By Paul Harrison
Mother’s Day is almost here. This occasion may have special significance for you if you’ve been fortunate enough to have your mother around for your adult life. So naturally, you’ll want to bring Mom some flowers or another gift. But if she’s planning to retire soon, you may want to think about a longer-term way to improve her life – namely, by initiating a conversation about her retirement income strategy.
Of course, she may already have matters well in hand. But a great many people on the verge of retirement have not planned for those years, so you may be able to provide some valuable suggestions.
Boost contributions to retirement plans. If Mom is still working, urge her to contribute as much as she can afford to her IRA and her employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k). The chances are pretty good that she will be spending many years in retirement — in fact, the average life expectancy for a 65-year-old woman is 20.5 more years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So she’ll want to accumulate as much as possible before she bids “adieu” to the working world.
Discuss appropriate withdrawal rates. Encourage your mother to meet with a financial professional to determine an appropriate rate of withdrawal from her investments. To help ensure that she doesn’t outlive her resources, she needs to avoid taking out too much during her early years of retirement.
Take care of legal arrangements. If you haven’t already done so, ask your mother if she has drawn up the important legal documents related to her estate plans. Does she have a will? Has she created a durable power of attorney, which allows her to name someone to make financial and health care decisions on her behalf if she becomes incapacitated? As you know, this is a sensitive topic, so you’ll want to approach it with care.
Evaluate Social Security options. Your mother is probably well aware that she can start taking Social Security as early as age 62, but will get much bigger monthly payments if she waits until her full retirement age, which will likely be 66 or 67. But she may not know that she might be able to benefit from a Social Security “spousal strategy” that could result in her receiving more income than she could get by just taking her own benefits.
For example, if her spouse is the higher wage earner and can afford to delay taking benefits, your mother could eventually receive higher survivor benefits. Or, your mother and her spouse could employ a “file and suspend” strategy. Under this strategy, her spouse, upon reaching full retirement age, files for retirement benefits and then immediately requests to have those benefits suspended. As a result, your mother can file for spousal benefits, which would be larger than what she would receive at her full retirement age. To make sure they are making any Social Security-related moves correctly, though, your mother and her spouse will want to consult with a tax advisor who is thoroughly familiar with Social Security rules.
You want your mother to enjoy a long, happy and active retirement. So, talk to her about the moves she can make to help turn that aspiration into reality.
Help Mom With Her Retirement Income
By Paul Harrison