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$1 Million Isn’t What It Used To Be

$1 Million Isn’t What It Used To Be

| August 15, 2019
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Would you turn down $1 million? I didn’t think so. But if you think you’ll be set for life with that amount of money, you may be in for a shock. In the past, a $1 million nest egg was the gold standard for success, but now, thanks to inflation, we need a lot more than that to experience long-term financial security. 

Inflation Headaches

Inflation, often called the silent retirement killer, erodes your money’s value. Many people forget to account for it in their income planning and thus run out of money sooner than they thought they would. Unfortunately, inflation is one of the few certainties in life. Over the last 50 years, the cost of goods and services has increased an average of 3.7% per year. (1) Let’s say inflation continues to average 3% a year. In 40 years, $1 million will be worth $306,000 in today’s dollars, and that’s definitely not enough to buy you a comfortable 30-year retirement. 

To put these numbers in perspective, let’s look at history. If you wanted to have the same purchasing power as a millionaire from 1914, you would have needed $3 million in 1980. But here’s the shocking number: in 2019, you would need $25 million to match the $1 million of 1914. (2)

Rising inflation tends to happen so gradually that it’s hard to see the effects of it on your wallet year to year. When saving for retirement, you need to calculate that effect forward anywhere from 10-50 years in the future. So if a new car costs around $5,000 in 1980 and $34,000 in 2019, you could find yourself spending over $65,000 to upgrade your vehicle in 2041. (3)

Can I Do Anything About Inflation?

We can’t predict the future, but we can do our part to prepare our retirement savings so they last as long as you do. Here’s how to make that happen.

Conservative Withdrawal Rates

Since you know that stocks have historically earned an average of 7-8% a year, you might assume that you can afford to withdraw 7-8% of the initial portfolio value (plus a little more for inflation each year). (4) But in reality, to protect against the uncertainty of the market, you may need to limit your withdrawals to less than 4%. (5) Because there is no simple, one-size-fits-all plan, you need to figure out what will work for you and your unique situation, taking various factors into account, such as time horizon, risk tolerance, asset allocation, and unexpected living expenses.

Set Up Contingencies

There is sophisticated software available to factor in inflation and calculate how long your money can last based on where you live, which withdrawal rate you choose, and what the markets will do. But there are some things a computer just can’t predict, such as your health. 

According to the Employee Benefits Research Institute, the average couple at age 65 will require anywhere from $151,000 to $255,000 just to cover their healthcare costs in retirement. (6) Build contingency funds over and above your regular retirement account to give yourself a bit of a savings buffer. There will always be unexpected expenses in life, whether it’s needing a new car, home repairs, or unexpected long-term care expenses. Planning ahead will give you stability. 

Save More And Spend Less

The longer your planning horizon, the more resources you will need for retirement. The most obvious way to lower the risk of outliving your money is by saving more before you retire and underspending when you reach retirement. If you have any debt, focus on reducing it as much as possible so your resources can be devoted to saving.

Adjust Your Mindset

Retirement often means major lifestyle changes. As a result, your expectations may need to change as well. If you want a comfortable retirement, you may have to rethink how much you will be able to give your children as a down payment on a house or an inheritance. 

You may even need to downsize your home or relocate to a more affordable area. Cost of living varies drastically across the U.S. When you are determining how much money you need for retirement, location can make all the difference. For example, if you live in Colorado, $1 million (in today’s dollars) will only last just under 19 years. But if you live in Mississippi, it’s estimated that $1 million will last 23 years because of affordable living expenses that fall below the national average cost. (7)

Stay flexible and be willing to make adjustments in order to secure your financial future and stretch your wealth as far as possible.

Don’t Let Inflation Get You Down

It can be disheartening to look at the numbers and realize that what you were aiming for is not enough. But by making small changes now and planning ahead, you can set yourself up to experience the retirement you dream of. Use these pivotal years to implement strategies to protect, grow, and transfer your wealth. If you want a customized financial plan to get you from point A to point B, Setchfield Asset Management is here to help. Schedule an introductory meeting to see how your savings will fare in retirement by emailing me at steve@setchfieldam.com or calling (303) 627-1099.

About Steve

Steve Setchfield is Chief Investment Strategist at Setchfield Asset Management, an independent financial advisory firm. With almost 30 years of experience, Steve serves his clients by keeping them out of financial trouble in volatile markets, using a low-key, rules-based approach to investing and helping them with every aspect of their financial lives. Steve studied finance at the Metropolitan State University of Denver and spent several years working at Shearson Lehman Brothers and Kemper Securities before founding his own independent firm so he could offer objective, personalized advice and strategies. Steve is a Colorado native and enjoys skiing and other outdoor activities. He spends his free time volunteering for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Colorado and coaching wrestling in the Cherry Creek school system. In 2003, Steve was a living kidney donor for his uncle who suffered from polycystic kidney disease. To learn more about Steve, connect with him on LinkedIn.

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(1) https://www.usinflationcalculator.com/inflation/historical-inflation-rates/ 

(2) https://www.dollartimes.com/inflation/inflation.php?amount=1000000&year=1970

(3) Estimating 3% inflation rate. https://www.financialsamurai.com/are-you-a-real-millionaire-3-million-new-1-million/

(4) http://www.simplestockinvesting.com/SP500-historical-real-total-returns.htm

(5) https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/09/your-money/some-new-math-for-the-4-percent-retirement-rule.html?_r=0

(6) https://www.ebri.org/pdf/notespdf/ebri.notes.oct13.retsvgs1.pdf

(7) https://www.gobankingrates.com/investing/how-long-million-last-retirement-state/2/ 

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