Financial Advisers Increase Retirement Income Confidence

A survey reveals lessons from retirees for planning to pay expenses in retirement.

One question employees should ask before deciding to retire is “How will I pay for my living expenses after I stop receiving a paycheck?” Research from Ameriprise Financial finds retirees have addressed this question more so than pre-retirees.

The Pay Yourself in Retirement study found that the overwhelming majority of retirees (85%) say they have a plan in place to pay themselves in retirement, which may include calculating expenses, identifying investments that generate income, and determining which assets to draw down first. Having taken steps to prepare, these retirees report being more at ease with their finances. Compared to pre-retirees—only about half of whom (52%) say they’ve developed a retirement income plan—retirees are nearly twice as likely to say they feel completely confident they’ve saved enough money to last their lifetime.

While the study uncovered differences between retirees and pre-retirees, both groups say they define paying themselves in retirement as having enough cash flow to maintain their independence and lifestyles in retirement. The two groups do have similar worries: Nearly two-thirds of all respondents cite health care expenses (63%) and protection from market volatility (64%) as concerns.

NEXT: Lessons from retirees

Retirees have started off this new chapter of life feeling optimistic about their ability to pay themselves in retirement, Ameriprise says. One reason may be their reliance on guaranteed sources of income like company pensions. The overwhelming majority of retired Boomers (71%) are relying on pension plans to help fund their retirement and have focused on making investments expected to generate additional income (41%). In addition, nearly two-thirds (65%) have identified the assets they plan to draw down first in retirement.

Among this group of Baby Boomers, 77% named tax treatment of investments as one of the most important considerations when deciding how or when to draw income. As Boomers reach their 70½ birthdays, Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) will kick in and dictate how much money they must withdraw from their retirement accounts annually. If not taken or calculated incorrectly, retirees could be facing penalties because of RMD requirements. Therefore, Ameriprise suggests, it is very important for Boomers to consider these tax rules when formulating their retirement income plans so that they aren’t surprised.

Overall, it appears that retired Boomers’ retirement income plans are working well. Only 10% report they have needed to make significant adjustments like reining in their spending habits.

The top three takeaways from retirees are:

  • Start planning your retirement income early;
  • Decide which assets you will need to draw down first;
  • Consider tax implications that could affect your income down the road.
NEXT: Not too late for pre-retirees

While more than half of pre-retirees (53%) have not thought about their retirement income plan or feel it will be difficult to map out, the majority (73%) say they plan to transition into retirement at age 65. With the clock ticking, many report feeling overwhelmed and anxious, with more than half (55%) expressing concern about the possibility of using their money too quickly in retirement.

For this group of Boomers, it may be particularly important to start planning now. In a shift from older generations, today’s pre-retirees are relying less on pensions and more on 401(k)s and IRAs, which means the burden is shifting from employers to individuals to fund their own retirement, Ameriprise notes. It’s likely the next wave of Boomers to retire will need to spend more time than their older peers calculating optimal withdrawal rates and exploring guaranteed sources of income.

A majority of Boomers surveyed relied on financial professionals to design their retirement income plans. The study showed that retirees and pre-retirees who have worked with a financial adviser on a plan are more confident about their retirement income. In fact, the majority (98%) of Boomers who work with an adviser have talked with them about strategies for income in retirement.

“Figuring out how to recreate a ‘paycheck’ in retirement can be one of the most daunting challenges investors face,” says Marcy Keckler, vice president of financial advice strategy at Ameriprise. “Add to it recent market volatility and it’s easy to see why pre-retirees who have not developed a retirement income plan feel less confident that they’ll have the money they need to cover their expenses. The good news is that they still have time to take action. By putting a plan in place now, while they’re still earning a traditional paycheck, they may be able to achieve similar levels of confidence as their older peers.”

The Pay Yourself in Retirement study includes responses from 1,305 Americans ages 55 to 75 with investable assets of at least $100,000, who were surveyed online from November 16 to 22, 2015. More information is here.