Preparing for Retirement: How Much Fixed Income Should I Have?

Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP® Nick Defenthaler

How much guaranteed income (i.e., Social Security, pension and annuity income) should I have in retirement? This is a question I hear quite often from clients who are nearing, or entering, retirement and are seeking our guidance on how to create a tax-efficient and well-diversified retirement paycheck. 

“The 50% Rule”

Although every situation is unique, in most cases, we want to see roughly 50% or more of a retiree’s spending needs satisfied by fixed income. For example, if your goal is to spend $140,000 before-tax (gross) in retirement, ideally, we’d want to see roughly $70,000 or more come from a combination of Social Security, pension, or an annuity income stream. 

Below is an illustration we frequently use with clients to help show where their retirement paycheck will be coming from. The chart also displays the portfolio withdrawal rate to give clients an idea if their desired spending level is realistic or not over the long-term.

Cash Targets

Once we have an idea of what is required to come from your actual portfolio to supplement your spending goal, we’ll typically leave 6 – 12 months (or more depending of course on someone’s risk tolerance) of cash on the “sidelines” to help shield these funds from volatility and ensure money available for your short term cash needs. Believe it or not, since 1980, the average intra-year market decline for the S&P 500 has been 14.1%. Over the course of those 37 years, however, 28 of them have ended the year in positive territory (source:  JP Morgan).  We believe market declines are imminent, and we want to plan ahead to help mitigate their potential impact. By having cash available at all times for your spending needs, it allows you to still receive income from your portfolio while giving it time to “heal” and recover – something that typically occurs within a 12 month time frame. 

As you enter the home stretch of your working career, it’s very important to begin dialing in on what you’re actually spending now compared to what you’d like to spend in retirement. Sometimes the numbers are very close but often times, they are quite different.  As clients approach retirement, we work together to help determine this magic number and provide analysis on whether or not the spending goal is sustainable over the long-term. From there, it’s our job to help re-create a retirement paycheck for you that meets your own unique goals. Don’t hesitate to reach out if we can ever offer a first or second opinion on the best way to create your own retirement paycheck.

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Nick works closely with Center clients and is also the Director of The Center’s Financial Planning Department. He is also a frequent contributor to the firm’s blogs and educational webinars.

Opinions expressed are those of Nick Defenthaler, CFP®, and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. There is no assurance the forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. This information has been obtained from sources deemed to be reliable but we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete. This information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks that is generally considered representative of the U.S. stock market. Please note direct investment in any index is not possible. Annuity guarantees are subject to the issuing company's ability to pay for them.