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Determining The Cost of Your Retirement

Laying down your retirement goals and assessing their likely cost isn't an exact science, but it is essential

Morningstar.co.uk Editors 18 September, 2012 | 12:31PM

Many people regularly save and invest, squirreling away as much as they can without knowing whether they're saving enough for their financial goals and their upcoming retirement. That's because most of us have no idea what our financial goals will cost.

For example, some financial-planning experts say we'll need 80% of our pre-retirement income to live comfortably once we stop working. In reality, thrifty retirees make do on less. Others, meanwhile, spend their retirements traveling, or taking up expensive hobbies (golf, anyone?) They spend more in retirement than they did while working.

This article will give you some idea of what your financial and retirement goals may cost:

Annual Cost of Retirement

Sometimes it is easy to estimate the cost of a future financial goal. For example, think of your yearly mortgage tab. Annual university costs aren't that tough to tabulate, either: Add together what the average university student pays for tuition fees, the cost of books, and room and board each year, multiply by three (or however many years you think your prodigy will be in school), and you're at least in the ballpark.

However, projecting your retirement living expenses is another matter entirely--especially if your retirement is decades away. It involves some dreaming, that's for sure. Ask yourself what type of lifestyle you want. Do you want to spend your retirement building birdhouses in your garage, or do you want to move to the Cotswolds and play golf every day? The first lifestyle will certainly cost less than the second.

To get a grip on what you might spend, analyse what you currently spend each year, and try to project what those costs will be in retirement. This isn't an exact science. Remember that you're just trying to get your arms around the issue.

Some expenses that will likely change in retirement include:

Housing Costs: Most of us assume our mortgage will be paid off by the time we retire. That may be true. But what if we take out a line of credit on our home to build that new swimming pool? Or what if we buy a second home by the sea? Housing costs don't always decline in retirement. Conversely, maybe we'll sell our homes and move into flats that not only cost less, but also require less upkeep.

Recreation: For many of us, retirement is about enjoying the things we denied ourselves while we were raising children or working. And those things--whether traveling across the country or taking up tennis--cost money. We'll likely eat out more, travel more, and see more movies, plays, and sporting events once we've left the working world. Those tickets aren't free.

Children: By the time most of us retire, our children will be on their own. We hope. But maybe you'll want to help your son with the deposit on a new home. Or maybe your thirty-something daughter has returned home. Once a parent, always a parent--so budget accordingly.

Other items to include in a retirement expense form: transportation costs, which include cars, fuel, and insurance; taxes, which, thankfully, should decline for many of us; and those monthly bills for gas usage, Internet access, mobile phones. It all adds up.

Number of Years in Retirement

Next, project how long you'll need to be paying for your goal.

Say for a moment that your goal isn't retirement, but sending your child through university. Will that expense stretch out over three years? Or is postgraduate study in the little one's future, too? Or maybe your goal is saving for a home and paying off a mortgage. The easy part is figuring out what you'd like to put down. But do you plan to use your investments to help pay your mortgage? If so, the goal for this pool of money may extend over 20 or 30 years, depending on the terms of your mortgage.

Back to the mother of all financial goals: retirement. Here, you need to consider just when you want to bid the working world farewell. Have you dreamed of an early retirement, or are you someone who can't imagine not working at least part time?

Then, unpleasant as it is, you'll need to project when you'll bid the world adieu. When it comes to life expectancy, think long. While most of us won't become centenarians, it's better to err on the side of longevity. Otherwise, you may run out of money.

Inflation

When it comes to money, inflation is your worst enemy. In ten years time, £120,000 will not have the same purchasing power as it would today.

It's essential to make some assumptions about future inflation rates when estimating how much your financial goals will cost. When it comes to retirement planning, many advisers use a 2%, 3%, or 4% inflation rate.

Congratulations!

Congratulations--you now have some idea of how much money you'll need to fund your financial goals, before taxes. That's quite a feat!

The information contained within is for educational and informational purposes ONLY. It is not intended nor should it be considered an invitation or inducement to buy or sell a security or securities noted within nor should it be viewed as a communication intended to persuade or incite you to buy or sell security or securities noted within. Any commentary provided is the opinion of the author and should not be considered a personalised recommendation. The information contained within should not be a person's sole basis for making an investment decision. Please contact your financial professional before making an investment decision.

About Author

Morningstar.co.uk Editors  analyse and report on shares, funds, market developments and good investing practice for individual investors and their advisers in the UK.