Retirement is supposed to be one of the most relaxing, joyous times of your life. But if your savings are falling short, it can quickly become stressful and depressing.
Unfortunately, ending up broke in retirement is a reality many retirees will face. Roughly half of baby boomers don't have any savings at all, a report from the Insured Retirement Institute revealed, and with the future of Social Security on shaky ground, you may not be able to rely on your benefits as much as you may hope.
That said, there are some mistakes that can make it more likely you'll run out of money in retirement.
1. Not having a savings withdrawal strategy
Even if you've worked hard your entire life to save enough for retirement, you could throw off your entire plan by withdrawing too much too soon once you retire. Even withdrawing a couple thousand dollars more per year than you had planned for can result in running out of savings toward the end of your life, so it's important to have a withdrawal strategy in mind before you retire.
The type of withdrawal strategy you use depends on your unique situation. One option is to use the 4% rule as a basic guideline. In a nutshell, it states that you can withdraw 4% of your total savings during the first year of retirement, then adjust that number each following year to account for inflation.
The 4% rule is a good guideline to make sure you don't wildly overspend, and in theory, it ensures your savings should last approximately 30 years in retirement. But it's not perfect. For example, if you don't expect to spend 30 years in retirement, you may be able to safely withdraw more than 4% per year. And if your spending levels fluctuate throughout retirement (which they likely will, especially if you plan to travel extensively your first few years, or if you face expensive healthcare issues later in life), then it might not be realistic to assume you'll be withdrawing the same amount every year for the rest of your life.
In that case, it might be a good idea to discuss your future with a financial advisor, who can recommend a withdrawal strategy to fit your needs. Whether you do this or choose to go the DIY route, just make sure you have some sort of plan in place so you don't blow through your savings too soon.
2. Not accounting for healthcare or long-term care costs
Healthcare and long-term care are two of the biggest costs you'll face in retirement, and they both have the potential to break the bank if you're not prepared for them.
The average retiree spends around $4,300 per year on out-of-pocket healthcare costs, according to a report from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Even with Medicare coverage, you'll still need to pay for all premiums, deductibles, coinsurance, and copays. Plus, Original Medicare doesn't cover routine care like dental and vision, so you'll need to foot the bill for those expenses, too.
Long-term care can also be incredibly costly. The average semi-private room in a nursing home will cost you roughly $6,800 per month, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services -- and you won't receive any help from Medicare either, as these costs aren't covered. And because approximately 70% of retirees will need long-term care at some point, there's a good chance you'll be spending a good chunk of change on this expense.
To avoid getting caught off guard by the sticker shock of these expenses, make sure you're preparing for them early. Long-term care insurance is one option to help shoulder the costs, but premiums can cost thousands of dollars per year. Still, though, if you end up paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in long-term care costs over several years, hefty premiums don't seem so bad.
Another way to help with healthcare expenses is to open a health savings account (HSA). These accounts are available for those currently enrolled in a high-deductible healthcare plan (meaning you have a deductible of at least $1,350 for individuals or $2,700 for families), and they allow you to contribute pre-tax dollars, let your money grow over time, and then withdraw it tax-free as long as it goes toward eligible medical expenses.
3. Assuming you'll be able to work as long as you want
If your savings are falling short, your current retirement plan may be to simply continue working for as long as possible. However, 43% of retirees say they were forced to retire earlier than they'd hoped, citing health issues and unexpected job loss as the most common reasons for early retirement, according to a report from Employee Benefit Research Institute.
Early retirement can be disastrous if your savings aren't ready. Especially if you're unable to find another job or continue working on at least a part-time basis, you may have to find a way to live on whatever you already have saved. If you have next to nothing stashed in your retirement fund, you risk running out of money far earlier than you'd hoped.
Although you can't completely avoid the possibility of being forced into an early retirement, you can play it safe and assume you won't be able to work as long as you'd like. By planning on retiring earlier than you expect, you won't be left in the lurch if you lose your job.
Nobody wants to think about the possibility of going broke in retirement, but it's more likely than you may realize. However, by avoiding these common mishaps, you can give your savings the best shot at lasting the rest of your life.