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6 ways to make retirement income last for life

Do you have enough saved in your retirement account to handle everyday expenses, medical emergencies, or living a long and healthy life?

According to The Washington Post, 23% of Americans fear running out of money during retirement.

And since elderly adults are living longer than ever - and rising healthcare costs are expected to absorb or offset Social Security income - it’s easy to see why retirees are anxious.

With a little bit of strategy, you can plan to retire in comfort. Here are 6 expert tips on how to make your retirement income last for life.

1. Start Your Strategy Now

One of the biggest challenges in planning for retirement is strategizing - both in terms of how you will save and how you will withdraw and spend funds from your accounts.

Don’t think you have to do it alone - a financial planner can make a huge difference in helping identify a strategy that works for you.

“People who have pension benefits, whether they are active or frozen, would have a different income strategy than others,” retirement consultant Marina Edwards told The Washington Post. “If I’m able to take my pension, it will pay me a lifetime annuity till I die. If you don’t, you have to figure out how to annuitize some of your account balance.”

Throughout the retirement planning process, work with your advisor to address your specific savings, investment, and spending needs.

Still, the hardest obstacle to tackle as you transition to retired life might be a mental one, suggests Patrick Meyer, a wealth management expert.

“People are struggling with the idea of making that mental shift from saving to spending,” Meyer told the Post.

“You are no longer adding to your savings and investments,” he added. “You are subtracting, worrying about inflation, taxes and protecting your money from being overly aggressive when a bear market comes. The mind-set is 180 degrees different.”

2. Work Longer

Almost one third of retirees plan on working into retirement age - whether that’s by taking a part-time job or starting a new career.

“Working longer can be an important...strategy,” explains financial reporter Mark Miller in The New York Times.

“More years of wage income can help meet living expenses as you wait to claim Social Security.

But it also reduces the number of years you will need to spend drawing down your nest egg, and perhaps adds more years of saving,” Miller writes.

Working during retirement can also simply help ease fears about money - especially if a retiree’s Social Security benefits or pension aren’t expected to cover their expenses.

“In our past experiences we have found individuals with guaranteed income experience a happier and less stressful retirement,” write investment advisors John Goodhue and Brian Gray at TIME.

“Guaranteed income comes primarily from Social Security, pensions, and income from annuities. Income that is not guaranteed can come in many forms: dividend income, interest income, employment income, and rental income,” they add.

Learn more about the kinds of second careers or part-time jobs retirees are turning to for income.

3. Withdraw with Caution

In addition to adding to your income during or before retirement, it’s important to assess your savings strategically - and learn how to carefully withdraw from your accounts.

Strategically withdrawing an income from your retirement savings takes a bit of know-how, says financial reporter Jane Bryant Quinn.

You can use the “4% rule” - withdrawing 4% of your total savings each year, making adjustments for inflation, Quinn explains. But the “4% rule” only works if you’ve properly invested and diversified your savings.

“If you diversify - 42.5 percent of your money in large stocks, 17.5 percent in small stocks and the rest in bonds - the initial ‘safe’ withdrawal rate rises to 4.5 percent,” Quinn writes at AARP.

Knowing which income source you should withdraw from - and in what order - makes a big difference, too.

According to The Washington Post, most financial advisors suggest tapping into your savings in the following way: “after-tax accounts, tax-deferred accounts, tax-deferred annuities and finally Roth IRAs or tax-exempt accounts.”

This strategy ensures the money you’ve saved will keep growing - even while you enter retirement.

4. Consider the Benefits and Drawbacks of Annuities

If you’re retiring with a pension, you usually have options. Should you take your pension in a lump sum or receive an annuity?

Annuities give you certainty, says personal finance expert Walter Updegrave, since you know how much income to expect each month.

But that fixed income might not be enough to cover all of your expenses - especially if you have unexpected health care expenses or other emergencies.

“So if you opt for the annuity payments, you'll want to be sure you have other resources you can dip into for extra cash and liquidity, say, money in an IRA or other retirement account,” Updegrave suggests at CNN Money.

Learn more about pensions and annuities here.

5. Downsize Your Lifestyle

Budgeting your retirement income is all about prioritizing.

Where once you may have needed a larger home for your family, or to allocate money for your children’s education, now your focus should be on simplifying and downsizing your household economy.

For plenty of retirees, this means moving to a smaller house, minimizing maintenance and upkeep, and freeing up money that may have been tied down in an expensive mortgage.

Nancy Tanner, a retired middle school teacher from Oregon, decided to move to the city of Portland, where she bought a small, one-floor condo with her husband Ray.

“We have no outside maintenance except for two flowerpots on our deck,” Nancy told TIME.

Without a mortgage weighing them down, the Tanners are free to enjoy retirement in the city - and save their income for when they might really need it.

6. Track Your Spending

According to personal finance planner Michael Finke, plenty of retirees can actually afford to spend more on household expenses each month.

“Many retirees could spend 40% more than they do without fear of running out of money,” Finke told TIME. “But after a lifetime of being frugal it’s hard for some to turn around and start spending.”

This mental shift can be difficult, but tracking spending and budgeting for expenses should help address abstract fears about running out of money.

Just be prepared to consider expenses you may not have had to worry about while working, suggests financial reporter Emily Brandon.

“You won’t have to pay commuting costs or buy expensive clothes for work in retirement,” writes Brandon at U.S. News & World Report.

“But you might face new costs as you use more health care services or take up hobbies to fill your days,” she adds.

Want to learn how to estimate and track your spending during retirement? Check out this helpful resource from Forbes.

Planning for the future can be a challenge - but there’s no reason to fear running out of money during retirement if you start strategizing with a personal finance expert now.

Consider how to diversify your income, even after you’ve officially retired - and work hard to limit and monitor your expenses. The rest is good luck and wealth management!

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