How Much Will You Pay Yourself in Retirement?

Beyond building your nest egg, understanding your ‘paycheck’ when you retire is key. The good news: There are many innovative strategies to help with that.

An older woman gazes at her laptop with a look of joy on her face.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you asked 10 people on the street what the most important part of retirement planning is, it’s a good bet most, if not all, would say, “Saving money.” And I’d suspect most would have a tinge of guilt that they aren’t saving enough or haven’t taken enough time to figure out how much income they will really have in retirement.

As we recognize National Retirement Security Week (the third week of October), there’s good news for the many Americans who may feel they aren’t doing enough retirement planning. First off, don’t beat yourself up – no matter where you are on the planning spectrum, the tools and resources are right there at your fingertips to help you get your arms around this! Second, you’re right: Building your savings is a key to retirement planning — but it’s only one part of the puzzle.

You might be thinking, “There’s even more to retirement planning than building my savings? That’s good news?”

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Well, yes. You already know how important it is to save. That’s table stakes. Now it’s time to develop (or refine) a strategy for turning your 401(k) and IRA savings into a protected stream of retirement income. And — more good news — there are many innovative strategies out there today that can help you do just that.

What’s your ‘decumulation’ strategy?

Wouldn’t it be nice to shift your focus from saving money for retirement to thinking about how you’ll spend your money during your golden years? After all, once you’ve taken the steps to save, you deserve to think about how you’ll spend your hard-earned cash! And to do that, you need to know where that predictable stream of income will come from.

You may have heard the term “decumulation.” It’s the next step in retirement planning — focusing beyond accumulating wealth to most effectively and responsibly drawing down that nest egg at the levels that are just right for you.

There are a host of products and strategies available today to help you work with a financial professional to leverage your savings for a reliable income stream. One emerging strategy that’s getting more attention of late involves investing in products that offer a “protected lifetime income benefit.”

My colleague David Blanchett, who conducts research and analysis on investment strategies for PGIM DC Solutions, a unit of Prudential’s global asset management business, notes that products with a protected lifetime income benefit offer a promising piece to the puzzle relative to traditional income annuities because they offer both the potential for upside investment growth as well as a measure of downside risk protection against unpredictable external factors like market volatility and longevity, the “age-old” problem that none of us ever knows how long we’ll actually live.

One example close to home for us here at Prudential is our FlexGuard Income product, which includes a protected lifetime income benefit that offers customers and their advisers the ability to select different levels of protection that can be customized based on each investor’s unique needs. The product is designed to be flexible, allowing changes to investment length, protection level, growth strategies and income options, as markets shift and financial goals evolve. Several similar solutions are available out there, and your financial professional can help you select the ones that would work best for you.

Maximizing Social Security income

No matter what product or strategy you choose, Social Security benefits should serve as a foundation for your retirement income planning. No other vehicle can match the combination of inflation-fighting increases, longevity protection, investment risk elimination and spousal coverage that Social Security delivers — potentially making it one of the most valuable sources of your retirement income.

Unsure when you should retire? The first step is to log in (or create) your Social Security account (opens in new tab) and review your benefits, then talk to your financial professional about your best options. You may find that postponing your retirement — even by just a year or two — could make a huge difference. Not only will you get a few extra years’ worth of savings, but you’ll also postpone your need to start drawing down your savings, and it could help you delay tapping into Social Security before the optimal ages to maximize income.

So, just like having a sound plan for your savings, this all adds up to an important opportunity to take control of your financial life, ensuring your approach to retirement income will fuel the retirement you imagine. You have more options than ever to find the right solutions that enable you to put a portion of your savings to work today, to add greater security and confidence that your retirement income will be there for as long as you need it. Your financial professional can explore a new breed of strategies with you to help you make preparations for obtaining a dependable “paycheck” throughout your retirement.

Good luck, and remember: You’ve got this!

This material is being provided for informational or educational purposes only and does not take into account the investment objectives or financial situation of any client or prospective clients. The information is not intended as investment advice and is not a recommendation about managing or investing your retirement savings. If you would like information about your particular investment needs, please contact a financial professional.

FlexGuard Income (P-FGI/IND(10/21), issued in ID P-FGI/IND(10/21)-ID) and other annuities are issued by Pruco Life Insurance Company located in Newark, NJ (main office). Variable annuities are distributed by Prudential Annuities Distributors, Inc., Shelton, CT. Prudential Retirement Strategies is a business of Prudential Financial, Inc.

Annuity contracts contain exclusions, limitations, reductions of benefits, and terms for keeping them in force. Your licensed financial professional can provide you with complete details.

Guarantees are dependent upon the claims-paying ability of the issuing company and do not apply to the underlying investment options.

Index-linked variable annuity products are complex insurance and investment vehicles and are long-term investments designed for retirement purposes. There is risk of loss of principal if negative index returns exceed the selected protection level. Gains or losses are assessed at the end of each term. Early withdrawals may result in a loss in addition to applicable surrender charges. Please reference the prospectus for information about the levels of protection available and other important product information.

Investors should carefully consider the features of the contract, index strategies, and the underlying portfolios’ investment objectives, policies, management, risks, charges and expenses. The initial summary prospectus and the index strategies prospectus for the contract, and the summary prospectus or prospectus for the underlying portfolios (collectively, the “prospectuses”) contain this and other important information and can be obtained from your financial professional. Please read them carefully before investing.

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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).

Dylan Tyson
President, Prudential Retirement Strategies, Prudential Financial

Dylan Tyson is president of Prudential Retirement Strategies (opens in new tab), which delivers industry-leading retirement strategies for growth and protection. Retirement Strategies serves more than 2 million customers and provides retirement income of more than $15 billion annually. Tyson received his bachelor’s with high honors from Stanford University, and an MBA from the Anderson School at UCLA. He is a CFA® Charterholder.