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June 27, 2022

Correcting your retirement course


in Financial Planning Insights Lifestyle

Plan B can turn into something beautiful.

On the road to retirement, having spent decades working, saving and planning for your desired lifestyle, imagine approaching the one sign you didn’t see coming: Detour ahead. Suddenly, your journey looks to be taking you out of the workforce years before you expected.

Thankfully you’re not alone. According to a 2021 study by retirement specialist Just Group, nearly half of people retire earlier than planned. The reasons include job loss, health issues and other circumstances. Being in the same boat as others may not exactly be comforting, but knowing there are steps to take and adjustments to be made could help.

What now?

The retirement transition can be stressful for those who feel unprepared. It’s important to pause and take stock before making rash decisions. Consider these steps:

Breathe. Don’t panic and do something you might regret, like immediately withdrawing your pension or putting everything on credit, if you can avoid it. Both could jeopardise your future financial security. It may even help to reframe your situation as a fresh start.

Evaluate your savings and income sources. Determine if those sources can cover your current living expenses. If there’s a gap, work to reduce your expenses and/or tap into alternative sources of income. Try to avoid using your pension. Depending on your age, there could be tax consequences and potential penalties that would outweigh short-term relief.

Think twice about your withdrawing your pension and other benefits. Deferring these typically increases your payments, so it may make sense to spend from other savings accounts first. But if you really need your pension sooner rather than later, talk to your wealth manager to determine the best withdrawal and filing strategy. If you can’t work because of a health issue, then benefits may be the answer.

Embrace a new normal

If you can stick to a retirement plan for as long as you have, then you can likely handle the effort of correcting your course. Adjustments like these could help:

Revise your spending strategy. Look carefully at each essential and discretionary expense to determine what you can eliminate and create a new budget to match your income.

Coordinate. Meet with your financial and tax specialists to structure your retirement income in a way that maximises expected cash flow while minimising taxes.

Put it in writing. Consider drafting a spending policy statement (SPS) with the help of your wealth manager. Similar to an investment policy statement, an SPS documents long-term spending goals and reminds you to avoid actions that could thwart your plans.

Rethink your asset allocation. Talk to your wealth manager about alternative sources of secure income that meet your particular risk profile. Be careful not to invest more aggressively than you normally would to make up for perceived shortfalls.

Looking ahead

Once you’ve laid the groundwork for your new life in retirement, consider what’s next for you and your family. You could:

Job hunt. Despite being in the later stages of life, it’s not impossible to find a part-time or contractor position that can bridge income gaps. Even £10,000 a year can help significantly. That’s the same as a 4% annual withdrawal on a £250,000 portfolio.

Consider big changes. You may have to forgo the vacation home or new car, or even downsize. But moving to a less expensive locale, like one without an income tax, could allow you the freedom to live the retirement lifestyle you had originally planned.

Make updates. Once you’ve come to terms with your new life, revisit your financial plan to make sure it reflects your current needs and wants. And, as with any major life event, revisit your estate plan to see if adjustments need to be made in light of your earlier-than-expected retirement.

Asset allocation does not guarantee a profit nor protect against loss. This article is intended for information purposes only and no action should be taken or refrained from being taken as a consequence without consulting a suitably qualified and regulated person.  Your capital is at risk when investing.