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Five ways to protect your retirement income

Five rules of thumb to help protect your savings and income—now and in the future.

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If you’re nearing or in retirement, it’s important to think about protecting what you’ve saved and ensuring you’ll have enough income throughout your retirement. After all, you worked hard to get to your “someday.” So you want to be able to enjoy it without having to worry about money. That means thinking ahead and planning for a retirement that may last 30 years or longer.

Here are five rules of thumb to help manage some things that can affect your income in retirement.

1. Plan for health care costs.

With longer life spans and medical costs that historically have risen faster than general inflation—particularly for long-term care—managing health care costs is important for retirees.

According to Fidelity’s annual retiree health care costs estimate, the average 65-year-old couple retiring in 2015 will need an estimated $245,000 to cover health care costs during their retirement, and that is just using average life expectancy data.1 Many people will live longer and have higher costs. And that cost doesn’t include long-term care (LTC) expenses.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 70% of those aged 65 and older will require some type of LTC services—either at home, in adult day care, in an assisted living facility, or in a traditional nursing home. The average private-pay cost of a nursing home is about $90,000 per year according to MetLife, and exceeds $100,000 in some states. Assisted living facilities average $3,477 per month. Hourly home care agency rates average $46 for a Medicare-certified home health aide and $19 for a licensed non-Medicare-certified home health aide.

Consider: Purchase long-term-care insurance. The cost is based on age, so the earlier you purchase a policy, the lower the annual premiums, though the longer you’ll potentially be paying for them. Read Viewpoints: "Long-term care: challenges and changes."

If you are still working and your employer offers a health savings account (HSA), you may want to take advantage of it. An HSA offers a triple tax advantage: You can save pretax dollars, which can grow and be withdrawn state and federal tax free if used for qualified medical expenses—currently or in retirement. Read Viewpoints: "Three healthy habits for health savings accounts."

2. Expect to live longer.

As medical advances continue, it's quite likely that today’s healthy 65-year-olds will live well into their 80s or even 90s. This means there's a real possibility that you may need 30 or more years of retirement income. And recent data suggest that longevity expectations may continue to increase. People are living longer because they’re healthy, active, and taking better care of themselves.

Without some thoughtful planning, you could outlive your savings and have to rely solely on Social Security for income. And with the average Social Security benefit for a retired worker just over $1,335 a month, it may not cover all your needs.Read Viewpoints: "Longevity and your retirement" and "How to get the most from Social Security."

Consider: To cover your income needs, particularly your essential expenses, such as food, shelter, and insurance, that aren’t covered by other guaranteed income from Social Security or a pension, you may want to use some of your retirement savings to purchase an annuity. It will help you create a simple and efficient stream of income payments that are guaranteed for as long as you (or you and your spouse) live.Read Viewpoints: "How to build a diversified income plan."

3. Be prepared for inflation.

Inflation can eat away at the purchasing power of your money over time. This affects your retirement income by increasing the future costs of goods and services, thereby reducing the purchasing power of your income. Even a relatively low inflation rate can have a significant impact on a retiree’s purchasing power.

Consider: Social Security and certain pensions and annuities automatically keep up with inflation through annual cost-of-living adjustments or market-related performance. Choosing investments that have the potential to help keep pace with inflation, such as growth-oriented investments (e.g., stocks or stock mutual funds), and Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPS), real estate securities, and commodities, may also make sense.

4. Position investments for growth.

Too-conservative investments can be just as dangerous as a too-aggressive ones. They expose your portfolio to the erosive effects of inflation, limit the long-term upside potential that diversified stock investments can offer, and can diminish how long your money may last. On the other hand, being too aggressive can mean undue risk of losing money in down or volatile markets. A strategy that seeks to keep the growth potential for your investments without too much risk may be the answer.

The sample target investment mixes below show a blend of stocks, bonds, and short-term investments with different levels of risk and growth potential. With retirement likely to span 30 years or so, you’ll want to find a balance between risk and growth potential.

Consider: Have a diversified mix of stocks, bonds, and short-term investments, according to how comfortable you are with market volatility, your overall financial situation, and how long you are investing for. Doing so may help you seek the growth you need without taking on more risk than you are comfortable with. But remember: Diversification and asset allocation do not ensure a profit or guarantee against loss. Get help creating an appropriate investment strategy with our Planning & Guidance Center (login required).

5. Don't withdraw too much from savings.

Spending your savings too rapidly can also put your retirement income at risk. For this reason, we believe that retirees should consider using conservative withdrawal rates, particularly for any money needed for essential expenses.

We did the math—looking at history and simulating many potential outcomes—and landed on this guideline: To be confident you can enjoy your someday through 20–30 years of retirement, aim to withdraw no more than 4%–5% from your savings in your first year of retirement, then adjust that percentage for inflation in subsequent years.

Consider: Keep your withdrawals as conservative as you can. Later on, if your expenses drop or your investment portfolio grows, you may be able to raise that rate. Read Viewpoints: "How can I make my savings last?"

You can do it

After spending years building your retirement savings, switching to spending that money can be stressful. But it doesn't have to be that way if you take steps leading up to and during retirement to manage these five key risks to your retirement income.

Learn more

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Before investing, consider the funds' investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses. Contact Fidelity for a prospectus or, if available, a summary prospectus containing this information. Read it carefully.
Investing involves risk, including risk of loss.
1. 2015 Fidelity analysis performed by its Benefits Consulting group. Estimate based on a hypothetical couple retiring in 2015, at 65 years old, with average life expectancies of 85 for a male and 87 for a female. Estimates are calculated for “average” retirees but may be more or less depending on actual health status, area of residence, and longevity. The Fidelity Retiree Health Care Costs Estimate assumes that individuals do not have employer-provided retiree health care coverage but do qualify for the federal government’s insurance program, Original Medicare. The calculation takes into account cost-sharing provisions (such as deductibles and coinsurance) associated with Medicare Part A and Part B (inpatient and outpatient medical insurance). It also considers Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) premiums and out-of-pocket costs, as well as certain services excluded by Original Medicare. The estimate does not include other health-related expenses, such as over-the-counter medications, most dental services, and long-term care. Life expectancies are based on research and analysis by Fidelity’s Benefits Consulting group and data from the Society of Actuaries, 2014.
2. U.S. Social Security Administration, October 2015.
3. Guaranteed lifetime income is subject to the claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company.
Votes are submitted voluntarily by individuals and reflect their own opinion of the article's helpfulness. A percentage value for helpfulness will display once a sufficient number of votes have been submitted.

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