More expensive than you’d think, according to recent studies stating that the first year of retirement is usually pricier than predicted. While most retirement income calculators ask retirees to guess what they’ll need to spend to live comfortably, the first year of retirement doesn’t exactly adhere to rules of logic, or to the best judgment of the parties involved. After all, you want to celebrate leaving the workforce to pursue your passions, indulge in your druthers, and take that mad-dash trip to Italy, right?
According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the “Mad Money” phase of retirement doesn’t last long. On average, retirees between the ages of 65 and 74 spend a sensible 33 percent of their budgets on housing, 12 percent on health care, 18 percent on food and entertainment, and 17 percent on transportation (including leisure travel). However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has not looked specifically at the first year of retirement.
Financial planners know that most retirees follow a pattern for when they spend the most and the least money, even coming up with the saying: “Go-go; slow-go; no-go.” The first few years of retirement are filled with travel, new toys, and new hobbies. In this stage, spending can surpass pre-retirement lifestyles. By the time retirees reach their 70s and 80s, they’ve settled into a routine.
The idea that travel spending decreases for retirees over time is backed up by a study released several years ago by Sun Life: “The Expense Reality.” The study found that international travel decreased for retirees in their 70s; domestic travel decreased as retirees reached their 80s; and expenses for hobbies and new projects declined in later years. It would be pleasant to think that spending overall decreases as we age, but as fun expenditures decrease, less-fun costs increase. Spending tends to balance out in the end.
Successful retirement planning isn’t so much about how much money you save as how much you spend – which means that even if you save three-million dollars, you can still find yourself scraping for pennies in your 90s if you aren’t careful. If you must have that sports car, the oil painting class, or the golf club membership, then factor those costs into a realistic retirement budget (yes, even in the heady first year). Most importantly, don’t put your first year splurges on credit – carrying debt in retirement eats heavily into your savings and income.
While traditional retirement wisdom dictates a withdrawal of 4 percent of your portfolio during the first year of retirement, that doesn’t take into account human nature – you may have to save more money to pursue your first-year retirement dreams. However, it might be possible to spend less in less exciting areas, allowing you to have everything you want. According to numerous surveys, people spend the most money on housing, which means that downsizing your home upon retirement might be just what you need to fund your first-year fun – and ensure financial stability later.