Retirement Income Shouldn’t Depend On The Market, It Should Depend On Math

Market ups and downs can keep retirees on edge, worried about potentially big losses from which they may never be able to recover.

And those worries aren’t necessarily misguided. From 1928 through March 2022, there have been 26 bear markets. A bear market is a market decline greater than 20% that lasts at least two months. The average bear market decline since 1928 has been 36.62%, so the potential for big losses is real.1

The good news, though, is that there are ways to help protect yourself from these inevitable market downturns. After all, your retirement shouldn’t be an endless series of sleepless nights. And, with careful income planning that covers your lifestyle needs, allows for emergencies, and includes a suitable amount for investment and growth, it doesn’t have to be.

Math’s role in income planning

As you already know, people are living longer these days, which means it’s even more important to make the right financial decisions. Here’s where the math gets involved – and we start dividing money into buckets.

  • Safety bucket. Unexpected emergencies arise in life – both in and out of retirement – so it’s good to have money in reserve that’s allocated just for that purpose, to help with a smoother ride during retirement. The question to ask yourself is, how much money do you need in this bucket to feel comfortable? The amount will vary from person to person.
  • Income bucket. It is when pondering the contents of this bucket that retirees must decide how much money they will need coming in each month to pay for their lifestyle. Certainly, they need money for groceries, to pay utility bills, and other necessary expenses. But they will also want leisure time as well. Oftentimes, people find themselves having an income gap – meaning their monthly income is not sufficient to cover their expenses. One possibility for bridging this gap would be to use at least some of their retirement savings to purchase an annuity, which works somewhat like a personal pension plan, with the potential of providing guaranteed monthly income you will not outlive.
  • Growth bucket. Certainly, retirees need to be careful with their money, but this is the bucket where you can be somewhat aggressive with investments because your income needs are taken care of, and you have the safety bucket that offers protection in case of an emergency. The growth bucket allows you to keep up with – and hopefully outpace – inflation. Of course, this is also the bucket that can go down in value if the market drops, so this shouldn’t be money that you expect to dip into anytime soon. The last thing you want in retirement is to be forced to take money out of your savings when the market is tanking. Many people take the approach that retirees need to be ultra-conservative with their money, but that may not be true with all your money. However, this isn’t to say that you should be overly aggressive either.

One of the nice things about this three-bucket approach is the possibility of taking advantage of market growth without having your retirement fortunes tied to it. That’s why, as you near retirement, it is important to sit down with a financial professional who can help you figure out the answers to your own math problem.


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