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Ask an Advisor: We’re 65, Have $1 Million Saved and $42K in Social Security Benefits. Can We Live on $90K Per Year?


My wife and I are both 65 years old. She will retire this year and I’ll work until I’m 67. We’ll get about $42,000 in Social Security and have about $1 million in savings. Can we live on $90,000 per year?


$90,000 per year is going to be pushing the upper limit of what I’d be comfortable with as a general rule. Whether it will work for you, however, is highly individualized. I’ll give you an overview of some of the things you’ll want to look into before deciding if you are comfortable with spending $90,000 per year. (And if you need more help planning for retirement, consider working with a financial advisor.)

Does Your Expense Number Include Taxes?

Will the $90,000 you expect to spend each year cover your annual tax bill or is that how much money you plan to spend after taxes? The answer to this question is vital. If it’s the latter, you’ll need to withdraw even more of your savings each year, further stressing the longevity of your portfolio.

Whether your savings are held in a tax-deferred, Roth or taxable account matters. I assume your money is mostly tax-deferred, meaning it’s held in 401(k)s and IRAs. You’ll have to account for income taxes that you’ll owe when you start withdrawing that money. If a considerable portion of your assets is in Roth accounts, your distributions are tax-free, which will simplify the process. (And if you want more help managing your retirement savings, consider matching with a financial advisor.)

What’s Your Investment Plan and Risk Tolerance?

Ask an Advisor: We're 65, Have $1 Million Saved and Social Security Benefits. Can We Live on $90K Per Year?

You need to invest according to your own risk tolerance. But if your portfolio is too conservative or aggressive it will place additional strain on your savings.

  • If you and your wife are especially conservative that will likely inhibit your ability to keep up with that level of spending over time. 
  • If you’re too aggressive, you may expose yourself to too much volatility, which can also wreck a retiree’s portfolio once withdrawals start.

The 60/40 portfolio has historically been so popular with retirees because it leaves them with enough equity to benefit from the long-term growth that’s often required for a decades-long retirement without too much volatility. It’s not right for everybody, but the point is that if your entire balance is in CDs, for example, your money likely won’t grow fast enough. The opposite is true for a 100% stock portfolio. It’s too volatile and one or two bad market years, especially early on, could be catastrophic. (A financial advisor can help you find the right mix of stocks, bonds and other investments for your risk tolerance.)

What’s Your Withdrawal Rate?

Ask an Advisor: We're 65, Have $1 Million Saved and Social Security Benefits. Can We Live on $90K Per Year?

A lot of retirement income planning focuses on your withdrawal rate. The classic “rule of thumb” is that if you withdraw 4% of your savings in your first year of retirement and adjust subsequent withdrawals for inflation, you can be reasonably sure your money will last 30 years. I use that term loosely. It isn’t a hard rule but more of a guideline for understanding safe withdrawal rates in a historical context. Most people should modify it in some way. You may not need or want to plan for your money to last 30 years, for example.

Again, depending on what that $90,000 expense includes, I think you could be easily looking at a withdrawal rate in the neighborhood of 5% and quite possibly higher. This isn’t necessarily a show-stopper. However, you’ll want to take some time to understand how your withdrawal rate plays into your ability to sustain your spending without depleting your savings too quickly. (And if you need help determining an appropriate withdrawal rate, this tool can help you match with a financial advisor.)

Bottom Line

Whether your savings and Social Security benefits can cover $90,000 in annual expenses depends on a number of factors. You’ll want to consider whether you need $90,000 before or after taxes and think about both your investment mix and risk tolerance. You’ll also want to figure out what kind of withdrawal rate you’ll require to support your spending needs in retirement.

Tips for Finding a Financial Advisor

  • Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Consider a few advisors before settling on one. It’s important to make sure you find someone you trust to manage your money. As you consider your options, these are the questions you should ask an advisor to ensure you make the right choice.

Brandon Renfro, CFP®, is a SmartAsset financial planning columnist and answers reader questions on personal finance and tax topics. Got a question you’d like answered? Email and your question may be answered in a future column.

Please note that Brandon is not a participant in the SmartAdvisor Match platform, and he has been compensated for this article.

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