Investopedia’s article “Early Retirement: Strategies to Make Your Wealth Last” says there are several things to consider to be certain retiring early won’t deplete your nest egg and leave you lacking in your later years.
Set a Realistic Budget. Be realistic about your budget. Calculating how much you can reasonably afford to spend each year depends on what you’ve saved, your life expectancy and your anticipated expenses. If you don’t know how much annual income you will need in retirement, you’re not ready to make a decision about retiring. If it’s been more than a year since you’ve considered this, it’s time to review your calculations.
Retiring Early and the 4% Rule. This has long been the baseline for determining your withdrawal rate. The rule says that you withdraw 4% of your savings the first year in retirement, then withdraw that same amount, adjusted for inflation, going forward. In theory, if you draw down your nest egg at that rate, it should last for 30 years. However, if you need your savings to last another 10 years or more, the 4% rule may not be realistic. You might need to consider reducing your withdrawal rate to 3.5% or 3%. If you run the numbers, and your estimated withdrawals aren’t going to be enough to cover your expenses, you’ll need to either find a way to lower your cost of living or delay your retirement date, so your income aligns with your spending.
Plan for Medical Expenses. Seniors can enroll in Medicare starting three months before they reach age 65. If you retire before that, you’re going to need health insurance until you are eligible for Medicare at 65. You can save money in a Health Savings Account (HSA) while you’re still employed to prepare for future medical expenses, if you’re planning to retire early. The withdrawals are tax-free, if they’re used for healthcare expenses. Once you turn 65, you can take out money from an HSA for any reason without a penalty. However, you’ll still pay taxes on the distribution. Another tactic is to buy long-term care insurance. This will keep you from having to spend down your assets to qualify for Medicaid, if you need nursing home care in the future.
Delay Social Security Benefits. Full retirement age is 66 or 67 if you were born in 1943 or later, but you can start taking Social Security benefits as early as 62. However, that decreases the overall amount of benefits you’ll receive. Waiting to apply, increases your benefit amount. If you’re retiring early, taking benefits at 62 might help to stretch your savings, but you’ll get more money if you can afford to delay.
Making early retirement a success requires you to review the financial aspects, and the longer your retirement outlook, the more important it is to have a plan for how you’ll spend what you’ve saved.
Reference: Investopedia (Oct. 30, 2019) “Early Retirement: Strategies to Make Your Wealth Last”