By Andy Massanet, Fort Riley Public AffairsApril 23, 2018
FORT RILEY, Kan. -- Figuring out how much money you need to live in retirement means now is the time to crunch a few numbers.
Among the tools that can assist employees are various calculators found on the internet: investment institutions and banks often make these tools available to customers and prospective clients.
While it is up to each employee which one to use, three are designed to address the specific concerns of Federal civilian employees, said Kristine Tiroch, senior human resources specialist at the Army Benefits Center-Civilian:
• Calculators available through the Employee Benefits information System provided on the ABC-C website www.abc.army.mil/index.html
• Calculators offered at the Thrift Savings Plan website www.tsp.gov
• The Federal Ballpark E$timate Calculator on the Office of Personnel Management website www.opm.gov/retirement-services/calculators/federal-ball-park-estimator/
According to the ABC-C 2018 National Financial Literacy Month newsletter, the calculator at the ABC-C website provides a comprehensive overview of each employee's voluntary and optional retirement estimates, as well as estimates for early retirement, disability retirement and more.
Calculators found in the "Planning and Tools" section of the TSP website offer eight different calculators to be used depending on the type of information employees desire.
The Federal Ballpark E$timate Calculator on the Office of Personnel Management website includes projected Federal annuity and TSP benefits to help identify approximately how much an employee will need to save to fund a comfortable retirement.
"Whichever calculation methods you use, you should make sure you are thinking about four things," Tiroch said. "You should plan with your spouse, partner or significant other; you should know how your money is allocated (TSP, annuities, and other investments like IRAs); you should know whether or not you have military or civilian time to buyback; and you should know your budget."
The last piece, an estimated retirement budget, includes an accurate estimate of what the employee will need in the retirement years. According to the ABC-C Financial Literacy Month newsletter, that number is typically anywhere from 70 to 90 percent of his or her current annual income. So, if an employee's income is $100,000 per year, he or she should count on needing $70,000 to $90,000 per year in retirement.
"That amount could include annuities, Social Security and investments, but that is the amount you should be thinking about," Tiroch said. "And, you definitely need to sit down with your partner or significant other and find out what you want to do in retirement," Tiroch said, adding that retirees might not spend as much money on things like gasoline, clothing or eating out. In every case, though, each employee needs to determine a budget for what retirement could look like.
"You need to think about your bills; and I'll be honest, personally, I want to have even more money in retirement than I do right now," she said. "It's so important for people to know what they really do with their money and what they spend it on because the more knowledgeable and prepared you are about your finances, the easier it will be to transition into retirement."
The 70-to-90 percent level of retirement saving may seem like a tall order but, as the TSP website points out, over the length of a 20-, 30- or 40-year career, those resources are attainable through the compounding process.
"Compounding is powerful because it allows you to make money not just on the money you contribute to your TSP account every year, but also on the money that it earns," the website says. "Compounding makes it possible for your retirement savings to increase exponentially. For example, if you start with $100 and, over the course of a year, you earn a 5 percent rate of return, at the end of the first year you'll have $105. If you leave that money alone, and the next year you also earn a 5 percent rate of return, you'll have $110.25 at the end of year two. The result: in the second year, you earned 5 percent on your original $100 contribution and another 5 percent on the $5 you earned during the first year. At this rate, your original investment is doubled in less than 15 years."
More good news is that older workers who have not participated in the TSP program or something similar before now can make up ground.
"They can use the TSP catch-up program," Tiroch said. "You can start when you first walk in the door and you can start no matter where you are in your career. The important thing is that it's never too late."
The most important takeaway is to get started as soon as possible.
"Planning for retirement should start from day one," Tiroch said. "Unfortunately people often don't start thinking about it till they're about 10 years from retirement."
An early start is particularly important to younger workers for which traditional annuities and other sources of retirement income might not be available.
"They will need a more mobile source of retirement funds," Tiroch said, referring to a types of funds that follow workers no matter where they go throughout their career.
"Because the chances of being in one position (for many years) like our parents did are slim."