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How Much Money for Retirement?

Too many underestimate what they need.

— Some of the conversation and discussion at Senor Law Day on Saturday, Oct. 13 from 9 a.m. to noon at First Baptist Church at 2932 King Street will include funding a retirement.

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Tom West

What is enough? If you are anywhere near retirement, or already living in it, you’ve probably heard or read that you need to have saved about 70 percent of your final working salary to live comfortably in retirement. This estimate is frequently repeated … but that doesn’t mean it is true for everyone. It may not be true for you. Consider the following factors:

Health. Most of us will face a major health problem at some point in our lives. Think, for a moment, about the costs of prescription medicines, and recurring treatment for chronic ailments. These costs can really take a bite out of retirement income, even with a great health care plan.

Heredity. If you come from a family where people frequently live into their 80s and 90s, you may live as long or longer. Imagine retiring at 55 and living to 95 or 100. You would need 40-45 years of steady retirement income.

Portfolio. Many people retire with investment portfolios they haven’t reviewed in years, with asset allocations that may no longer be appropriate. New retirees sometimes carry too much risk in their portfolios, with the result being that the retirement income from their investments fluctuates wildly with the vagaries of the market. Other retirees are super-conservative investors: their portfolios are so risk-averse that they can’t earn enough to keep up with even moderate inflation, and over time, they find they have less and less purchasing power.

Spending habits. Did you only spend 70 percent of your salary while employed? Probably not. If you’re like many Americans, you probably spend 90 percent or 95 percent of it. Will your spending habits change drastically once you retire? Again, probably not.

Will you have enough? When it comes to retirement income, a casual assumption may prove to be woefully inaccurate. You won’t learn how much retirement income you’ll need by reading this article. Consider meeting with a qualified financial professional who can help estimate your lifestyle needs and short-term and long-term expenses.

Senior Law Day is cosponsored by Senior Services of Alexandria and The Alexandria Bar Association. Anyone planning to retire now or in the future should register for the free event by going to www.seniorservicesalex.org or call 703-836-4414, ext. 10.