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11 Ways to Go Broke in Retirement


Feb. 29, 2016 Kiplinger

Retirement is a major milestone that brings many life changes. One thing that doesn’t change for most people: the fear of running out of money. According to a recent survey from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, the most frequently reported retirement worry is outliving savings and investments. Across all ages, 44% of respondents cited this concern, and 41% of retirees claim the same fear. Additionally, 47% of retirees don’t think they’ve built a nest egg large enough to last through retirement.

Now is the time to face your fears. Look at our 11 ways you could go broke in retirement and learn how to avoid them. Some you can avert with careful planning; others you have little control over. But you can prepare your finances to make the best of whatever may come.

1. You abandon stocks
It’s true that stocks can be risky. In January alone, Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, a benchmark for many investors, experienced several wild swings before ending the month 5% lower. So once you’re retired, you might be inclined to move your money out of stocks altogether and instead focus on preserving your wealth.

But that would be a mistake. Without stocks, “you don’t get the growth that you need,” says Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, senior vice president at Charles Schwab and author of The Charles Schwab Guide to Finances After Fifty. “You need your money to continue to grow through those 20 to 30 years of retirement.” She recommends maintaining a stock allocation of at least 20% during retirement for your portfolio to outpace inflation and help maintain your lifestyle.

2. You invest too much in stocks
On the other hand, you’re right: Stocks are risky. “You don’t want to have too much in stocks, especially if you’re so reliant on that portfolio, because of the volatility of the market,” says Schwab-Pomerantz. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula, but for the average investor Schwab-Pomerantz recommends moving to 60% stocks as you approach retirement, then trimming back to 40% stocks in early retirement. Later in retirement, allocate 20% to stocks.

If you’re hesitant to make these portfolio adjustments yourself and don’t want to work with a financial adviser, consider investing in target-date mutual funds instead. These funds are designed to reduce exposure to stocks gradually over time as you approach (and surpass) your target date for retirement. Not all target-date funds are the same, even if they sport the same retirement target year in their names. Be aware of specific funds’ expenses and asset-allocation strategies to ensure they are affordable and fit your needs.

3. You live too long
More time to enjoy the life you love is a joy; trying to afford it can be a pain. Current retirees are expecting a long retirement—a median of 28 years, according to the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. And 41% of retirees expect their retirements to go on for more than three decades. Women have to plan for an even longer life. According to the Social Security Administration, a 65-year-old man can expect to live to age 84, on average, while a woman of the same age may make it closer to age 87.

When saving for retirement, plan for a long life. But if it starts to look like your nest egg will come up short, you have to adjust your budget. For example, it might behoove you to downsize your home or relocate to an area with low taxes and living costs. You may even consider finding ways to pull in extra income, such as starting an encore career, taking a part-time job or cashing in on the sharing economy, if you can.

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