Finding Peace of Mind With Your Retirement Income

Even in tough times, you can secure retirement income that lets you maintain your lifestyle, lasts a lifetime, adjusts for life events and leaves a legacy for the kids.

A relaxed, happy older couple sit on their porch steps with coffee.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Investors who’ve recently taken a big hit in the market are struggling to find peace of mind when it comes to achieving lifetime retirement income. Don’t give up; it can be done.

Importantly, peace of mind depends on more than just a pile of cash. Consider this scenario of a self-taught money manager who was lucky enough to move 80% of his holdings to cash in 2021. Along with bragging about it, he is offering his money management skills to friends and family.

However, these Baby Boomers are not as well off, are a little older and, because they did not move to cash, they have recently taken a big hit in the market. Now, in addition to losing a significant portion of their retirement savings, they have another anxiety: Am I going to have enough income to maintain my lifestyle for the rest of my life?

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A pile of money is nice, but what they need is more targeted: income that is sufficient to support their lifestyle through their entire lifetime, access to funds in case of a late-in-retirement life event, and a legacy left for the kids and grandkids. With those needs, they will obtain that all-important peace of mind.

Let’s explore the qualities, instead of only the quantities, of a plan for all phases of retirement.

How to Achieve Lifetime Retirement Income

In the beginning of retirement, when you stop working, or are working part-time, you need enough income to enable this major change. Ideally, your plan will be easy to understand so you know where your income is coming from. When retirees had a pension along with Social Security, planning was a lot easier. (And tax planning was a lot simpler.) Now, most retirees or near-retirees need a plan for retirement income, like Go2Income (opens in new tab).

With a Go2Income plan, annuity payments supply some of the guaranteed lifetime income that pensions produced. However, you have many more options with these annuity payments, including:

  • Annuity payment start dates.
  • Income continuation to beneficiary and to a surviving spouse.
  • Choice of level, increasing or laddered income.
  • Accounts used as a source of annuity premium.

And since annuity payments also have include tax advantages that will boost your spendable (after-tax) income, you need to consider all of these questions and their related tax benefits and consequences.

The above may sound pretty basic, but the money manager mentioned above doesn’t even think in those terms. He’s looking only at the pile of money and how big it is, not whether it can provide a lifetime stream of income or meet life events, or how to capture the tax advantages.

How to Address Life Events

I make a lot of plans for the future. I also hedge my bets in case things don’t go the way I hope, so I deploy annuities or insurance to protect against actuarial or life risks. In addition, a plan like Go2Income should be designed to be easily adjusted in response to adverse market conditions, and where the changes to your income will be relatively small and hopefully temporary when they do occur.

A life event could be (1) a severe but short-term medical condition, or (2) the discovery that your house needs a new roof. Both can be expensive and could also lead to a significant reduction in the value of your savings.

With a Go2Income plan, you can test your plan for, say, a substantial shock to your retirement savings. In many instances, you will find that you need only small income adjustments to recover. And you always have the option of pushing the market loss to a planned reduction in legacy for the kids and grandkids while you maintain your current lifestyle. In any event, you aren’t left waiting for the market to turn around in order to pay your bills.

With your original Go2Income plan, you could be generating more income (after-tax) than you need each month, and you can use that higher income to pay for long-term care and better health insurance coverage, so the medical condition won’t bankrupt you.

And, if you already have good health and long-term care insurance, you can invest that extra income you’re earning into a legacy account.

How to Provide for a Legacy

The best plan should include not worrying about money, particularly late in retirement. You may be traveling a little less and decide to downsize (getting rid of both the lawn mower and the snow blower), so you won’t be spending as much every month. However, there may be other expenses that replace these.

With a successful Go2Income plan, most of your income — particularly in the late-in-retirement stage — will be “safe” and coming from Social Security, annuity payments, dividends and interest, with less in withdrawals from your rollover IRA.

To ensure either spouse is income-protected (even if one lives many more years beyond the spouse who passes first), you can elect an annuity payment option that continues to the survivor. If you believe the surviving spouse will need less income, then you can use that savings for a larger legacy. You can also elect to have annuity payments continue to a non-spouse beneficiary.

You could be putting extra earnings away toward a financial legacy and investing it in an account like a Roth IRA, which will allow your heirs to receive the money without a tax bite. Or you may want to establish a health savings account (HSA). You will find that having a secure source of income enables those types of decisions.

Finally, while putting your retirement income plan together, you may want to do some estate planning at the same time.

How to Have Peace of Mind

I’ll mention the money manager once again —

Interruption to address inflation...

Wait! I can’t end this article without a discussion of inflation and how Go2Income addresses it. As I wrote in my article Factoring Inflation into Your Retirement Plan, you can create an income plan that anticipates inflation over many years and allows for adjustments. How you decide to address market risk, longevity risk and the risk of inflation will help you decide the best plan for you.

Back to our friend the money manager…

With your Go2Income plan, you are using some of today’s retirement savings to purchase a lifetime of safe income and including other sources not requiring the liquidation of securities. And you’re using a portion of that income for insurance protection and/or legacy growth.

The money manager doesn’t have those future life events on his or her screen. If the future brings something unexpected (and it always does), a pile of cash, in a worst-case scenario, may not meet your needs late in retirement.

What I’m really talking about is the peace of mind that you earn with a plan for lifetime income, the ability to adjust to bad news and the gift of a legacy.

You can’t control what the market does. You can control your plan. Visit Go2Income (opens in new tab), answer a few simple questions and start working on your own retirement plan. This service is a complement to our other services, and you can ask for a Go2Specialist to help answer your questions on planning. We also have advisers available who can help with the next steps to refine and then implement your plan.

This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC (opens in new tab) or with FINRA (opens in new tab).

Jerry Golden, Investment Adviser Representative
President, Golden Retirement Advisors Inc.

Jerry Golden is the founder and CEO of Golden Retirement Advisors Inc. (opens in new tab) He specializes in helping consumers create retirement plans that provide income that cannot be outlived. Find out more at Go2income.com (opens in new tab), where consumers can explore all types of income annuity options, anonymously and at no cost.