By David L. Cumming
In the years approaching retirement, you should be thinking about whether your current plan puts you in the best position to achieve the lifestyle you envision for your golden years. For many people, the years leading into retirement are a time of not only eager anticipation, but also serious contemplation about what must be done to achieve their goals.
There are five key factors to consider when planning your retirement strategy.
Your time horizon While younger investors have the luxury of time for recouping investment losses before they retire, older investors do not. As you get closer to retirement, you will need to shift your mindset from accumulating assets to utilizing the assets you’ve worked so diligently to earn. You may want to consider repositioning your portfolio to reduce risk and preserve your wealth for retirement.
Your evolving priorities
Your priorities may change from accumulating assets to converting those assets to income. This change will affect your investment decisions and the types of investments you consider for your portfolio. In addition, you may have other priorities competing for your assets. For example, college tuition for your grandchildren. Try to quantify the costs of your priorities and factor them into your planning.
Your risk tolerance
Risk is extremely subjective. How much risk you are willing to take on is a function of how much of a loss you’re willing to accept and how losses might affect your ability to generate the income you will need from your investments. You will also need to consider inflation. To help you achieve your vision of retirement, your investments will need to keep pace with—or exceed—the inflation rate.
Required Minimum Distributions
Annual Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) are a fact of retirement life. If you have a traditional individual retirement account (IRA) or an employer-sponsored retirement plan, you must begin taking minimum distributions by April 1 of the year following the year in which you reach age 70½.
If you have more than one traditional IRA, there is an RMD for each of them. However, you have the option to either withdraw the total amount of RMDs from any one of those accounts or take the required RMD from each individual account.
If you have multiple employer-sponsored retirement plans, the minimum distribution must be calculated and withdrawn from each account separately.
As you approach retirement, you may find that you have assets scattered among many different accounts and across many financial institutions. To help simplify management of these assets, you may want to consider consolidating accounts where possible. Among other things, this makes it easier for you to monitor performance and to make withdrawals in an efficient manner.
With qualified plans such as IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans, you can usually consolidate assets by rolling over or transferring these assets to an eligible IRA. There are certain procedures that need to be followed to ensure that you are not subject to taxes or early withdrawal penalties. A financial advisor may be a valuable resource during this process.
Once you reach retirement and start withdrawing assets, you generally want to withdraw assets from accounts where there are little or no tax consequences. However, the precise order of withdrawals may vary depending on your needs and circumstances and you may want to speak with a financial advisor about a withdrawal order that works best for you.
Cumming is a senior vice president and financial advisor at Morgan Stanley.
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