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How to Prevent Outliving Your Retirement Savings

It’s what every retirement planner speculates; it’s what every pre-retiree dreads; it’s every retiree’s nightmare: “will I outlive my retirement savings”?  This question sits on the minds of each and every person associated with the retirement process, and with good reason.  The U.S.’s current life expectancy is 78.3, up from around age 50 in the early 1900’s, thanks to modern medical advances and other factors.

But what happens when the economy starts reducing benefits and increasing the costs of retirement plans and care?  And what happens if we live to 100?  After all, centenarians are the fastest growing age group in the United States right now.

No one can predict every individual’s future and how they should plan and save, but we can prepare for each situation possible.  A report issued by the Government Accountability Office offers a look at what the experts are recommending, and how retirees make do.  The Senate Committee on Aging asked the Government Accountability Office to review three specific areas and make suggestions: strategies that experts recommend for ensuring income throughout retirement, choices retirees have made for managing their pension and assets to generate income, and policy options available toensure retirement income.

Because everyone’s expenses, income level, health, and risk tolerance are different, it’s important to understand that there’s not single design for everyone to follow.  Make sure you talk with your retirement advisor about the best options for you, and at the same time keep these suggestions in mind.

First of all, retirees should systematically draw down their savings and convert a portion of their savings to income-generating investments to cover necessary expenses.  If you have the option of getting annuity payments from a traditional pension plan, experts suggest opting for that over a lumpsum withdrawal.  The experts also recommended delaying Social Security retirement benefits until reaching full retirement age, and if possible, continuing to work and save.

So do retirees actually follow this advice?  Typically, no.  According to the report, most retirees rely primarily on Social Security – and many take it before their full retirement age.  Only 6% of those with a defined-contribution plan, such as a 401(k), chose or bought an income-generating investment vehicle when they retired.  And fewer and fewer people are having traditional pension benefits available, pointing to the need for policy proposals educating retirees on the best ways to get the most out of their savings.

So what should you take away from this report?  Even if you’re just starting to save, or you’re deep in the retirement planning stages, you need to take each and every factor into account when making decisions.  Think about it – if most retirees rely primarily on Social Security, what happens when the government cuts Social Security funding?  And what happens if they cut funding to government-sponsored medical care? These are factors that you have to take into account, in addition to the myriad retirement plans available – annuities, stocks, bonds and pension plans.

Talk with an expert earlier rather than later and devise a plan that will give you peace of mind to enjoy your retirement years.