For those with retirement in sight, dreams of extended beach vacations and cruises to foreign countries may divert focus from spreadsheets and meeting agendas.
And you wouldn’t be alone — nearly two-thirds of Americans aged 50 and older say travel is an important retirement goal, according to an RBC Wealth Management poll. But saving enough money to make those dreams a reality can be a challenge.
“The biggest mistake people nearing retirement make is underestimating their cash flow needs,” said Eric Nelson, president and financial advisor at New Jersey-based Independence Wealth. “If you underestimate your income needs, that can hinder your ability to travel as frequently, or as well, as you wanted.”
However, if traveling is a priority for you, there are steps you can take to build that goal into your retirement plan.
1. Be realistic about costs.
“Travel” encompasses a myriad of options with varying costs, so pinpointing the type of travel you’d like to do in retirement is an important part of the planning process. Start by determining what kind of experiences you’ll want to have. For instance, luxury travel advisor Christina Schlegel says that most of her retired clients are interested in culturally enriching experiences, like personalized, family heritage-specific tours or themed cruises focused on a certain interest, like food and wine. You’ll also have more time to dedicate to your adventure — Schlegel says her clients take longer trips, usually around 10 days or more.
Of course you can’t predict the future, and you may end up on a travel excursion you couldn’t possibly have planned for, but at least having an idea of the types of costs you’re likely to incur will help you narrow down your savings target.
Don’t forget to include some pesky requirements that may creep up, like visas or vaccinations, in your overall savings goal. Also, depending on how far in the future you’re planning, you’ll also want to factor in inflation costs, says wealth manager Scott Pederson of Chicago-based Harmony Wealth Management, LLC. The Travel Price Index (TPI) is a good place to check for this information, though a gut check with a travel agent or financial planner can be just as useful.
2. Cash in on credit card points to save on travel.
If you know you want to travel in retirement, start collecting points with an airline miles credit card now. Once retirement kicks in and you start exploring your travel options, you’ll have a bank of miles to use for the cost of flights or airline-related purchases.
Beware, though, that in order to qualify for most travel credit cards, airlines typically require good or excellent credit. So take another look at that credit score — if it’s over 720, you may be a good candidate.
3. Boost your overall savings.
Travel credit cards may be subject to certain restrictions like blackout dates, so supplement your point strategy by curating a smart savings strategy. (It will likely take you awhile to accrue enough points to pay for a large vacation for more than one person at the rate of $0.01 per point, anyway.)
Create a savings account specifically for your travel costs. Consider having money directly deposited into it from each paycheck — if the money never hits your go-to checking account, you’ll be less likely to spend it. You can also use apps like Digit or Qapital that utilize algorithms and automatic transfers to help trick you into saving more.
Storing the money in a high-yield savings account can earn you interest, but with the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates, you may want to consider an alternative approach. If you already have a lump sum, for instance, a certificate of deposit (CD) may offer a higher rate of return than standard savings accounts.
Besides saving as early and as often as possible, take advantage of retirement accounts that will allow for tax-deferred growth to save for your other goals. “Catch-up contributions increase the amount you can invest in the year you turn 50, and this can turbocharge your savings rate,” said David Tuzzolino, founder and CEO at PathBridge Financial, LLC in Pittsburgh. Speak with your financial advisor or check in with the companies that hold your accounts to find out when and how to implement this strategy without tax consequences.
4. Invest in your health.
Keep in mind that your overall health and wellness will play a large part in your travel plans. Take measures now to insure that you’ll be physically and mentally fit enough to accomplish all of your travel plans. The Department of Health and Human Services, for instance, recommends that adults perform between two and a half and five hours of moderate exercise a week, and older adults should also consider adding balance training to their routines. Also make sure to establish a healthy eating pattern. You’ve heard it before, but ramp up those fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat dairy items and limit your saturated and trans fats. For more specific guidelines, check out the USDA Dietary Guidelines.
If you have strenuous travel plans — like hiking Machu Picchu or snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef — consider tackling those early in retirement and save your relaxing beachside getaways for when you’re much older.
Joe Resendiz is a Research Analyst at ValuePenguin, where he focuses on personal finance and credit research to assist consumers. Previously, Joe specialized on public sector and infrastructure financing at Goldman Sachs. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a BBA in Finance.
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