Retirement planning today has taken on many new dimensions that never had to be considered by earlier generations. For one, people are living longer. A person who turns 65 today could be expected to live as many as 20 years in retirement as compared to a retiree in 1950 who lived, on average, an additional 15 years. Longer life spans have created a number of new issues that need to be taken into consideration when planning for retirement.
Lifetime Income Need
There actually is a lifetime after retirement and the need to be able to provide for a steady stream of income that cannot be outlived is more important than ever. With the prospect of paying for retirement needs for as many as 20 years, retirees need to be concerned with maintaining their cost-of-living.
Health Care Needs
Longer life spans can also translate into more health issues that arise in the process of aging. The federal government provides a safety net in the form of Medicare, however, it may not provide the coverage needed especially in chronic illness cases. Planning for long-term care, in the event of a serious disability or chronic illness, is becoming a key element of retirement plans today.
Paying for Retirement
Retirees who have prepared for their retirement usually rely upon three main sources of income: Social Security, individual or employer-sponsored qualified retirement plans, and their own savings or investments. A sound retirement plan will emphasize qualified plans and personal savings as the primary sources with Social Security as a safety net for steady income.
Social Security was established in the 1930’s as a safety net for people who, after paying into the system from their earnings, could rely upon a steady stream of income for the rest of their lives. The age of retirement, when the income benefit starts was, originally, age 65 which was referred to as the “normal retirement age”. Now, for a person born after 1937, the normal retirement age is being increased gradually until it reaches age 67 for all people born in 1960 and beyond. The amount paid in benefits is based upon the earnings of an individual while working. If a person wanted to continue to work and delay receiving benefits, they could do so build up a larger benefit. Conversely, early retirement benefits are available, at a reduced level, as early as age 62.
Employer-Sponsored Qualified Plans
Most employer-sponsored plans today are established as “defined contribution” plans whereby an employee contributes a percentage of his earnings into an account that will accumulate until retirement. As a qualified plan, the contributions are deductible from the employee’s current income. The amount of income received at retirement is based on the total amount of contributions, the returns earned, and the employee’s retirement time horizon. As in all qualified plans, withdrawals made prior to age 59 ½ may be subject to a penalty of 10% on top of ordinary taxes that are due.
Depending on the size and type of the organization, they may offer a 401(k) Plan, a Simplified Employee Pension Plan or, in the case of a non-profit organization, a 403(b) plan.