I lived in a motel and “forgot to live”: I’m 48, have almost $900,000 and want to retire next year. What can I do?


I am 48 years old, single and have lived in different states and worked different jobs.

Genetically, I predict that my life will be about 20 more years, as I lost my parents at a very young age. In these 15 years of career, I have never owned a car or a house. I lived in shared places and motels.

In a year I plan to retire and focus more on spirituality and health. I have a CD with about $150,000 locked in for five years at 3.30% and two CDs with $248,000 each for one month. I have about $160,000 in my 401(k) and about $40,000 in other savings (from my previous employer) in a cash balance retirement plan that I can take anytime — $160 a month for life or a $40,000 lump sum until you roll over to an IRA.

I see that life is short and I forgot to live myself and I want to make the rest of my life on this planet pleasant. I am not a high risk investor. I expect Social Security at age 62 to bring in about $2,000 a month. What is the best plan for the next 13 years?

I see: I retired at 50, went back to work at 53, then a medical problem put me out of work: ‘There’s no such thing as a safe amount of money’

dear reader,

Congratulations on having so much in savings, especially considering you’ve moved from place to place and taken on different jobs — that’s quite an accomplishment.

You’re certainly not alone in wishing you’d enjoyed life more when you were younger. Many people, like you, are trying to strike some sort of balance between living in the moment and paying for necessities now and in the future. Unfortunately, that means you’ll have to consider how long your money can stretch and whether it’s worth it to continue earning income in some capacity.

First, you need to think about what your annual income will need to be in retirement to cover your living expenses, plus any emergencies, such as a health crisis or an unexpected move. Also, ask yourself what your plan is for that money. Are you just trying to hold off until Social Security kicks in, or do you plan to see that money last your entire life? You say you expect to live another 20 years because of your parents’ lifespans, but is there anything else that suggests you’ll live to about 68, or at least a chance you’ll live longer? These are all very important questions to answer to see if retiring next year is really a good idea, said Brian McGraw, certified financial planner and senior wealth advisor at Hightower Wealth Advisors.

You are not wrong to want to enjoy life. So many Americans work so hard, every day, to make ends meet, and it can be emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually draining. But if you’re able to find something that doesn’t weigh as much on your happiness and brings in income, you might want to consider staying in the workforce a little longer. There’s an added advantage if the job comes with any benefits, such as health insurance, since you don’t qualify for Medicare until you’re 65. Private health insurance can be quite expensive and not having insurance is a financial and health risk.

Running the numbers really helps put all of this into perspective, McGraw said. “In many cases, a ‘hybrid’ retirement where the client returns to a part-time status to maintain some income to support their lifestyle while gaining additional leisure time can be an effective compromise for the client who wishes to retire early . but the numbers just don’t support their spending goals,” he said.

There are so many different types of jobs out there, and if you’re looking for a little freedom, you have a whole world to explore. You may want to use your skills or develop new ones for a job that aligns with your passions or hobbies. For example, someone who likes to ski might want to try to get a job at a ski resort or in a mountain area. Someone who prefers to be by the beach can move to a seaside town and find a pleasant gig there. A person who loves cars can find a bargain at a car dealership and so on.

Retirement may be the end goal, but you may find you’re happy just switching gears. “He should figure out what he likes and see if he can make a living out of it,” said David Haas, a certified financial planner and president of Cereus Financial Advisors. “Maybe his goal is not to retire, but to do something he likes and make enough money to live his life.”

Want more helpful tips for your retirement savings journey? Read MarketWatch’s “Pension violations” column

I also recommend that you set up an online account with the Social Security Administration, if you haven’t already, so you can get a better idea of ​​what you can expect to receive in benefits at 62, Full Retirement Age, or later . I know you mentioned expecting $2,000 in benefits each month starting at 62, but it never hurts to double check… especially if you’re planning your future around that amount.

Take, for example, the average Social Security benefit for retirees, which was $1,620 in April, according to the Social Security Administration. AARP estimates that someone born on January 1, 1960 (so a 62-year-old), who earned an average of $50,000 in income each year, would get a monthly benefit of $1,338 if they applied for Social Security at 62, $1,911 if they waited until age full retirement at age 67 and $2,370 if they waited until age 70, which is the age at which someone can receive maximum benefits based on their personal factors.

If you don’t expect to live more than 20 years, you may not want to wait until full retirement age to claim the benefit you worked hard to contribute to, but the Social Security Administration will use your earnings history to give a clearer estimate of your future benefits. You can create an account here.

Ultimately, your plan will cut — at least largely — into your expenses, said Kristin Pugh, a certified financial advisor at Creative Planning. You have the most control over this, after all. She also reiterates to her clients that “good health is the best insurance.”

See also: ‘This is a daunting time to retire’: In the age of inflation, there are steps you can take to cope with higher prices

You may also want to consider working with a financial advisor, even just once for a financial audit, to see if your money is being allocated properly and to help create a financial plan. I know you said you’re not a high-risk investor, but CDs typically don’t produce the same types of returns that a properly invested portfolio could over time. The markets may not seem particularly attractive these days with so much volatility, but a professional can determine your time horizon, a reasonable risk profile and other factors that can stretch your money over time.

They’ll also look at how to protect your assets from rising inflation, which is eroding Americans’ purchasing power. If your money isn’t growing at a healthy rate against inflation, you’ll lose more of it over time, even if you only spend the same amount of money on necessities.

“It’s important to have a financial plan and be flexible enough to change as your world changes,” said Sean Pearson, certified financial planner and associate vice president of Ameriprise Financial Services. “In addition to regular retirement income, it’s important to have a plan B for additional expenses,” he added.

An advisor can also help you figure out how much you should be withdrawing from your accounts each month, whether it’s better to make monthly payments or lump sum conversion to an IRA from your cash retirement plan, and the tax implications of all those decisions .

“If you feel confident that you’re doing enough to save for your longer-term goals, like retirement, then you can and should enjoy life right now,” said Brittany Mollica, certified financial advisor at Hilltop Wealth Advisors. “We’ve seen people retire in their 60s and get sick straight away and not enjoy retirement, so I think it’s really, really important that we don’t wait to enjoy life. There’s just a good balance between the two.”

Readers: Do you have suggestions for this reader? Add them in the comments below.

Have a question about your own retirement savings? Email us at HelpMeRetire@marketwatch.com

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