So you’re planning to quit work soon and will be facing retirement on a fixed income? First of all: congratulations! Now, it’s time to ensure that your money outlasts your life and that there’s some left over for your children.
You can do that by setting up, and following, a realistic budget.
Not So Scary
It might be best to offer a trigger warning before even mentioning a budget. Some people think of them as nothing but a series of restrictions that hamper their enjoyment of life.
That’s not how you should view a budget. A budget is actually a liberating mechanism that will enable you to enjoy yourself while also maintaining sound financial responsibility. Think of it as an effort at putting your finances on a diet. It may require some self-discipline, but in the end you’re a better person for it.
Here’s how you can retire on a budget and enjoy life at the same time.
Take a Financial Snapshot
The first thing you want to do is get an understanding of your finances. Before you can determine how much you can spend, you must first know how much you’ll have.
Compile your 401(k) and IRA financial statements as well as your non-retirement related financial documents. Add it all up and get a sum total of what you’ve got.
Keep in mind: You’ll still be receiving additional income in your sunset years. That will come from returns on your financial accounts as well as your Social Security income.
To get a picture of how much you’ll be able to spend, you’ll also have to calculate your anticipated life span. This can be a grim effort, but it’s part of the number-crunching process. If you outlive your money, then you’re going to be somebody’s dependent.
Fortunately, there are plenty of online tools to help you out with this process.
Track Your Spending
Once you begin your employment-free adventure, you’re not only going to have to start following the guidelines put forth in your budget, but you’re more than likely going to need to make some adjustments.
Why? Because situations never turn out in real life as they appear on paper.
It’s likely that you’ll have a higher expense item than you anticipated (note: you’ll almost never have a lower expense than you anticipated you can thank Murphy’s Law for that). When that happens, you’ll need to reassess and redraw your budget.
This is perfectly normal. It’s also likely that you’ll need to revisit your budget on more than one occasion. That’s not unusual, either.
Get the Support of Friends and Family
Obviously, if you have a significant other, you’re going to want to make sure that your spouse is on board with your financial plans. To try to do this as a solo act is a recipe for tension in the relationship.
Bounce ideas off of close friends, associates, and family members. Get their feedback about how you should budget your money. It’s an especially good idea to talk to people who are already retired. After all, they’ve been down this road before.
Consider Making Changes to Suit Your New Life
Perhaps you’re an empty nester. Your children are grown and have left the house. Even worse, they live a couple of thousand miles away and hardly have time to visit.
There is a growing trend towards remodeling projects with old age in mind, and this is all part of practical planning. Incorporating easy-to-use appliances and devices might cost a significant amount later down the line, so you need to analyze both your situation now as well as keeping in mind that your needs will change in 20 years.
Ask yourself: Do you really need those two extra bedrooms in your house? Can you get by if you downsize and keep the money that you earn from the sale of your home (minus taxes and the amount required for the smaller house, of course)?
What other assets can you sell? Do you have a vintage car that will bring in some cash? Do you have a boat that you won’t use any more?
This is the time to liquefy your not-so-liquid assets that you don’t use any more. That way, you’ll have some extra cash on hand.
Be a Savvy Shopper
You’ll have some extra time in your retirement years. Why not use part of it clipping coupons? You could also browse the Sunday circulars in search of the best deals.
Your retirement years are a great time to hone your skills as a consumer. If you’re a smart shopper, you’ll find it’s easier to stay in budget.
Your golden years are just in front of you. Make sure that you spend them the right way by spending your money the right way.
Photo Credit: Tax Credits