This two-part question is among the most frequently asked, the most difficult to answer and most emotionally loaded for investors and advised clients: “How much do I need for a comfortable retirement, and how do I get there?”
The reason the question can be so challenging is the number of variables involved: What’s a comfortable retirement? When will I retire? College, travel, work. Wrong answers outnumber right ones.
“How much is needed to retire is like asking how much is needed to eat out, or how much is needed to purchase a house, or purchase a car,” Mark Wilson, president of Mile Wealth in Irvine, California, wrote in an email.
A recent survey from Bloomberg had an answer, landing on $3 million to $5 million, based on certain assumptions about age, income and lifestyle. The survey queried 533 investors worldwide.
According to Jennifer Weber, of Weber Asset in Lake Success, New York, that $3 million to $5 million may not be too far off.
The rule of thumb, she said, is to assume withdrawing 4% from your investment accounts during retirement. “If you need $200,000 per year to cover living expenses, you will need $5 million in retirement,” she wrote in an email.
To get there, Weber recommends a mix of stocks and bonds: “ETFs are a great way to have the proper allocation based on your goals, risk tolerance and time horizon. These ETFs can consist of a mix of U.S. stocks, international stocks and bonds.”
While always complicated, decisions surrounding retirement savings were made even more difficult by the rapid changes in markets since the pandemic. The two preceding decades were comparatively easy, as investors were able to put money into stocks and ride the markets up and down.
Now, with low interest rates gone—replaced by the fastest rate gains in decades—stock and bond investing appears wildly unpredictable and retirement planning more difficult than ever.
However, ETFs also provide a low-cost option to diversify a portfolio, and offer both passive and actively managed strategies, she added. For Wilson, the size of a nest egg is just as important as investment options and that should be based on spending needs, future taxes and noninvestment income sources.
He suggests people save 20 to 25 times their “spending gap,” which he defined as the annual amount of spending not covered by income sources. ETFs, which “typically have lower costs and are tax efficient—these are both very helpful throughout the process,” he said.
Contact Ron Day at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @RonDayETF