Get Back on Track With Retirement Savings

Do you fear outliving your retirement savings? A financial advisor can help you develop a plan to put you at ease.

Jama DeHeer

After years of working long hours and diligently investing in your 401(k) and IRA, retirement has started — and with it the freedom to slow down, eliminate workplace stress, and enjoy life without adhering to the clock or calendar.

Yet after some memorable vacations, taking a swing at new hobbies, and an unexpected medical emergency, you fear outliving your assets if you continue spending at your current pace.

If this sounds a lot like your situation, don't panic. But be prepared to make some changes sooner rather than later to improve your financial outlook.

According to a recent study by Genworth Financial, 52 percent of pre-retirees expected expenses to decrease in retirement, but 65 percent of actual retirees found expenses stayed the same or even increased in retirement  "Many retirees underestimate their lifestyle expenses," says Jama DeHeer, Vice President and Wealth Planner with Regions' Private Wealth Management Group in Memphis, Tenn.

Assess Your Retirement Spending

So what can you do to get back on track if you've gone a bit overboard those first few years of retirement? DeHeer suggests taking a good look at where your money is going. Take the time to write down all of your fixed and discretionary spending. It might shock you to see how much you're actually spending on leisure activities, travel, or club memberships.

Once you've identified where your money is going, look for those expenses you can reduce or eliminate. 

"Reducing lifestyle expenses by as much as 10 to 20 percent early in retirement can pay real dividends over time, allowing for more of your savings to stay invested today to fund financial needs in later years of retirement," DeHeer says.

Increase Income in Retirement

If changing your current lifestyle or other financial commitments are not viable options, you might look at increasing your income. Consider a part-time job in an industry that allows you the flexibility to maintain a semi-retired lifestyle. This may not be your ideal situation, but it may surprise you how working a part-time job in an area of interest to you (i.e. working with children or at your favorite golf course) may not only help protect against spending down assets too quickly, but may be personally fulfilling as well, DeHeer says.  You'll want to investigate beforehand, however, how any income earned will affect your retirement benefits or create additional tax obligations.

Selling Assets in Retirement

If neither of these options interest you, you may have to look at selling some of your assets, such as collectables, and using the proceeds to fund your lifestyle.

If you are like many people who don't have big-dollar collectables, you might consider downsizing your home. Selling your pre-retirement home and moving into a residence with a smaller price tag may free up equity you can invest for future needs.

If you are still unsure if your financial future is on track after making one or more of these changes, DeHeer recommends speaking with a financial planner who can run cash flow projections for you and help you build out a sustainable retirement plan based on your situation. The key is to ask for guidance as soon as you feel your financial security may be at risk.

Learn more about creating a personalized retirement road map.