Making Your Money Last

Retirement Planning Is Cash Flow Planning

Cash flow planning may sound complicated, but what it boils down to is comparing your assets to your expenses over time and identifying periods when you may fall short and when you may come out ahead.

Years ago I saw a poster that said, “Happiness is a positive cash flow.” I believe that’s true, especially when it comes to your retirement. And I believe that one of the best ways to find that particular form of financial happiness is to use cash flow analysis in your retirement planning.

It’s a simple exercise. To begin with, gather information for all the sources of income you’ll have during retirement. Since this analysis will help you determine what you’ll need to earn from your liquid assets (stocks, bonds, 401(k)s, etc.) to meet your income needs, leave them out of the equation for now. Instead, list income from pensions, real estate, Social Security or part-time employment. Then figure out how the timing of each of those income sources will affect your finances year by year. In other words, when will you receive that money? For example, will you receive Social Security benefits at beginning at age 66, or do you plan to wait?

Carefully Consider Your Expenses

Next, add up your projected expenses year by year. The amount you use in your analysis needs to include everything. Many times clients say something like, "That’s easy. Our expenses are $3,000 a month." So I ask, “Do you play golf? Do you give money to your church? To your children or grandchildren?” Almost everyone I question has overlooked one or more expenses.

Look at the timing of your expenses, i.e. when exactly will you spend that money? Have you planned a big vacation to Europe right after you retire? Add the cost of the trip to that year’s expenses. Will you need a new car? Figure out when you’ll make that purchase, and put the cost in the appropriate year’s expenses. Want to refurbish your house? Ditto. Many people want to do all the things they didn't have time to do when they were working, and many of those things cost money. Don’t forget those costs when it comes time to plan your cash flow analysis.

Do Your Best, But Be Ready for Updates

By this point in the process, you’ll realize that financial planning is an art, not a science. You can’t predict your exact income or expenses. You may not get that part-time job. You may incur unexpected medical expenses. You may receive an inheritance. Start with your best guess, with the idea that you will review your plan annually, if not two to three times a year.

Once you have your best guesstimates laid out year by year, you’ll probably find that your planned cash flow is not consistent. The money you’ll spend on that long-awaited European vacation the year you retire will take your cash flow down a notch, while the proceeds from the lake house you plan to sell when you’re 70 will bump up the flow.

As you can see, at its core, cash flow analysis is a simple exercise. It’s also an incredibly important one that helps you recognize your cash flow needs and their timing. Once you know what costs you’ll need to cover when, you can plan to set money aside or use money from your investments to carry you through any lean times.

Planning can help you achieve a positive cash flow, which can help you attain happiness in retirement.

About the Author

Ken Moraif, CFP®

CEO and Senior Adviser, Retirement Planners of America

Ken Moraif, CFP, is CEO and senior adviser at Retirement Planners of America, a Dallas-based wealth management and investment firm with over $4.3 billion in AUM and serving over 8,000 households (as of May 2019). He is also the host of the radio show "Money Matters with Ken Moraif," which has offered listeners retirement, investing and personal finance advice since 1996.

Most Popular

How a Third Stimulus Check Could Differ From Your First and Second Payments
Coronavirus and Your Money

How a Third Stimulus Check Could Differ From Your First and Second Payments

There's going to be a big push for a third round of stimulus payments. But the amount and eligibility rules for your third stimulus check could be dif…
January 12, 2021
Where's My Stimulus Check? Use the IRS's "Get My Payment" Portal to Get an Answer
Coronavirus and Your Money

Where's My Stimulus Check? Use the IRS's "Get My Payment" Portal to Get an Answer

The IRS updated its popular online tool so that you can track the status of your second stimulus check.
January 9, 2021
When Could We Get a Third Stimulus Check?
Coronavirus and Your Money

When Could We Get a Third Stimulus Check?

It's clear that President-elect Joe Biden and others in Congress are going to push for a third-round of stimulus checks, but it might be a while befor…
January 11, 2021

Recommended

Are There Cracks in Your Pension Plan?
retirement

Are There Cracks in Your Pension Plan?

You're counting on pension benefits in retirement. But how secure is your pension plan? We offer some guidance, including a pension calculator, to hel…
December 28, 2020
33 States with No Estate Taxes or Inheritance Taxes
retirement

33 States with No Estate Taxes or Inheritance Taxes

Even with the federal exemption from death taxes raised, retirees should pay more attention to estate taxes and inheritance taxes levied by states.
December 24, 2020
Doug Glanville on Race, Sports — and Personal Finance
personal finance

Doug Glanville on Race, Sports — and Personal Finance

Kiplinger contributor (and former Major League Baseball player) Doug Glanville shares insights from years playing the game — and investing. Also, what…
December 22, 2020
Your Financial Adviser Wants to Retire, Too
Financial Advisers

Your Financial Adviser Wants to Retire, Too

As the wealth management industry faces a wave of retirements, it's time for you to consider whether your adviser has a succession plan -- and what yo…
December 10, 2020