How Much Do I Need to Spend $10k/month in Retirement? - Root Financial

Planning for retirement can be a daunting task, filled with anxiety and uncertainty. Many people worry about whether they will have enough money to last throughout their retirement years. Today, we’re going to walk you through how John and Jane, a couple just like many of you, transformed their retirement fears into a secure and comfortable future, living on $10,000 per month. Let’s delve into the steps they took to make this possible.

Facing the Retirement Anxiety

John and Jane, like many nearing retirement, were plagued with the fear of running out of money. This anxiety stemmed partly from observing their parents’ struggles. John and Jane’s parents hadn’t saved enough for retirement, ultimately relying on their children for financial support. Determined not to repeat this cycle, John and Jane were committed to a different outcome but faced the dilemma of either enjoying their retirement and potentially overspending or living frugally and missing out on experiences they desired.

Financial Snapshot and Planning

Here’s a snapshot of John and Jane’s financial situation before retirement planning:

  • John’s 401(k): $1,000,000
  • Jane’s 401(k): $700,000
  • Joint Investment Account: $320,000
  • Home with a Mortgage: Remaining balance not specified

For their projections, they assumed a 7.2% annual growth rate on investments before retirement and a 6.5% growth rate during retirement. These figures are not guaranteed but served as a starting point for their plan.

Setting Retirement Goals

John and Jane, aged 62 and 60 respectively, aimed to retire at 67 and 65. They wanted to spend $10,000 per month during their retirement, a figure that would allow them to live comfortably and enjoy activities like travel. However, they were also cautious, not wanting to end up dependent on their children for financial support as their parents had.

Income and Contributions

John planned to delay his Social Security benefits until age 70, resulting in a monthly benefit of $3,900. Jane planned to collect her benefits at age 67, amounting to $3,100 per month. Both were contributing 10% of their salaries to their 401(k)s, with their companies matching 3%.

Cash Flow and Expenses

Understanding their cash flow was crucial. During their working years, their combined salaries supported their expenses. However, in retirement, their income sources would shift to Social Security and withdrawals from their investment portfolios. They needed to ensure their portfolio could sustain their desired lifestyle of $10,000 per month, adjusted for inflation over time.

Mortgage Considerations

John and Jane’s mortgage was a significant factor in their planning. They had three full years of mortgage payments during retirement and a partial year before the mortgage was fully paid off. Their retirement plan had to accommodate these payments without compromising their monthly spending goals.

Tax Strategies

Tax planning is essential in retirement planning. By prioritizing withdrawals from their joint account first, which was subject to long-term capital gains and qualified dividends, they could minimize their tax liability. Once required minimum distributions (RMDs) from their IRAs began, their tax payments would increase. Effective tax planning, including Roth conversions and charitable giving strategies, was implemented to manage this.

Withdrawal Rates and Portfolio Sustainability

Their initial withdrawal rate was approximately 4.5%, a generally sustainable rate assuming proper investment strategies. This rate would decrease once Jane’s and then John’s Social Security benefits began. By the time both were receiving their benefits, their withdrawal rate would be around 1.5%, further ensuring the sustainability of their portfolio.

Portfolio Projections

Despite withdrawals, their portfolio was projected to grow, thanks to a balanced investment strategy. This projection gave John and Jane confidence that they could maintain their desired lifestyle without depleting their savings.

Exploring Enhanced Spending

John and Jane’s plan was not just about surviving retirement but thriving in it. They explored scenarios of increased spending, up to $12,000 and even $14,000 per month. While these higher amounts slightly reduced the probability of success, they still showed a comfortable margin for enhanced spending, allowing them to enjoy their retirement fully.

Finalizing the Plan

With a clear three-year plan, John and Jane decided to retire at 65 and 63. This plan allowed them to spend up to $11,000 per month, providing a comfortable buffer. The next steps included optimizing their investments, implementing tax strategies, and ensuring they had the right insurance and estate plans in place.

John and Jane’s journey from anxiety to assurance is a testament to the power of comprehensive retirement planning. By understanding their income, expenses, tax implications, and investment strategies, they created a robust plan that allowed them to enjoy a comfortable retirement without fear. For those approaching retirement, taking similar steps can provide peace of mind and financial security, ensuring you can enjoy your golden years to the fullest.