Are you concerned about how inflation is going to affect your retirement savings?
There’s a lot of talk right now about inflation and how it’s going to change in the future. When you’re planning for retirement, this can feel like a curveball.
However, it’s no secret that inflation does impact your spending over time, especially when you’re no longer earning a monthly income. What can help is knowing how much it will impact your spending and what you can do about it.
In this post, we share everything you need to know about inflation in retirement. We illustrate how varying inflation rates can affect your savings over time and why you need to carefully consider your spending plan.
You can watch the video on this topic above. To listen to the podcast episode, hit play below, or read on for more…
How inflation has changed in recent years
Inflation can have a very real impact on your retirement funds, which is why we include it as part of your written retirement plan. But it’s important that we base the inflation rate on realistic, yet conservative figures.
To do this, we look at the average rate over the last 10 and 100 years. So, over the last century, the average inflation rate is just over 3%, which is why, when we build a retirement income plan, we set it at 3%. However, if you look at the average over the last ten years, it’s 1.7%. Therefore, we consider 3% a conservative rate as we expect inflation to be closer to the 1.7 mark.
Inflation and retirement planning
In this example, we’re going to talk about fictional retiree Cindy. Cindy is 67 years old, and she’s decided to retire now. She’s saved $1.5 million and receives $3,000 a month in Social Security.
Typically, there is a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) with Social Security, which is somewhat tied to inflation. However, in this example, we are not going to include this adjustment or any other raise to Cindy’s Social Security benefits.
The key player when thinking about inflation in retirement is spending. Cindy plans to spend $7,000 a month in her early years of retirement. This is more than she plans to spend long-term because she wants to travel and do lots of activities while she’s able to. So, her initial spending in retirement will be higher than in her later years.
At age 67, Cindy will have to combine her $3,000 from Social Security with a $4,000 draw from her savings to provide her with $7,000 each month. It’s important to note here that we are factoring in a conservative 5% rate of return on Cindy’s savings.
How inflation affects spending
By adding 3% of inflation every year to her monthly spending after retirement, it’s going to require Cindy to gradually withdraw more and more from her assets. So, what does this look like year on year? Here’s how a 3% rate is projected to affect Cindy’s planned $7,000 spending each month.
- Year one: $7,000
- Year two: $7,300
- Year three: $7,500
- At age 80: $10,000
- At age 90: $14,000
If Cindy wants to continue the lifestyle she has at age 67 through into her 80s and 90s, she’s going to have to withdraw increasingly more from her savings each year. Here, you can clearly see how inflation puts significant pressure on your savings.
In this scenario, at age 90, Cindy’s savings of $1.5 million have now dwindled down to just $56,000. With a monthly spend of $14,000, this is too uncomfortably low for us. But what if inflation isn’t as high as 3%?
How much difference 1% makes
If inflation was particularly high (around 3%) Cindy would know that she has to cut back on her spending in order to be more financially secure at age 90. However, if inflation was more in line with the most recent 10-year average (1.7%), what difference would that make?
If Cindy plans to spend $7,000 a month with a 2% inflation rise, she’ll have $765,000 left in her savings at age 90. This tiny tweak leaves her with a far more comfortable figure.
Now, we can’t choose inflation rates, but it’s important to see how much a 1% difference can impact your retirement savings. For Cindy, a higher inflation rate means she has to be more conservative with her spending, or she risks running out of her savings. But she also knows that if inflation holds steady, she can spend more comfortably for longer.
Changing your spending plan as you age
A key part of our roles as retirement planners is to help people like Cindy think through their spending. In Cindy’s case, she wants to spend more in her initial retirement years. She could live comfortably off $5,000 a month – the $2,000 is just extra.
Now let’s see what happens if we change Cindy’s spending based on this plan. In this example, we’ll add 3% inflation to her monthly spending of $5,000 and allow her 10 years of “fun money” – an extra $2,000 a month, with 0% inflation.
With this spending approach, Cindy would have $1.1 million left in her savings at age 90. Compared to the two other scenarios, this spending plan is more likely to give her peace of mind that her finances are secure for longer.
Navigating inflation in your retirement plan
This type of scenario is very common for our clients. People often plan to make the most of their first 5-10 years in retirement and then consider cutting back. We illustrate how spending and inflation affect our clients’ financial situations so that they can make informed decisions about their retirement plan.
Inflation is a factor you need to take into account when planning your finances for retirement. However, it’s often not an issue to stress over. If you’re concerned about how it will impact your retirement, do reach out to your financial advisor or get in touch with us.
We offer a 15 minute complimentary call and can help put your mind at ease about inflation, saving for retirement, or any other questions you may have about preparing for retirement. Book your call with one of our advisors here.