It can be scary when you get that pink slip, especially if retirement was just around the corner. At first you feel panic, then overwhelm, and finally fear. This happened to my dear client Kelly who, at age 61, got the news that her company was laying her off. Kelly had planned on working until she was 65, when Social Security would kick in and she would hit the targeted retirement age she and her husband had planned on.
She was so immobilized by fear that, when asked by a friend to attend an event, she was afraid to spend the $6 for admission. I know that Kelly is not alone; I’ve seen it with my other clients.
If you’re worried that your company is downsizing or that you’re next on the list of layoffs, now is not the time to panic. Odds are, you are set up better than you think. But to make sure you’re ready for the worst, here are a few tips to help if you encounter a retirement-age layoff.
Get help from someone you trust and can talk to about your concerns. Kelly was very stressed about her situation and when she came to me, I could tell she felt vulnerable. The first step is to call your financial advisor who can address and understand your concerns. A good advisor should ask important questions and be empathetic in your time of need. For example, the first and foremost concern for Kelly was whether or not she needed to find another job. We worked on that together to reduce her anxiety.
Explore Your Options
Start with all the choices that come with a layoff, if there are any. Ask yourself: Can you make any more retirement contributions to offset the additional income from my severance? Are there any tax planning techniques to shift severance income to future tax years? What are my health insurance options? Should I start drawing on Social Security early? Take stock of your options and decide, from an income and tax perspective, what makes the most sense. Also check your net worth and all your resources that you can use if you choose to wait for Social Security at full retirement age.
One of the hardest exercises for many clients, including Kelly, is understanding where their money goes. However, there are many financial institutions that track your spending on your checking account. Wells Fargo, for example, has a section online called “My Money Map” and it shows you your average monthly income and average monthly spending. It does the work for you! There is also a section that takes your past spending history into account and helps you create a budget for what you want to spend in each category going forward.
Think About the Unexpected
A good financial advisor will also help you think outside the box and ask questions like, “What will my expenses look like in the future?” For my client Kelly, her expenses would increase if her husband passed away because they would often split household expenses. For other clients, expenses would decrease because they planned to move to a smaller house or could draw on Medicare for health care. In planning, it’s important to consider increased or unexpected expenses so that you can make informed decisions if you’re laid off later in life.
Your Nest Egg
Will your nest egg last as long as you do? Women generally live longer than men, which is why most plans now reflect a life span of 100 years. Will your savings generate enough cash to support your living expenses if you were to live that long? Financial planning software will run models that can provide some level of comfort regarding how long your savings might last. A good advisor will run several models using various assumptions to determine how strong the plan is, as well as show you what your spending rate should be to ensure your money lasts your whole life.
Monitor Your Plan
Just like all best laid plans, there are curveballs and pleasant surprises along the way. That’s why your financial plan should be updated each year to see if the end result is still keeping you within range of meeting your goals. Each year, Kelly and I sit down and revisit the plan we made and determine if any adjustments are needed. In her case, she is well within her plan and enjoying retirement – even though it came earlier than expected.