Biggest fear of most retirees? Outliving their retirement nest egg. And with these stats, it’s easy to see why:

  • Just 11% of workers have prepared a formal, written plan for retirement.
  • Twenty-four percent have less than $1,000 in savings.
  • Only 18% of workers are “very confident” they will have enough money to live comfortably throughout retirement.1

Retirement isn’t what it used to be. Gone are the days when you worked for the same company for 40 years and entered your golden years with a comfortable pension. Today, many retirees continue to work part-time and delay retirement until age 70 or later. They claim Social Security too early and cost themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars throughout their retirement years. Doesn’t sound good, does it?

Recognizing you’re at risk of outliving your retirement savings is the first step to course correction. To see if you need to make changes to put yourself on a better path to a secure retirement, ask yourself these questions:

1. Have you calculated a retirement savings goal that includes your future healthcare costs?

It might sound simple, but according to the 2017 Retirement Confidence Survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, just four in 10 workers have tried to calculate how much money they will need to save in order to live comfortably in retirement. Social Security and pension benefits (if applicable) will provide only part of your retirement income, so you’ll need to fund the rest yourself from personal savings and investments — so you’d better make sure you’re saving enough. Without calculating your retirement savings goal, you have no idea if you are; you’re just taking a shot in the dark.

2. Do you have a retirement budget?

Even if you know exactly how much you need to accumulate to last throughout your expected retirement, you could still outlive your money if you have no plans for how you’ll spend it. A budget will help you avoid the mistake of spending too much too soon. Your discretionary spending is one of the biggest factors impacting your retirement income — and it’s all in your hands! A retirement budget should include needs (rent, food, utilities), wants (cable, cell phone), and wishes (the fun stuff you want to do in retirement, like travel, hobbies and entertainment).

3. Are you saddled with debt?

With an average household debt of more than $133,000 (including credit cards, mortgage, and student loans2), it’s obvious Americans are having a love affair with money that’s not technically theirs. Here’s what you need to ask yourself, though: do you want to enter retirement saddled with debt payments? Or would you rather use your money to travel and spoil your grandchildren? Eliminating or reducing debt should be a top priority for anyone, but especially those approaching retirement. Paying off debt now, while you’re still working, can help you avoid the added stress of trying to reduce your debt load on a fixed retirement income.

4. Do you plan to invest primarily in bonds and cash once you enter retirement?

Now that we’re living longer, it’s easy to see that we’ll need to make our money last longer, too. As such, you’ll need the extra growth potential from continuing to invest in a mix of stocks and bonds. Too many investors think they need to move their nest egg into cash and fixed-income investments, such as bonds. Doing so is almost a sure sign that you’ll outlive your retirement savings, especially when you factor in retirement.

In case it wasn’t obvious, the answers we’re looking for here are “no.” If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, consider reaching out to a financial advisor to help you build a plan. Whether you get some help or go it alone, the key is to develop a strategy to help you get where you want to be — and help you NOT run out of money once you get there.

1 Lisa Greenwald, Craig Copeland, and Jack VanDerhei, “The 2017 Retirement Confidence Survey—Many Workers Lack Retirement Confidence and Feel Stressed About Retirement Preparations,” EBRI Issue Brief, no. 431 (Employee Benefit Research Institute, March 21, 2017).
2NERDWALLET’S 2017 American Household Credit Card Debt Study, retrieved April 23, 2018, from https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-card-data/average-credit-card-debt-household/
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