Based on the median costs of living in most parts of America, $5 million is more than enough for a very comfortable retirement. Based on average market returns, $5 million can support many households indefinitely. However, it also depends on your standard of living as every household is different. If you would like to maintain a large home, pay for significant dependents, take nice trips or enjoy a more expensive lifestyle, you may need to work a little bit longer before you can retire. For more accurate estimations of your own situation, consider working directly with a financial advisor.
Plan For How Long $5 Million Will Last
The all-important question with retirement accounts is, how long will my money last? Figuring this out basically requires balancing three separate, but related, issues:
- Growth Rate: Your growth rate is the rate of return on your portfolio. Basically, how much do your investments grow while you’re in retirement? After all, don’t forget, portfolio growth isn’t just an issue while you’re saving up. You can collect market returns in retirement as well. Growth is key because it balances out everything else. Every dollar that your account grows extends the life of your retirement account. In a perfect world, if you never withdraw more than your account’s growth, you can live off this money indefinitely.
- Drawdown Rate: Your drawdown rate is the rate at which you withdraw the principal on your retirement account. While ideally, you would live off only the returns of your retirement portfolio, this is usually unrealistic. Instead, most investors have to balance a combination of growth and withdrawing the portfolio’s principal.
- Withdrawal Rate: Your withdrawal rate is how much money you need to take out of your retirement account each year. It obviously informs your drawdown rate, as well as how much growth you need. How long your money lasts, ultimately, is based on the balance of these factors: How much money is in your retirement account? How much will that grow each year? And how will you balance that with your annual withdrawals? So, start here. Look at your finances and figure out clearly, how much will you need to spend each month or year? And how much growth will you plan for?
Finding the answers to these questions and understanding how each of these rates will work for you in retirement will help you determine what your investment strategy should be in order to retire when you would like.
Figure Out Your Investment Strategy
The rate of return, of course, is a big issue. For retirees, the standard advice is to shift their investments in a more conservative direction. Many people focus on equities during their earning lives, then shift toward more secure assets like bonds, annuities and index funds. With $5 million to invest, just about any strategy can generate very comfortable returns.
For example, say that you put this money into a single-life annuity. This means that you buy a contract from an insurance company to issue regular payments from the start of your retirement for the rest of your life.
These are generally considered one of the safest retirement investments you can buy and with a $5 million investment, you can receive around $30,000 per month in payments or $360,000 per year. That income is insulated from the stock market and guaranteed for the rest of your life.
By contrast, say you keep your money in a simple S&P 500 fund which, historically, tends to return around 10% – 11% per year. With $5 million to invest, a retiree willing to invest in the stock market could collect $500,000 per year in average returns before even touching the principal in their portfolio.
Even if you keep your money in nothing more sophisticated than a high-interest savings account, a 4% interest rate would return $200,000 per year, far more than most people earn even before they retire.
None of this accounts for Social Security. If you retire at age 60, you will not be eligible for this program for several years, with minimum benefits starting at 62 and maximum benefits beginning if you wait to collect until age 70. However, according to the Census Bureau, the median income for people 65 and older is $46,360. No matter how you choose to invest this money, $5 million can generate returns far more than what most retirees live on.
Make A Budget
The median income for households 65 and older is $46,360, but that doesn’t mean you will spend money this way. So the most important thing you can do is figure out exactly what standard of living you will want.
This is the drawdown calculation and it’s important. If you have saved up $5 million, the odds are good that you have a fairly high-earning household. So you may have more expenses than the median retiree.
Don’t calculate your savings based on the usual household. Sit down, ideally with a financial advisor, to figure out how you will want to live in retirement and what that will cost. Whether you can retire at age 60 will depend entirely on this budget. You will have a significant amount of money, but how much of that you need per year will define how long it lasts.
Plan For Health Care
On the issue of spending, plan in advance for health care. If you retire at age 60, you will likely lose your employer-based health insurance. At the same time, Medicare will not kick in for another five years. This means that you need to anticipate health care needs for that gap. Whether you arrange for COBRA coverage or simply buy an individual health plan from the Affordable Care Act exchanges, this is an expense you should anticipate.
In addition, you should make sure to plan for long-term medical needs. As a high net-worth household you will not qualify for Medicaid or many other programs. So you should build plans such as long-term care insurance and Medigap premiums into your retirement budget. This will be a significant source of spending, so don’t forget to anticipate it.
The Bottom Line
With $5 million, based on a median household, you can likely afford to retire at age 60. The only question is how much you plan on spending or what you would like your lifestyle to look like post-retirement. It’s important to understand your limits and make sure you invest now for your plans later, assuming you still have the time to do so.
Tips for Retirement
- The very best way to plan for retirement is to get a professional guide who can help you take the right action for your situation and long-term goals. A financial advisor specializes in that work and they can even manage your investments for you. 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.
- How much you will spend in retirement is an essential issue. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to start figuring that out. Here is how you can start to estimate your retirement expenses.
Photo credit: ©iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages, ©iStock.com/shapecharge, ©iStock.com/shironosov