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Unlocking a Bright Financial Future

dollar sign puzzle with key inserted in the middle

Keys to a Successful Retirement

With Steven A. Sass, program director,
Center for Retirement Research
at Boston College

 

1. Adopt a Sustainable Lifestyle

Spending less is the same as saving more. And as you approach retirement, “spending less” becomes increasingly important. For example, say you are age 55, intend to retire at 65, and cut your spending to save an additional $1,000 a year. With decent investment returns, this could yield about $15,000 in retirement savings, which could provide an income of approximately $600 each year. Moreover, you will have cut the income you need by $1,000 a year—a much larger improvement to your retirement prospects.

2. Set the Right Retirement Date

Nothing is more effective in boosting your retirement income than retiring later. For example, Social Security monthly benefits claimed at age 70 will be at least 76 percent higher than benefits claimed at 62. Working longer has a similar effect on income from savings. It gives you more time to save and your savings more time to earn income. It also shortens the time in
retirement that you’ll need to rely on savings.

3. Move to a Less Expensive House

Your house is often your largest asset—and largest expense. If you move to a more moderately priced home, you could turn some of your equity into retirement savings. You’ll also reduce expenditures for taxes, insurance, upkeep, and utilities. Although moving can be costly and time-consuming, the sooner you move, the sooner you’ll reduce your overall expenses and add to your savings.

4. Reduce your Risk

Your ability to respond to adverse financial shocks will decline as you approach retirement. The size of financial losses also rises as the amount you have in savings reaches its peak. Therefore, it  makes sense to shift your savings from stocks to bonds, to pay off your mortgage and other debts, and to eliminate other avoidable risks.

5. Plan for your Spouse

Widows and widowers often see a sharp fall in their standard of living. One way to protect the survivor is to claim Social Security later, because widows or widowers can receive their spouse’s benefit in place of their own. Therefore, the survivor’s income from Social Security will be greater if the spouse with the higher benefits claims them as late as possible.

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