Take an inventory of income and assets

Published 2:14 pm Friday, December 17, 2010

Making sure that your income in retirement is sufficient to cover your expenses is a critical consideration in deciding whether or not you can afford to make the big transition.

It’s wise to split your expenses into needs and wants, with needs being essentials and wants being adjustable.

As you list your sources of income in retirement, you can think of them as coming from two different categories—those that are relatively reliable and consistent (e.g., monthly Social Security benefits and pension payments) and those that are generated by assets you rely on during retirement.

In a perfect world, your reliable income would pay for your needs and your retirement assets would finance your wants.

However, it’s more likely that you will have to depend on your retirement assets to supplement your needs. Those assets may include a 401(k), IRAs, annuities, brokerage accounts, checking accounts and CDs.

Whatever your specific situation, you’ll want to work with your financial adviser to quantify your reliable income, and compile a complete inventory of your income sources, both known sources of reliable income, as well as assets that can be used to supplement income during retirement.

What can your assets provide?

To determine what your assets can provide, you need to take a close look at your overall financial picture, which includes reliable income, retirement assets, needs and wants.

Your adviser can help you evaluate and quantify any gaps, and recommend a sustainable withdrawal rate.

Financial advisers generally say that you can reasonably count on withdrawing 4 percent—with annual adjustments for inflation—of your retirement assets every year without depleting your overall portfolio.

Your financial adviser can help you determine how to best structure your specific asset mix to generate sufficient income for your expenses without jeopardizing your long-term outlook. Bear in mind that every retirement plan should allow for unforeseen expenses and emergencies.

Diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss.

Investments are subject to market risk, including possible loss of principal.