4 wrong retirement planning assumptions

By Larissa Fernand |  18-11-19 | 
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About the Author
Larissa Fernand is Website Editor for Morningstar.in. She would like to hear from you and welcomes your feedback.

Most of us work hard so that we can retire in a financially comfortable position. But interestingly, once we retire, it requires a tremendous shift in mindset, to move from aggressive saving, to eventually shift from savings to spending.

Having said that, the entire exercise is based on a number of assumptions. Let's look at a few common ones.

Assumption 1: Retirement is a destination.

All along retirement has always been viewed as a destination, as an end-of-the-road milestone. Nothing could be further from the truth. The road could be long and winding as the journey keeps unfolding. Rather than a destination, it should be viewed as a transition.

In 4 mistakes that can hurt your retirement, I explained how the concept of retirement is undergoing a fundamental change. Seldom do people just stop work and start drawing a pension.

Earlier, it was the case of being shoved off the demographic cliff and being forced to leave the company, saying goodbye to the 9-to-5 lifestyle. Today, the concept of retirement is being reconfigured, and it could be a phased retirement. It could mean just slowing down and working 3 days a week, or, working 5 days a week but just for a few hours each day. It could be opting for just project-based work or going off the salaried payroll to that of a consultant. It could also be the conventional “giving up work” altogether to pursue your hobbies or volunteering.

Neither does it have to be at a particular age. You could be retiring way before the conventionally set mark, out of choice. Or maybe, a golden handshake was offered, and you were asked to move on.

Point to note: Retirement is now a much looser definition. There is no right or wrong. There is no one-size-fits-all. But how you choose to interpret retirement is what will form the basis of your retirement plan. Have clarity on your plan so you can build on it.

Assumption 2: I won't live for long.

Don’t be conservative when estimating your retirement period. We can’t know how long we’ll live. So as a foundation, use life expectancies.

David Blanchett, head of retirement research for Morningstar Investment Management, recommends that the expected length of your retirement should definitely be longer than your life expectancy, since you want a cushion should you live longer than average. So he would advise a 65-year-old American today in average health, to keep a period of 25 years in mind. For a couple, both age 65 and in average health, I think the minimum period should be 30 years. If you are much younger, say age 25, you need to really pad up on life expectancy number because by the time you eventually retire, life expectancies will be even higher (something actuaries call expected improvement in mortality rates).

According to the latest Sample Registration Survey (SRS) of India, overall life expectancy at birth for women is 70.4 years and 67.8 years for men.

But do remember, life expectancies are just an average. If you have not suffered from malnutrition (as the lower economic classes might) and are in excellent health, chances are you will live longer. Look at your family history. How long did your parents live? Be practical.

Point to note: Do remember, that if your money has to last for decades, you cannot have a retirement kitty that has zero exposure to equity. Your money has to grow to provide you with a kitty, and growth of the kitty during your retirement phase.

Assumption 3: Retirement is stable.

Your entire “retirement phase” won’t be one dimensional. It will be packed with events and transitions into different life phases. At the start of your retirement, you may travel a lot. During another phase, you may deal with numerous health issues.

Robert C. Atchley, professor emeritus at Miami University, Ohio, developed six descriptive phases of retirement that represent a transitional process individuals go through when they permanently exit the workforce. While they do not apply to everyone, they do convey the message that to view retirement as one long life phase is rather naïve. It could be a short or very long stage, depending on the age you actually retire and your life span, but a multi-phase journey depending on your health, the health of your spouse, death in the family, the state of your finances, and so on and so forth.

Point to note: It would be very wise to avail of the services of a financial planner. Your retirement could easily last for a few decades, your money must last too. Also, you will have to figure out the withdrawal rate during the initial phase so that you have ample funds to keep you going. For instance, you cannot overdo the travel at the start and deplete your kitty.

Assumption 4: My spouse will always manage the finances.

If you are married, be prepared for the eventuality that you might not be so for your entire life.

Don’t plan on your spouse always being around. Unless you and your spouse pass away at the same time (which you don’t need to be told is very highly unlikely), one of you will experience being single at some point.

Point to note: Ensure that Wills are drawn up and nominees are in place. Also, don’t leave all the money management to one spouse; both must be active or at least very aware of the financial situation.

Also Read:

Do Note: Investment involves risk of loss

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