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$1 Million Isn’t What It Used To Be

What’s the number you dream of seeing in your account balance? What amount of money would give you financial freedom and security? If you guessed $1 million, you are on the same page as more than half of Americans who responded to a survey conducted by Merrill Edge. (1) But while we spend much of our lives wishing we could be millionaires, a $1 million nest egg might not get you as far as you’d think. Here’s why.

The Silent Retirement Killer

Put simply, inflation erodes your money’s value. Inflation has often been nicknamed the silent retirement killer because so many people forget to account for it in their income planning. Unfortunately, inflation is one of the few certainties in life. Over the last 50 years, the cost of goods and services has increased an average of 3.7% per year. (2) Let’s say inflation continues to average 3% a year. In 40 years, $1 million will be worth $306,000 in today’s dollars, and that’s definitely not enough to buy you a comfortable 30-year retirement.

To put these numbers in perspective, let’s look at history. If you wanted to have the same purchasing power as a millionaire from 1914, you would have needed $3 million in 1980. But here’s the shocking number: in 2018, you would need $25 million to match the $1 million of 1914. (3)

Rising inflation tends to happen so gradually that it’s hard to see the effects of it on your wallet year to year. When saving for retirement, you need to calculate that effect forward anywhere from 10-50 years in the future. So if a new car costs around $5,000 in 1980 and $34,000 in 2019, you could find yourself spending over $65,000 to upgrade your vehicle in 2041. (4)

How To Plan For Your Ideal Retirement

We can’t predict the future, but we can prepare well based on historical data. Since you need your retirement savings to last as long as you do, implement these potential solutions in your financial plan.

Conservative Withdrawal Rates

Since you know that stocks have historically earned an average of 7-8% a year, you might assume that you can afford to withdraw 7-8% of the initial portfolio value (plus a little more for inflation each year). (5) But in reality, to protect against the uncertainty of the market, you may need to limit your withdrawals to less than 4%. (6)  Because there is no simple, one-size-fits-all plan, you need to figure out what will work for you and your unique situation, taking various factors into account, such as time horizon, risk tolerance, asset allocation, and unexpected expenses.

Build Contingency Funds

There is sophisticated software available to factor in inflation and calculate how long your money will last based on where you live, which withdrawal rate you choose, and what the markets will do. But there are some things a computer just can’t predict, such as your health.

According to the Employee Benefits Research Institute, the average couple at age 65 will require anywhere from $151,000 to $255,000 just to cover their healthcare costs in retirement. (7) Set up contingency funds over and above your regular retirement account to give yourself a bit of a savings buffer. There will always be unexpected expenses in life, whether it’s needing a new car, home repairs, or unexpected long-term care expenses. Planning ahead will give you peace of mind.

Save More And Spend Less

The longer your planning horizon, the more resources you will need for retirement. The most obvious way of lowering the risk of outliving your money is by saving more before you retire and underspending when you reach retirement. If you have any debt, focus on reducing it as much as possible so your resources can be devoted to saving.

Adjust Expectations

Retirement often means major lifestyle changes. As a result, your expectations may need to change as well. If you want a comfortable retirement, you may have to rethink how much you will be able to give your children as a down payment on a house or an inheritance.

You may even need to downsize your home or relocate to a more affordable area. Cost of living varies drastically across the U.S. When you are determining how much money you need for retirement, location can make all the difference. For example, if you live in California, $1 million (in today’s dollars) will only last 16 years and 5 months, mostly due to real estate costs. But if you live in Michigan, it’s estimated that $1 million will last 25 years because of affordable housing and healthcare and utilities that fall below the national average cost. (8)

Stay flexible and be willing to make adjustments in order to secure your financial future and stretch your wealth as far as possible.

Secure Your Retirement  

It can be disheartening to look at the numbers and realize that what you were aiming for is not enough. But by making small changes now and planning ahead, you can set yourself up to experience the retirement you dream of. Instead of focusing on a specific number you want to see in your accounts, work with a professional to discover exactly what you need and what will work for your unique situation. If you want a customized financial plan to get you from point A to point B, our team at Integra Capital Advisors would love to help. Simply call us today at 941-778-1900 or email info@integracapitaladvisors.com to get started.

About Integra Capital Advisors

For over 26 years, Integra Capital Advisors has helped active, professional women and their spouses plan their finances to live the lifestyle they desire. Having a sound wealth accumulation and retirement income plan gives you the best chance of taking that dream vacation, supporting your favorite cause, enjoying your vacation home, or sending the grandkids to college. Having financial resources gives you flexibility and choices. Having confidence that your advisor is placing your interests first is a big deal, which is why Integra Capital Advisors focuses intently on your goals in our role as fee-only advisors.  

We invite you to call us today to learn more about how we can help you!


(1) https://olui2.fs.ml.com/Publish/Content/application/pdf/GWMOL/Merrill_Edge_Report_Spring_2018.pdf

(2) https://www.usinflationcalculator.com/inflation/historical-inflation-rates/

(3) https://www.dollartimes.com/inflation/inflation.php?amount=1000000&year=1970

(4) Estimating 3% inflation rate. https://www.financialsamurai.com/are-you-a-real-millionaire-3-million-new-1-million/

(5) http://www.simplestockinvesting.com/SP500-historical-real-total-returns.htm

(6) https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/09/your-money/some-new-math-for-the-4-percent-retirement-rule.html?_r=0

(7) https://www.ebri.org/pdf/notespdf/ebri.notes.oct13.retsvgs1.pdf

(8) https://www.gobankingrates.com/investing/how-long-million-last-retirement-state/2/