saved diligently for retirement throughout her career. Pam and her husband have met with their financial advisor, and they know exactly how much they need to have saved for Pam to retire without worry. Most importantly, they have identified their spending intentions, and have adjusted their portfolios in a way that generates constant monthly income.
Without worry. That’s the difference between being rich and being wealthy. While being rich is about having a lot of money coming in, being wealthy is all about financial freedom. It doesn’t take a lot of money to feel wealthy, but it does take the ability to live within your means – both before and after you retire.
Achieving true wealth in retirement
In our working years, we count on a paycheck coming in regularly, whether it’s weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Consistent income provides a feeling of security, knowing that you’re able to pay for your expenses without drawing down your savings.
In retirement, you’re no longer receiving a paycheck from an employer, but you still need regular income. And now, that income doesn’t just cover your fixed expenses; you’ll also use it to pay for the fun stuff that makes life more enjoyable, like travel and hobbies.
Pinpointing exactly how much income you’ll need in retirement starts with calculating your base expenses, including food, clothing, shelter and transportation. Then add up how much you’ll need for “non-essentials.” These two figures will give you a good idea of how much income you’ll require to maintain your desired lifestyle in retirement.
Once you know how much you’ll need, then you can start saving toward that goal. However, one thing to consider is that you may need to save over your target income amount to account for taxes. If you’re relying on accounts such as a 401(k) or IRA to provide the bulk of your retirement account, any withdrawals from those accounts will be taxable.
A retirement-specific advisor can help you calculate how much you’ll need in retirement income and help you create a strategy to generate that income while potentially reducing how much you pay in taxes. Their goal is to give you peace of mind that you’ll have enough to live on no matter how long your retirement lasts – and when you have peace of mind, you are truly wealthy.
Darrell Bryant, CFS®, CAS® is Omaha’s Retirement Strategist. As the founder of D. Bryant Retirement Strategies, he focuses on helping individuals and couples nearing retirement do so successfully. Along with more than 30 years of experience, he received the Certified Fund Specialist (CFS®) designation and a Certified Annuity Specialist (CAS®) designation from the Institute of Business & Finance. Passionate about helping as many people as possible in his community, he hosts Retirement Strategies Radio, heard Saturday mornings at 7:00 a.m. on 1110 KFAB. He has also written articles on financial planning that have been featured on Fortune.com, FoxBusiness.com, Money.com, and in the Midland Business Journal. To learn more, visit his blog, his website, or connect with him on LinkedIn.