Retirement Finances: Will Your Expenses Drop? Or Just Change?

One of the rules of thumb that has been in existence for a long time, particularly associated with retirement, is the idea that you should plan to need around 75% of your current income in retirement.

This rule has always bugged me. How many of us really expect our expenses to go down in retirement? I always assumed that my expenses in retirement would be about the same — or even rise.

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Spending on Different Things

will expenses decrease in retirementWhen it comes to the old rule of thumb associated with retirement costs, many people cite the fact that homes are likely to be paid off. Debt will be gone (although this is an increasingly unlikely scenario for many people). And since you aren’t driving to work every day, the costs associated with transportation, keeping up a professional wardrobe, and spending on lunch and other items are supposed to go down.

While all of this might be true, does it mean that you won’t have other spending priorities in retirement? My guess is that you will probably just spend on different things. Perhaps you may no longer have a house payment, but what if you decide to travel during retirement? You may not need to spend on gas to get you to and from work, but you may have a new hobby that costs just as much as your old transportation costs — or maybe even costs more.

The point of the modern retirement is that you have the chance to spend money on things that interest you. The modern retirement (if it can even be called a true retirement) isn’t about sitting around on your porch all day, doing nothing. It’s about experiencing the things you couldn’t do while you held a full-time job. It’s about trying new things — and that can take money in many cases. Rather than assuming that you will be able to make it work on 75% of your current income, it can make sense to assume that you will need just as much money, but that you will spend it on different things.

Longevity and Needing More Money

In fact, it might make sense to assume that you will need more money in retirement than you need now. One of the big reasons for that is the fact that we are living longer as humans, and that comes with a host of costs — particularly health care costs. Health care costs continue to rise, and they will probably rise during your retirement. And with people living longer than ever, there is a good chance that you will need some sort of long-term care at some point.

When you start to think about it, it makes sense to plan for higher costs in retirement, rather than planning to spend less. Consider long term care possibilities, and ways to protect your assets (perhaps with long term care insurance). That way, you will have a better chance of keeping up with your desired quality of life during retirement.

What do you think? Do you think it’s dangerous to assume that you will only need 75% of your current income during retirement?

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Miranda is a freelance writer and professional blogger. She writes for a number of personal finance blogs, including Planting Money Seeds. She has a M.A. in journalism, and is the author of Confessions of a Professional Blogger. Miranda lives Utah, where she enjoys spending her free time reading, traveling and playing with her son and husband.

Last Edited: 26th July 2013


    Share Your Thoughts:

  1. says

    I do not expect that my spending level to drop except that my mortgage and car loan will be paid off. My fixed portion of my portfolio is covering my daily fixed expenses.I will use my IRAs, Roth IRAs, and brokerage accounts for my wants.

  2. says

    I’d like to think that I’d just change my expenses and be wise enough with it rather than drop those that are essential to me to cover up my retirement finances.

  3. says

    I think it’ll just take some adjusting over time. I plan on using the 4% withdrawal method adjusted each year for inflation with a 50%stock/50% bond allocation that adjusts to eventually 30%stock/70% bond. It may be best to enjoy some new experiences early in retirement as later on (75+) the comfort of home may be most enjoyable.

  4. says

    Saving while still you are working before retirement is still the best advice. Although when you are already retired will give you less expense on transportation, working clothes and mortgages you need for work but it will lead you to another area of expense like traveling overseas or anywhere in the where. So while we are still young we need to save more for our retirement.

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